Italy’s last elected prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was ousted in a palace coup in November 2011. He tried very hard to found an Anglo-American style party of the right based on the cardinal conservative principles of individual freedom and the free market.
He started dominating Italy’s political scene in 1994 when he entered politics. His idols were Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. His aim was to free Italians from the Italian state. The majority of Italians, who elected him prime minister three times, agreed. Or so it seemed. Yet he failed. This was due not so much to his sexual incontinence as to his political impotence. It was politicians in his own coalition of parties”not his opponents”who stopped him, especially those of a Catholic or fascist bent.
Italy’s Catholic politicians support state intervention in the economy because the Catholic Church regards unadulterated capitalism as a force for evil that instills in mankind a cruel, greedy, unquenchable thirst for temporal possessions. Writer Eamon Duffy said that Pius XI, who was Pope from 1922-39, saw capitalism and communism sharing a “satanic optimism“ about progress. The state should therefore bridle capitalism in order to curb greed and protect the weak. And the weak all too often become confused with the parasitical.
As for liberty, until Italian unification in 1871 the Pope was also an absolute monarch who ruled much of Italy. Since I”m an agnostic who was baptized in the Anglican Church, the rule that I must confess my sins to a priest who must absolve me is both a gross invasion of my privacy and a cunning curb on my liberty.
In Italy, the words la destra (the right) have a stigma, thanks not only to black cassocks and Catholicism but also to Blackshirts and fascism. But fascism is very left-wing once you remove the nationalism.
Benito Mussolini, who invented fascism during World War I, started out as a Marxist. Fascism began life as an alternative left-wing revolutionary movement. It, too, believed in a class war, this one between producers and parasites, and its corporate state”the so-called Third Way between capitalism and communism. It, too, believed in massive curbs on individual liberty for the benefit of all. It, too, believed in the welfare state.
In Italy (and much of Catholic Europe), liberty is a gift donated by the state but only if necessary. In America and Britain, on the other hand, liberty is a possession curbed by the state but only if necessary.
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