Since Petrarch arrived from Avignon in 1341 to sing its praises, Rome in the Western mind has represented the ultimate threshold, the ultimate shrine


By Pepe Escobar
January 27, 2018
Asia Times.com

Italy will hold a general election on March 4. For the West, that’s quite momentous; voters deciding who rules in Rome will not only affect the third-largest economy in the eurozone but the full euro spectrum.

Italy’s debt is 130% of gross domestic product – the second-highest in the eurozone after Greece. Non-performing bank loans in Italy are the stuff of legend. The economy will grow by only 1.3% in 2018 – nearly half the European Union average (2.1%).

The political landscape reveals an unsavory triad. The center-left includes the Democratic Party of former prime minister Matteo Renzi – the Italian Tony Blair. Then there’s the largely discredited Five Star movement. And finally the center-right, with former prime minister Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party as a partner to the viscerally anti-immigration Northern League. This is the alliance that stands a strong chance of winning. But still they would need to form a coalition to govern.

Both Five Star and the Northern League want to hold a referendum on Italy’s membership in the euro in case member states cannot increase public spending. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is even spinning the possibility of a parallel currency. The whole debate in Rome revolves on how to escape the trap of low growth and high unemployment.

This assortment of ills may look like Rome once again offering a living metaphor for the decline of the West. Alternatively, it might also offer a promise of renewal. In search of answers, I looked back in time and set off to the Forum for a walking conversation with the ruins of Rome.

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