Ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead Dep’t

Arrivederci, Silvio. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Berlusconi to resign.

Of course, the witch won’t really be dead until the man is behind bars and the media empire broken up with laws preventing its reassembly. But this is a good start.

Footnote Naturally, RBC broke the news 24 hours ahead of the lamestream media.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

15 thoughts on “Ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead Dep’t”

  1. Mark: Thanks for giving me props on my predictive powers. If only I could do the same trick with tomorrow’s winning Lotto number…

  2. Mark,
    Read more carefully. Berlusconi promised he would resign. A promise from Berlusconi is not worth very much.

  3. I’ll second Mark, and say that I’ll believe it when he’s out of office and in prison. He’s been out of power before, but he always manages to slip back in somehow.

  4. Why do I cynically suspect that this is just a necessary step toward ushering in a center-left government, for the dirty deed of selling Italy out in an self-destructive to Italy (but lucrative for elites) austerity deal?

    Is there anywhere in the western world a major centrist or left party, opposed to corruption? opposed to pointless austerity?

    1. Very good point. The main difference between conventional center-left governments and conventional right-wing governments is that center-left governments believe in all that technocratic pap. They are opposed to corruption in principle (and certain forms of corruption in fact), but don’t view the oligarchy as inherently corrupt. Conventional right-wing governments are more sophisticated, and know it is all just a cover for plunder and pillage.

      (I make an exception for German conservatives. They’re kind of like conventional center-lefts, with twice the morality. Unlike the center-left that they conflate morality with public policy as a matter of principle.)

      1. Actually, German conservatives are just a very mixed bunch. There’s a fairly big political gap between the CDA (a pro-employee wing of the Christian Democrats that is based on Christian social teachings) and the pretty right-wing CSU (the Bavarian wing). Infamously, in the 1990s, then Bavarian minister president Franz-Josef Strauß once called the CDU Secretary of Labor, Norbert Blüm, a “Sacred Heart Marxist”.

        Another thing to consider is that while Germany is a very social-democratic country overall, a lot of the laws that make it one were passed by conservative governments (going back to Bismarck) in an attempt to keep the social democrats out of power. Amusingly enough, when the social democrats actually did get around to forming a government, they found themselves in the odd position of sometimes having to pass fairly conservative laws out of necessity. Chancellor Helmut Schmidt got into a lot of trouble with the left wing of his party in the late 1970s/early 1980s about implementing the NATO Double-Track Decision; more recently, Gerhard Schröder had similar issues to enact his Agenda 2010 because of the welfare cuts and labor law relaxations involved, to the point of probably losing the 2005 election over it.

        At the moment, the CDU’s centrist wing seems to have a bit of an upper hand, though. Case in point: the proposed introduction of a statutory minimum wage law (which Germany does not currently have, though there are de facto lower limits — you won’t find employees if you pay less than what people can get through Hartz IV — and union-negotiated minimum wages in some areas).

        That said, you’ll find a lot of economical conservatives vote for the FDP these days (a classical liberal party). That is also reflected in donations to the various parties (the FDP is disproportionately being supported by business donations compared to all the other parties). Economically, the FDP is currently probably the most right-wing party in Germany (not counting those that aren’t represented in the parliament).

        Overall, German politics can be complicated.

        1. Katja,
          Correction gladly accepted. But I’ll stand by my main point: German conservatives (at least the CDU types) are probably the world’s best. It’s hard to find a conservative party that stands for anything other than opportunism, oppression and oligarchy. At least the CDU, I think, is better than that.

          1. I don’t know that “better” is really the right term. Different. I think that this does in many ways go back to the Bismarck version of enlightened self-interest, the idea that one’s nation competes better (in war, science, commerce, whatever) when the entire population is fit, healthy and educated. It’s not really any more about valuing the 99% as human beings than the let-them-eat-cake beliefs common in the US, but its practical effects are better.

            One of the statistics (I don’t know how well sourced) that helped explain the course of WWI was that somewhere between a quarter and a third of draftees in England (the last holdout of the ancien regime by that point) failed their physicals because of malnutrition or other public-health-related problems.

          2. I think we can agree that the CDU of 2011 is probably preferable to the Republicans or the Tories for people with a good sense of social justice (no kidding, Sherlock 🙂 ). I just don’t think what you’re observing is a specific German phenomenon.

            Instead, I believe what you’re mostly seeing is the effect of the political center being aligned differently in traditionally more social-democratic countries. You are likely to observe very similar effects in the Netherlands or Scandinavia.

            Major political parties generally try to occupy the center, because that’s where the votes are that decide elections. The political center is simply a fair bit farther to the left in social-democratic countries, so that’s where the parties go also.

            For example, the Swedish main conservative party, the center-right Moderaterna has a program that few American moderate Democrats would have much of an issue with and may even prefer it in part to Obama’s policies (not even including the support for same-sex marriage); it describes itself as “the worker’s party of today”. As to what passes for far-right conservatism in Sweden, look at the Kristdemokraterna. They do have traditional conservative policies, but also say: “Sweden’s foreign aid should be generous. We are fighting for a just and sustainable global development, for equality and democracy. But combating poverty is about more than aid. We should have the world’s poor, persecuted, and oppressed in mind when we shape our policies in all areas.” “We need to reduce our impact on the climate and focus on the environment – for the sake of the future. Economic development and environmental work must go hand in hand. It should be expensive to pollute the environment, at the same time as there should be good opportunities to live, travel, manufacture and transport in an environmentally friendly manner. It should be difficult to be environmentally unfriendly, but simple to be a friend of the environment.”

            Obviously, you can trust party programs only so far, but when parties feel the need to come across as humanitarians and good global citizens, that tells you something about the electorate they’re trying to appeal to.

  5. Berlusconi has said he’ll resign after an austerity package has been passed. So all he needs is to make passage of something he’s willing to call an austerity package impossible. And since (seriously) the only sensible definition of “austerity package” has nothing to do with austerity and everything to do with Italy’s spot interest rate — which will remain high as long as he’s in office — QED.

  6. In Ireland we had a long-serving and crooked Prime Minister, whose “departure” was much prolonged. One of his opponents said “I’ll believe he is no longer in charge when I see him at a crossorads with a stake through his heart.”

    So also with Berlusconi. I am sure even now he is plotting how he can take advantage of the political turmoil.

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