Intrigued by a TV commercial, I took a look at the program of Trento Economics Festival organized again this year by the economic newspaper of Confindustria. The framework of the meetings in Trento is truly impressive and whoever drafted the program had great creativity in the choice of the numerous topics touched upon, even if the general theme seems exaggerated and vaguely esoteric: the future of the future. A hyper-futurist festival that Trentino artist Fortunato Depero would certainly like.
What are the characteristics of this year’s festival? In my opinion they can be deduced, even if in a completely impressionistic way, by going to see which are the proportionally most represented categories of the speakers. Surely in the first place there is to note the presence of many ministers. It seems that the Council of Ministers has moved to Trento. These are very significant ministers such as Valditara, Giorgetti, Crosetto and others. Government policy has responded in an exemplary manner to the call to build the future. As a scholar of economics I would like to hear the report of the Minister Giorgetti on growth as a remedy to public debt. You might expect more from a finance minister than a first-year undergraduate remark. The same goes for the session on tax reform, where pro-government forces are the full totality and have absolute dominance. So a festival that presents itself primarily as one very welcome forum for the government of the right. The voice of the oppositions is almost insignificant from a quantitative point of view.
The second category is that of manager, general managers, business consultants, foundation presidents and so on. They are the so-called men and women of doing, or rather the powerful or nearly powerful of the Italian economy, who have come to Trento to tell their success stories. Naturally they are also the sponsors of the powerful organizational machine whose costs it would be interesting to know. For these businesses, Trento is an excellent opportunity to marketing and promotion of one’s business, even when there is no need as in the case of public companies. As they say, one hand washes the other: the company offers the generous sponsorship and the Festival the opportunity to intervene. Whoever pays has the right to a front row seat also in the economics festival.
Then we have the category of journalists, mostly cheap, and this is not surprising. The Trento festival is the festival of an economic newspaper that deploys all its financial strength. Today the economy is mainly reported by journalists through the daily press, books and interventions in television broadcasts. Academic scholars are rarely seen and remain holed up in their university compound. Those who were once called intellectuals prefer to devote themselves to cultivating their academic reputation, publishing in a few well-known journals which, however, very few read. The field then of influencing public opinion is almost entirely available to journalists who have undoubtedly greater freedom, and sometimes capacity, for action.
Lastly, university professors could not be missing, covering a certain side of the economic planet, that of critical and scientific reflection. In the small Davos of Trento we find two Nobel prizes, a sign that space is also given to the most noble thought, and also some professors of sure value. But all in all it is a troop quantitatively very modest which clearly indicates which place belongs to economic science in the world of Confindustria. Certainly not a central location, but peripheral and of little significance. Scholars are invited as one invites distant relatives who are not very welcome to a wedding: a necessary even if annoying choice.
What will the landlord, the President of Confindustria, with the ambitious title, say in his final report Why is changing Italy convenient for everyone? I don’t know, but I can imagine it from the proposals of the entrepreneurs of these months. The change they propose is the usual litany: less public intervention and more market, less taxes and more profits, more wages but paid by the state by reducing contributions, not taxes on extra profits but energy contributions, yes to the precarious work wanted by the Meloni government and so on. In short, a future, to take up the theme of the festival, which is essentially the photocopy of a past that has not given great results for society, even if it has certainly inflated the profits of entrepreneurs.
So what remains of the four days of this baroque kermesse of Confindustria? Remains an expensive and useless marketing operation of a well-financed newspaper, where the smoke, i.e. the self-celebratory rhetoric, is worth 80%, and the roast, i.e. the growth of knowledge, 20%, according to my estimate which I consider generous. In Trento there is not the economy of ordinary people, but the narcissistic vision of the economy of Italian entrepreneurs. To understand something more about today’s economy, it is necessary to move to Torino, at the International Festival of Economics to be held from 1 to 4 June. The title of the event, Rethinking globalization, tells us that we move from an improbable future to the real problems of the present. Moreover, even the list of sponsors tells us that we are in the right direction of freer and more creative thought, less paid marketing and more substance.
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