Economy / Science & Technology

The Italian individualism

The European Commission published yesterday a report on the innovation capacity of the European regions. The report shows Italy lagging well behind Great Britain, France, Germany and Austria, with only Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Friuli Venezia Giulia reaching slightly better performances.

The Commission outlines “the limited mutual cooperation between innovative enterprises”, a problem well known in Italy whose enterprises are too small and reluctant not only to expand, but even too cooperate. The Government tried nearly everything to reverse this trend, from consortia to “contracts of networking”, with little success. There is something deep inside the Italian DNA hampering mutual cooperation, at least in the commercial sector: in the non profit sector, in fact, the presence of associations, cooperatives and similar organizations, encouraged by the Catholic tradition, is very strong.

The lack of attitude to mutual commercial synergies of Italians is probably linked to they being stuck into the Italian glorious past. The Roman law knew some form of commercial corporation, but it was a seldom used tool. Also in the Renaissance, big merchants operated as natural persons. Wealth was concentrated enough to allow that.

The commercial corporation was in fact invented in Northern Europe, when the Dutch and British Governments started chartering companies to fund public enterprises with private investment rather than with taxes. Is is therefore something which not only was born outside Italy and in a very different environment, but which was also introduced by the public authority. Italians, with their troubled relationship with such authority, are unlikely to really absorb this foreign institution. That’s why Italian companies are almost never public, and often run by a family or a single person.

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