In the last 20 years we have witnessed political and economic processes becoming more and more interconnected and interdependent. Still, it is taking us some time to acquire awareness of the mechanisms behind such processes. The bottom line of our first 20 years of this century is one: the gradual disappearance of the middle class, the rise to power of populist parties and an increasing inequality even between the richest. In these processes a major role is played by the banks, and the policies adopted to save them.
Among the intense debate about the European Stability Mechanism, some economists claim that under the ESM conditionalities Italy would finally implement the structural reforms it needs to enhance its productivity and competitiveness. Although economists have asked these measures for years, politicians have been too populist and selfish to endanger their popularity and approve unpopular policies in the short-term, but that would strengthen Italian economy in the long-term. This view is widely shared inside economics departments, also among many students. Despite its diffusion, this claim is wrong because it implies that economics oversteps its boundaries by imposing political decisions in an authoritarian way. In this article I explain my view after having briefly discussed the features of ESM and its effectiveness (when I talk about ESM borrowings I do not mention the unconditional borrowings up to 2% of GDP approved during the last Eurogroup).