Commentary

Italy’s PM Could Make Good Use of Advice From Kierkegaard

This article originally appeared in The Financial Times on July 29, 2003.

Sir, Moises Naim (“Berlusconi could learn a trick from Nixon”, July 24) suggests that it is time for the Italian prime minister to perform a volte-face, one that would align Italy’s economic policies with his reformist rhetoric.

What Mr Naim fails to mention is Silvio Berlusconi’s pronouncements and proposals on the European Union. Neither qualify as reformist (that is, free market). On July 8, Mr Berlusconi proposed a “New Deal” initiative massively to increase EU public works spending, claiming that this would lift eurozone growth by between 0.5 and 0.6 percentage points.

It is time for Mr Berlusconi to lift a page from Soren Kierkegaard’s play book. Kierkegaard counselled Christian VIII of Denmark that he “should be deaf and blind, or at least behave as if he were, for it solves many difficulties…And then, he must not say much, but must have a standard little speech that can be used on all occasions, a speech therefore without content.”

Steve H. Hanke is a professor of applied economics at the Johns Hopkins University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington.