chapter  4
18 Pages

Italian Commerce and the Wider World 1860-1960

In the late 1980s, commentators suddenly decided that Italy was much wealthier than had previously been reckoned. For some years, statistics had underestimated the national GDP by 30 per cent or more.1 Now it was agreed that 15 per cent should be added to official totals in order to make allowance for the 'black economy', that is, for those sections of business and industry which operated outside government ken. The result of this new tallying was that Italy suddenly overtook Great Britain in domestic product and drew close to France. A bookkeeping change made Italy the fifth or even the fourth greatest economic power in the world.2 In a short-lived interruption to the normal national discourse about permanent crisis, experts declared that Italy was a success. Its growth rate, averaging 5 per cent since 1945, was the highest in Europe. 'Democracy Italian style' had brought positive results which could only be compared with those of that other highly idiosyncratic society and economy, Japan.3