In the incomprehensible stock market flutter that followed the result of the Italian elections, the singular service that France and Italy have paid the world by their political initiatives in the last year seem to have gone unrecognized.
Canadians tend to take politics seriously, and up to a point, so do British and Americans. In all but the most gripping circumstances, such as World War I, the French know better, and the Italians threw in that towel after the reign of Constantine I (AD 306-337 ), if not before. And so it is to France and Italy that we must turn our weary eyes, thirsty for entertainment from our public men and women.
Italy’s election last weekend produced a refreshingly preposterous result. The slightly left-of-centre Democrats and their allies came first with just under 30% of the vote, and thus get a majority in the lower house under Italian electoral rules, followed within half a point by the coalition led by the utterly ineffable Silvio Berlusconi, the wealthiest and most outrageous figure ever elected to lead a large democratic country, less than two years after being turfed out more or less in disgrace. He managed this by using his dominance over private-sector television to tout himself ad nauseam, and capped it with the delivery to every household in the country of a rebate of its property tax, a grandiose electoral gambit that in most advanced countries would have infringed campaign financing rules.