Italy: The people get it wrong again

This democracy business is trickier than it looks at first.

Poor Mario Monti, the former Goldman Sachs banker imposed on the Italians by Germany is still probably wondering what hit him. Coming fourth, and being beaten not only by Silvio Berlusconi, but by a self-proclaimed clown, as well. What on earth were the voters thinking of? Well, simply put, it was democracy. If you arrive in power without an electoral mandate, and proceed to force policies on an unwilling country that increase unemployment and poverty and depress growth, you must expect to suffer.

The puzzlement of the international financial elite at this result is too frightening to be entirely comical, but too comical, also, to be entirely frightening. How could the people have failed us, they intone. Such is the bubble the financial elite live in that they are probably genuinely incapable of understanding that for some people austerity is not a hypothetical concept, but a terrible reality, which destroys jobs and lives. A democracy can only be healthy if there is a mechanism for ensuring elites are, at least in principle, responsible to the electorate and that they understand the need to shape their policies according to what people want. When they get a good kicking, they change their policies accordingly. History suggests that elites that are too distant from ordinary people, and cannot reform themselves, tend to come to a sticky end.

If I were a member of the European financial elite, I’d start running now

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