Unification, Wars, Deficit Spending: Italy's Public Accounts 1861-2011

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
TW1.1.01 (Tower One)
Renato Camodeca, University of Brescia - Department of Economics and Management, Brescia, Italy
Arnaldo Canziani, University of Brescia - Department of Law, Brescia, Italy
The longitudinal analysis of State accounts, and of their results as well, is one peculiar way of describing the set of economic policy choices along years. This way, it nevertheless becomes a powerful tool to investigate i) the determinants of economic policies in general, ii) governments' priorities, expenditure directions, tax v. non-tax incomes, fiscal pressure. Further, to investigate the economic technicalities to implement governments' choices.

To be true, to speak of State accounts means in so many cases to speak of public deficits due to excess expenditure. As a consequence, it implies the analysis of the ways and means to 'solve' to the same deficits, these 'solutions' being higher (or new) taxes, circulation, public debt or, more rarely, expenditure reduction.

In addition, the study of State budgeting along decades implies -on one side- the analysis of its socio-cultural and technical premisses under different political regimes, anyway looking for similarities and common general features. It implies on the other the evaluation of the abovementioned 'ways and means' and their cosequences, these latter being -from case to case- inflation, burdens of State debt, tax avoidance and evasion, economic transplanting.

Referring to Italy, the periodization can be broadly subdivided in the following proposed sub-periods:

  • unification and the first industrial revolution (1861-1911);
  • 1st World War, and its subsequent turmoils (1915-1922);
  • State recovery and answer to Wall Street crisis (1923-1933);
  • financing of the Empire and the partecipation to the 2nd World War (1935-1945);
  • State recovery and financing the <economic miracle> (1946-1963);
  • left-wing governments and their deficit spending 1964 onwards.

 To end, the analyses seem to allow the following more general conclusions, especially as far as public deficits are concerned: 

  1. they obviously derive from State unification(s) and/or reorganizations;
  2. they move from exogenous shoks like wars or international crises;
  3. they can derive from deficit spending policies, either keynesian or pseudo-keynesian ones, or even induced by mere electoral considerations and conveniences.