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The Italian job

Funny that Paul should mention Italian elections; I watched a piece on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Foreign Correspondent tonight that trailed a couple of Australians (I call them Australians, because that’s what they are – not Italians, despite their declarations to the contrary) who have just been elected to the Italian federal parliament under the utterly ridiculous new system that mandates a level of parliamentary representation to “Italians abroad” – that is, emigrants. One of the two men, Nino Randazzo (who’s been an Australian for more than fifty years), nominally supports Romano Prodi’s coalition, however he is seen as a potentially swinging voter in a tightly balanced senate and thus holds power far beyond that which his diminutive stature implies.

Notwithstanding the fact that the legitimacy of these foreign men wielding Italian political power is extraordinarily tenuous, what do these people want from the Italian state? According to one of the two, financial assistance for “cultural purposes” to benefit people who have left Italy to make better lives for themselves in other countries. One newly-elected American member of the Italian parliament declared that Italy somehow owed its émigrés something due to the remittances they voluntarily sent back to Italy many years ago.* The mind boggles. Why, oh why do these privileged foreigners think they have the right to extract funds from the already hard-pressed Italian taxpayer – a group they deserted long ago? Why on earth are Italians not apoplectic with rage over these people who are only going to make the Italian government’s deficit slide further into the red with their demands of cultural grants for foreigners? And we’re talking about foreigners who have already helped create rich Italian cultures in their chosen countries and as a group could effortlessly afford to fund whatever cultural boondoggles these new enemies of the Italian taxpayer have in mind. Of course, most Australian-Italians would not give a cent (Australian or Euro) for these cultural pursuits – whatever they may be. Amazingly, in this circumstance the new Italian electoral system has made it easier to arm-twist a foreign government to do one’s bidding.

You have probably ascertained from my colourful use of formatting that I am a wee bit irritated by the exploits of these men. For a start, I do not like parasitic types who think they have some divine right to expropriate other people’s money. Secondly, I cannot stand those who move to a country like Australia, make their lives here and by all accounts do very well for themselves in a way that they could not have if they’d have stayed in the land of their birth, only to turn around and insult the nation that provided them with so much opportunity and declare “I’m Italian”. There is a simple solution to this problem. The Italians can have their new politicians back. It seems only fair; they are paying for them, after all.

*Apologies for not providing quotes; the programme in question – Foreign Correspondent on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s television channel – tends not to post the transcript of the segment until the day after it’s aired. It will be available here, and when it becomes available I will edit this post accordingly.

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17 comments to The Italian job

  • Now if the australians of italian extraction were to pay for it all, would the problem all go away? The truth is that creating economic, political, and cultural connections is within the general remit of the state because they tend to reduce the chance of misunderstanding, bad feeling, and eventually war. Like everything else the government does, there is but a small chance of it being done properly and a rather large one that it’s going to be done very, very badly.

    Instead of waxing emotional, wouldn’t it be better to point to ways to improve the execution that would also enhance liberty? Perhaps the cultural ties could be funded with an “italo-card” that would be issued to lovers of italian culture and the italian nation. It would have the dual advantage of not imposing on the italian taxpayer as well as being more easily privatized down the line than the current arrangement that is so filled with rent seeking by private interests.

    Another note: don’t pick on the italians. Just about every country out there does the same sort of promotion with their diaspora. It’s a larger issue.

  • That’s ridiculous, TM Lutas. A diaspora in a free country will maintain strong cultural and economic links with its native land (provided it too is a free country) regardless of what either government does. Government intervention is definitely not necessary to facilitate this.

    I suspect, sadly, that your card idea is a guaranteed non-starter. Also :

    Just about every country out there does the same sort of promotion with their diaspora.

    Name one that grants exclusive political representation in the highest legislature in the land to people who are in essence foreigners, despite what it may say on (one of) their passports?

  • Nick M

    sounds like a case of having your tiramisu and eating it to me.

  • permanent expat

    What’s all the fuss? The Italians, even those partly assimilated in Oz, are only playing their national sport. Ripping off other folk, preferably foreigners but at a pinch your own, is the name of the game, as countless holiday-makers to that beautiful country will ruefully attest.

  • RAB

    Sorry don’t get this one.
    What don’t Expatriot Italians understand
    about “You don’t live here anymore!”
    Adopts Billy Connolly accent.
    “Y’e vote in the country where you live!
    Where you pay taxes not where you are supporting a bunch of deadbeat relations!!”

