In the trenches lately, but still paying attention. In the last post here we welcomed Mario Monti's appointment as "senator-for-life" and then as Italian Prime Minister with a hearty "Hail Caesar!" That, largely, was just for fun. Something we all could sort of relate to courtesy of the Bard, Mr. Shakespeare.
A more serious look at the history of ancient Rome actually reveals Julius Caesar to have been quite the radical reformer on behalf of the dispossessed and landless citizens. He was also, by any measurement, a remarkable military leader (in all of time, Alexander ... and, perhaps, U.S. Grant ... could compare, but few - if any - others) and writer. His bloody demise was a murderous assertion of the return to full power and authority by the decidedly dictatorial Senate, which itself had long since put an end to any semblance of a genuine Roman Republic.
What we see in Italy today has a far nearer historical antecedent. Il Duce (the leader) of Italian Fascism was able to take iron-fisted control of the Italian government with the mandate to "make the trains run on time." In other words, bring discipline, calm, routine, and normalcy to day-to-day life, by any means necessary. And he did, for a while anyway. But the price was greater than that of any train ride in recent times.
Now, roiling markets, financial collapse, and the nascent rise of social unrest has the plutocratic corporatists on the march against democratic rights again. The technocrat/economist known as Super Mario is Italy's new "Il Duce." So far, his prescriptions have registered little resistance for being only a mild sedative on the social standing of the average citizen, but the real deal is yet to come. Meanwhile, it is easy to make it appear the trains run on time when you're going in reverse. The euro is kaput - or should be, given the lack of sufficient political structure in the overall Eurozone. The pain is going to be very severe; it is now only a question of who will be the prime recipient.
Why do we care, you ask? Well, without a healthy Europe our economic malaise will not lift. And, besides, we have seen this movie before. Ultimately, that Duce wound up being drug through the streets by his heels, and hung upside down.