In the aftermath, less politics, more math
E.vian | 22-04-2008 | ENG
(Translated by Anamaría Crowe Serrano)
How and why the four times tables or the abacus would have been enough to get us through the elections in Italy.

On May 8, 2008, the Italian Republic will be 60 years old.
Sixty years ago, on May 8, 1948, De Gasperi – with a coalition of DC, PLI, PSLI, PRI – headed the first republican legislature.
In these 60 years 57 governments have been in power. The 58th is about to take the helm.
Of these 58 governments, two have been Leftist (close scrutiny of what “Leftist” might mean is clearly beyond the scope of mathematics).
In 60 years of the Republic, the Left has governed for 2516 days (just under 6.9 solar years).
Statistically, the Left has played less than a 10% part in the historical evolution of the Italian Republic.
And yet, if Italy is going down the tubes, it’s the Leftist government that’s to blame.

Let’s take a look at some economic considerations. More numbers.
The Euro was introduced as the sole official currency on January 1st, 2002.
In government – from May 30, 2001 – was the 14th legislature: a coalition made up of FI, AN, LN, CCD, CDU, PR.
Incidentally, the aforementioned coalition remained in power until May 17, 2006.
During this time, the retail price of zucchini went from 3,300 Lira per kilo to 4.5 - 5 Euro per kilo (we’re talking gourmet zucchini, “romanesca” quality).
Statistically, the increase was almost 300%.
Yet, contrary to all mathematical evidence, we never tire of affirming that if zucchini underwent a vertiginous price increase, it’s the Leftist government that’s to blame.

More numbers. What a bore.
The salary of your average metalworker in the year 2000 was around 2.500.000 Lira per month. In today’s money, that about 1.250 Euro.
It has been statistically proven (the sources are ISTAT and EUROSTAT) that in order to keep up with the diminished buying power of Italian salaries and rises in inflation, every metalworker should – today – earn at least 1.500 Euro per month.
This was, in fact, the request put forward by metalworkers’ sindicates back in 2002, bang in the middle of the 14th legislature.
Yet, contrary to all mathematical evidence, if a metalworker can no longer afford to buy “romanesca” zucchini, it’s the Leftist government that’s to blame.

From numbers to letters.
Italy’s current rating is A+ (according to Standard & Poor’s).
The rating, or “risk rate” to our friends, is an international parameter which determines a country’s economic credibility. It’s measured from a maximum AAA to a minimum BBB–, by progressively subtracting letters and adding pluses or minuses.
Put plainly, AAA represents the wellbeing of countries like Switzerland, Europe’s strongbox (well, there wouldn’t be any point in establishing a rating along the lines of the Basilea agreement, would there). BBB– on the other hand, represents countries on the edge of the abyss, like Argentina a few years ago.
The simple inclusion of a minus sign beside the A, or worse again, the progressive reducing of A’s, determine to what extent external market faith in our national economy flounders.
That doesn’t mean that the industrial production, economic investment, progress, or wellbeing of a select and fortunate few is floundering. However, in Joe Average’s little piggybank it translates into a rise in interest rates on mortgages and loans.
On October 19, 2005, by a unanimous decision from two of the largest rating agencies (Fitch and Standard & Poor’s), Italy took one giant leap from AA to A+, skipping the middle AA– level.
On October 19, 2005 the 14th legislature was reinstated, i.e. the same one that had taken office on May 30, 2001 and which would end on May 17, 2006.
Yet, contrary to all mathematical evidence, if the metalworker now deprived of his “romanesca” zucchini lives in a country whose economic credibility was floundering by the end of the 14th legislature, it’s the Leftist government that’s to blame.

And so, we come to the nub of the problem: why, instead of talking about politics and having election meetings, do we not go back to school and make sure everyone learns their tables?
Who knows? Maybe if we did, future electors might develop a more responsible attitude toward math.

(April 22, 2008)

E.vian is the nom de plume of an Italian researcher living abroad.

Image by Giovanni Pintori (1949)