FORWARD BASE B

"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Tag Archives: italy

No Longer A Superpower: Why Venice Went Into Decline

“IN the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.

Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.

The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink.”

LINK

Southern Italy’s Hidden Economy

Many of my recent posts have been about what economic statistics tell us or don’t tell us about the reality on the ground.

Southern Italy is often portrayed as a backward region mired in corruption and sucking endless money from more prosperous parts of Italy and Europe.

I was reading a wikipedia article on organized criminals in Southern Italy and a source cited there opined that Calabria would be a “failed state” if not for the rest of Italy holding it up.

At first glance, unemployment is ridiculously high in the Mezzogiorno yet people somehow spend far more per capita than they supposedly earn.
The numbers just don’t add up.

To get a complete picture of the reality of Southern Italy and a more accurate idea of the gap between North and South, one absolutely must take the workings of the black economy into account.
This is where much of the real money is made.
And explains why organized criminals are such an embedded part of the region’s culture.
Much of their role is simply substituting for government and police: for a fee(aka taxes), they guarantee “black” commercial transactions and contracts through the threat of force.

LINK

Classic Tropes: The Red Shirt

“He’s dead, Jim.”

Never injured or even critically injured. Always dead outright. This has been the sorry fate of red-uniformed security officers in the Star Trek Universe. Even when the actual red shirts went out of style, you’d always know in shows such as Voyager: A new crew member shows up who we’ve never seen before on a ship that supposedly only contains 150 people. We know this character will either die on an away team or from an exploding control panel.

Red Shirt Pieta

Red Shirt Pieta

TV Tropes has long proven a favorite site of mine for ironic humor.
Some other fun entries.
Space Jews
Black Dude Dies First

You can look up favorite movies, games, books, and graphic novels to see a long list of all the tropes that apply.
Even better, you can find all kinds of stories about how the tropes have been ‘averted’ or ‘played straight’ in real life.

For every trope there are aversions.

Here’s a Red Shirt from real life.

Mr. Garibaldi

Mr. Garibaldi

Instead of getting instantly killed, he helped create the modern nation of Italy; a nation without precedent since the Roman Empire.

Even in the time of Rome’s power, a unified Italian peninsula was largely held together by force.
The Southern portion was distinct because much of the area had been populated by Greek settlements.
Indeed, modern day Southern Italy was known as ‘Greater Greece’ and Republican Rome had to fight a series of bitter wars against the Greek city states that held sway there.

It’s from these wars that we get the term, ‘Pyrrhic Victory.’

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