Cornered in a museum

By Katie Kieffer

Katie Kieffer in Venice, Italy. Image copyright Katie Kieffer. All rights reserved.

Venice, Italy. Image copyright Katie Kieffer. All rights reserved.

Imagine living in a place where things rarely improved or modernized. Imagine living a modern life in a quaint museum of ancient ruins. There are real people living in such a place today. Welcome to Italy.

I recently returned from spending a month abroad and I had the opportunity to talk to many of the locals in Rome, Venice, Bologna, San Miniato and Florence.

My conversations with the locals help to illustrate why the U.S. needs to take proactive steps to preserve freedom and free enterprise.

The Italian Perspective:

My assessment after talking to the locals throughout Italy is that there is no longer an “Italian Dream.” Italy itself is full of beautiful ancient remains. It is an amazing tribute to the glories of the Roman Empire, but falls short on displaying modern accomplishments. Italy is a wonderful place for tourists to visit and reminisce, but the locals told me that Italian laws and restrictions make it very difficult for them to achieve economic wealth.

For instance, when I visited San Miniato, I toured the Agrisole Vineyards. I spoke with the woman who runs the agency that operates the vineyard. She told me that the laws that regulate her industry make it “very difficult” for her to run a “profitable vineyard.”

This is too bad, since wine and olive oil are two products that Italy can produce better than most places around the world. Furthermore, Italy can produce these products on her own – the anti-business legal environment is the only real impediment.

Agrisole’s agency director also expressed her regret regarding Italy’s failure to adopt modern technology and innovation that would make life and business matters more efficient. She wistfully told me, “Everything works in America. Nothing works in Italy.”

Agrisole Vineyards, San Miniato, Italy. Wine: Chianti 2008 D.O.C.G. Image copyright Katie Kieffer. All rights reserved.

Agrisole Vineyards, San Miniato, Italy. Wine: Chianti 2008 D.O.C.G. Image copyright Katie Kieffer. All rights reserved.

I also sat next to an Italian gentleman on a train while traveling from Bologna to Venice. He shared with me that he has friends who live in America who tell him that they are able to buy and build “large homes with pools and many bedrooms.” He said that he would never be able to do the same thing in Italy because it costs so much and is so difficult to build anything new.

Furthermore, he pointed out that since Italy’s rich history, quaint countrysides and ancient ruins draw tourists, Italy compels its citizens to “preserve” rather than “rebuild.” He  told me, “In America, if there is an old building that is falling apart, you tear it down and build a new one. But, in Italy, we have to keep it.”

Certainly, neither I nor the Italians would recommend tearing down historic monuments of ancient times. Rather, I think the government should loosen unnecessary restrictions on small businesses and individual citizens. A thriving free enterprise system would make it easier for Italians to run profitable businesses, live in more comfortable dwellings and afford modern technology and conveniences that many Americans take for granted.

I thought these stories were interesting to share with you because they help illustrate what can happen to a country if it neglects capitalism and free enterprise and puts too many restrictions on its citizens. The Italians have essentially become subservient to tourists because they lack a true free enterprise system. Museums are fine to visit, but I’d rather not to live in one.

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  1. I was stationed in Italy for 4 years, it played a big part in my youth and the formation of my love of capitalism. Seeing what a mess socialism brings was an eye opener. Nothing works is quite correct, and the most blatant corruption I’ve seen in my life, at least until President Obama, that is.
    Wonderful country and a great loving people being destroyed by socialism.

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