  • SKPeterson

    Any information on if the American-Italian MP is a naturalized US citizen? If so, this is probably pertinent (from the US State Dept):

    With respect to loss of nationality, 349(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended, is the applicable section of law. Pursuant to 349(a)(4), accepting, serving in, or performing duties of in a foreign government is a potentially expatriating act. In order to come within the Act, the person must either be a national of that country or take an oath of allegiance in connection with the position. Thus, the threshold question is whether the person’s actions fall within the scope of this provision. Information used to make this determination may include official confirmation from the foreign government about the person’s nationality, and whether an oath of allegiance is required.

    So if an Italian MP has to provide an oath of allegiance to Italy in order to serve, any American resident-Italians that are US citizens might not be so, post-oath.

    And if you don’t require such an oath of your so-called representatives, why bother putting any restrictions on who can serve in Parliament, or even bother having a Parliament? Maybe we in the US should actually let Italians and other EU citizens vote in our elections – that way the winners could could claim a European mandate and all of our international diplomacy problems will disappear.

  • Paul Marks

    I suppose the point is that should people who do not pay taxes have the right to vote to increase them.

    Of course Mr B. rather hoped that overseas Italians would vote his way.

    He forgot that Italians abroad here only the international media (and so would not have been told about Mr Prodi corporate and ex communist allies – only about Mr B’s bad points).

    Some of the British media coverage has been absurd. For example, Mr B. insulting of a German M.E.P. has been endlessly replayed – without once mentioning that the man (and his comrades) insulted Mr B. first (and that their insults were worse).

    Classic one sided reporting.

  • Pau;l Marks

    Of course this would still leave all the Italians who work for the E.U. and other international government entities.

    Nearly all are Mr Prodi’s voters.

  • Thom

    I admit that the situation is screwy, but apparently the Italians themselves don’t mind, or they would change the qualifications for elected officials.

    That doesn’t solve the problem of an Australian identifying himself as Italian. But while that is maddening, it is small potatos.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    “Mr Bridger, they say he’s going to do a job in Italy”

    “Well, I hope he likes spaghetti – they serve it four times a day in Italian prisons”

    (The Italian Job, starring Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill et al).

  • Errol

    Don’t Italian ex-pats have a history of remitting funds ‘back home’? That helps the Balance of Payments, and some representation in return seems reasonable.
    This is also a factor in the Pacific. The Cook Islands have an Overseas MP, and Tonga’s Reform Commission is consulting with Tongans in NZ.

  • No it doesn’t. For starters, I hardly think much is remitted these days. And when remittances were sent home in the past, they were sent voluntarily. If I send money to my (fictitious) wife who’s working in China, does that give me the right to claim representation in Chinese political affairs because I’m improving their balance of trade? It’s worth remembering that these people have left permanently – they no longer live in Italy. They are effectively no longer Italian. Why would Italians reduce their own sovereignty by granting representation to outsiders? Seems most odd.

  • Nick M

    A (fictious) wife in China!

    That sounds more James Bond than James Waterton.

    It seems reasonable to me that if you emigrate then you then the new country should become your home. Always harping back to the “Old Country” seems retrograde in so many ways.

    I assume these “Italians” also have political rights in Australia. It seems to me to be a tad schizophrenic and also most unfair.

  • Paul Marks

    I say again that the real issue is that these people are voting for higher taxes “back in Italy” without having to pay these taxes themselves.

    Most of them do not even know that this is what they were voting for when the voted for when they voted for Olive Tree allied parties.

    They just judged things by the media they has access to – and that media said “Mr B. – a corrupt nutter” (or words to that effect).

    “So we must vote for the other side then”.

    “And what do you know about them?”

    “Errrrrrr”.

    Mr B. is a big government spender – but the “ex” Marxists will be worse.

    As for Mr B’s “control of the media” there was plenty of anti Mr B. stuff in Italy.

    “Control of the media” meant that he had some outlets.

    The left prefer the media to be “unbiased” – i.e. all the broadcasting and print media to be under their control and to report only what they want reported and only in the way they want it reported.

    “Unbiased” in the way that the B.B.C. or the New York Times are “unbiased”.

  • Is yous guys saying dis is a bad ting? We let Sicilians run tings here.

  • permanent expat

    I didn’t even know that Italians actually pay taxes….not that it matters too much as they have a generous welfare system & their black economy probably tops Colombia’s….and, of course, a generous European screw-you-nion is a reliable standby.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course if all enterprises paid all the taxes and obeyed all the regualtions that are on the books then few would survive (that is why they have to pay bribes – and then get attacked for a “lack of morality” by ignorant leftists who can not see who is ripping who off), but they still have to pay quite a lot of taxes and obey quite a lot of regulations (the bribes do not cover everything).

    Italian industry is under heavy pressure from enterpises based (for example) in China. If Mr Prodi lauches a big crackdown on people not paying all taxes and obeying all regulations then Italy is finished.

    And who will pay for the vast number of unemployed that there will be? Will the E.U. pay for them?