Planning, Protectionism, and Politics in Liberal Italy: Economics and Politics in the Giolittian Age

By Frank J. Coppa | Go to book overview

Chapter III
THE COMMERCIAL POLICY OF LIBERAL ITALY: MYTH AND REALITY

The protective tariff was widely acknowledged to be the foundation upon which rested Giolitti's supposed alliance with the northern bloc of industrialists and organized workers, and hence formed the basis of the Giolittian "system." Vilfredo Pareto had long ago shown that aside from financial considerations, the main aim of the tariff was to give satisfaction to the various power groups upon whom the government depended for support.1 This was positive proof for many that the tariff, like other State interventions in the economic life of the country, was a gift to the entrepreneurs in exchange for their payment of higher salaries to the workers. It led to an unfortunate and dangerous situation, for the northern industrial element could at will blackmail the government by threatening to refuse higher wages to the workers, and thus provoke social and economic disturbances. Understandably many opposed such an unhealthy development.

We are today living under a regime that is the worst of all possible. A regime in which a small band of sharks holds itself in power by throwing some mouthfuls to the future proletariat bandit, who goes about with a pistol in its hand, determined never to shoot it. Social revolution is by far preferable to a continuation of this demagogic plutocracy which makes the proletarians the blackmailers of the nation and has rendered meaningless the power of the State.2

Even Vincenzo Galizzi, an ardent supporter of Giolitti, interpreted the commercial policy of the latter in terms of his need to placate plutocracy and proletariat. Galizzi contended that Giolittian commercial policy was mainly a reaction to the agitation of the subversive elements on the right and left which threatened the very existence of the State. He believed that in order to keep the industrialists bound to the liberal order, Giolitti was constrained to

____________________
1
Togliatti, Discorso su Giolitti, p. 68; Vilfredo Pareto, La Liberté économique et les événements d'Italie ( Lausanne: F. Rouge, 1898), p. 25.
2
Mario Missiroli, Opinioni di Mario Missiroli ( Milano: Longanesi, 1955), p. 24.

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