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

By Frank J. Coppa | Go to book overview

Chapter VIII
LIBERALISM AND GIOLITTIANISM AS VIEWED FROM THE CAPITALIST CAMP

Industrialists did not react uniformly to the Giolittian program of wide liberty for the social classes, democratic tax reform, registration of shareholder stocks, the institution of an insurance monopoly as well as the nationalization of other services. The varied reactions stemmed from the fact that the industrial world was not monolithic but was composed of diverse and often opposing elements. To complicate matters the great banking houses were in constant conflict with the powerful corporate concerns. In one period the various industrial enterprises dominated the banks, while in the next, the credit institutions exercised a financial, economic, and even juridical domination over industrial Italy.1 Under these conditions it was most difficult for capitalistic Italy to speak with one voice, even on the question of the tariff.

Indeed in the forefront of the anti-protectionist camp was the Ansaldo Company of Genoa, producer of ships, arms, and industrial and agricultural machinery. Its directors complained that, more often than not, protectionism worked to their disadvantage despite the subsidies granted by the government to the shipping industry. In a number of detailed studies the administrators of Ansaldo showed they paid more in duties upon the material needed to construct some object, such as a locomotive, than the duty imposed upon the locomotives imported into the country. In effect, this meant that the foreign mechanical industry was favored over the national industry.

The other machine industrialists of Genoa concurred that subsidies hurt the treasury without improving the condition of industry because such assistance artificially upheld a number of concerns that could not otherwise exist and allowed them to turn out their inferior products. These subsidies, it was felt, also weakened the spirit of research and initiative, which alone could lead to im-

____________________
1
The President of the Banca Commerciale Italiana, Senator Silvio Crespi, to Giolitti, April 6, 1921, Archivio Giolitti, A.C.S., B. 32, F. 101; Francesco Parillo, "Stato banchiere, politica creditizia, sviluppo economico," Studi in onore di Epicarmo Corbino, ed. Domenico De Marco (Milano: Giuffrè, 1961), II, 602-610.

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