In the past few months, we seemed to live in a time of closure, of national egoism, unprecedented in recent times. Too young to have experienced the ideological-geopolitical clashes of the past centuries, we have been used to imagine the world as becoming increasingly integrated and interdependent. That is certainly the case if we look at the lengths of history, that over the past millennia has seen different clusters of human civilizations turn into one; yet in the short run – as we love to call it in economics – backlashes are frequent.
The Italian political thinker Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in his masterpiece Il Principe, that people are friendly and available (and loyal, that was his interest – but for the sake of paraphrasing, let us ignore it…) in good times, but when difficulties come, their good intentions vanish. This Covid-19 pandemic has proven no exception to this general rule: during the past months, we assisted to some countries denying others access to their nationally-produced medical equipment; to one in particular preventing WHO inspectors from enquiring on the origins of the pandemic, while conducting an aggressive foreign policy and cracking down on civil liberties and human rights; to the cradle of modern democracy helplessly self-isolating. Just to name a few.
As a European citizen, these are phenomena I stand firmly against. What is more, as students diverse in origin, way of living and creed, but similar in our openness towards the world, we editors of Tra i Leoni have decided to dedicate the December edition to the celebration of internationalism, which as you will read, is a reality we discuss about also in the realm of our University. Here at Bocconi, shielded from the storms of reactionism and nationalism, we can afford to search for signs of improvement rather than complain about the current state of things.
And the question we investigate is: were (and are) we living in a temporary period of backlash, or has the trend permanently changed towards closure, following perhaps events occurred in the second half of the last decade such as Brexit and the election of President Trump? The picture we draw is that of a confused time of change.
Here in Europe, we welcome the outcome of the Lithuanian elections, that promise to inaugurate a path of intensive social progress – you will read more in the next pages. Yet we cannot ignore that part of the block that is siding against the rule of law and the basic principles of democracy, threatening the very foundations of the Union. Our democracies are by nature weak creatures, always on the brink of degenerating into ochlocracy or authoritarianism – as the people currently striking in Poland know well.
Are things to be better on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean? As our authors discuss in this edition of Tra i Leoni, the recent US elections have implications that stretch to the whole globe – even though one writer provocatively told us she “does not care”, as there are other issues around the globe. We can learn much from this vote, not last about the evolution of political communication, and how powerful it is in framing voters’ perceptions.
May our diversity and broad perspective be a recognizable brand: despite all the global turmoil and the Covid-19 crisis, Tra i Leoni is flourishing. Now that our recruitment process is finally over, you will get accustomed to more authors, ideas, editorial proposals. We heard that our market is getting a bit crowded, lately: beware of imitations!