Berlusconi is finally out, which is good. But now a new party called Movimento 5 Stelle, led by the comedian Beppe Grillo, is blocking the government from doing anything, which is bad. The platform of M5S resonates with many of Italy’s so-called lost generation — young voters disillusioned with Italy’s political system and dispirited by its economic woes. It believes in nothing. It does nothing — except stop other people from doing things. This is not always terrible — lots of politicians have stupid ideas — but it mostly is. In February, M5S gained 25 percent of the seats in both houses of parliament. Now, we are nearing a point at which things will start falling apart. M5S doesn’t see this or doesn’t care. The parliamentarians who ran on the M5S ticket are inadequate and often incompetent.
Of course, even if Italy managed to adopt any of the reforms that M5S is blocking, Italians would have nothing to do with them. Italy’s been a mess for two decades (probably more). Why should that change now? The problems aren’t really structural. They’re cultural. It’s easier to blame Germany and appeal to national pride than to try to improve things.
I keep hearing stories of young people leaving the country and moving to the United States or Germany or Britain. Even in Milan, which is probably the best run city in Italy, universities are hemorrhaging their best faculty and students. Over the summer, I would hear about high-school students from comfortable families fleeing the country. The people who stay behind can’t really say why. They have little or no hope that the politicians will do anything. Maybe — just a thought — they like the stereotype of Italians living with their mothers until they are middle-aged. This, at least, would be in keeping with our heritage.