Thursday, October 31, 2013

Italy Is Dying

Fictions about Italian brain drain at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Demographic decline and brain drain hysteria.

Subject Article: "Italy: The Nation That Crushes Its Young."

Other Links: 1. "What Workers Lose By Staying Put."

Postscript: Italy suffers from too much social capital. Mr. Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam, would say that it is a good thing. It isn't. Most Italian communities lack the capacity to embrace newcomers and thus engage in knowledge transfer. Italy lacks churn, domestic and international. An allegory:

Peter’s café sits on a hillside in Horta, a port city on one of the Azores islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. By the time you reach the docks in the harbour, you can tell that this place is special. Bright, colorful paintings of sailboats and flags line the piers—hundreds and hundreds of them, drawn by visiting captains and crew members from every corner of the globe. Horta is the one place between the Americas and Europe where world-traveling sailors stop to take a break. Some are heading toward Fiji, others to Spain. Some are on their second tour around the world; others are simply resting before the last leg to Brazil. They come from different backgrounds and cultures. And all of them converge upon the rustic-looking Peter’s Café. Here they can pick up year-old letters from other world travelers or just sit and talk over a beer or a glass of Madeira.

When I saw this place for the first time, I realized that the serene environment of the café actually concealed a chaotic universe. The café was filled with ideas and viewpoints from all corners of the world, and these ideas were intermingling and colliding with each other.

“Get this, they don’t use hooks when fishing for marlin in Cuba,” one visitor says.

“So what do they use?” another asks.

“Rags. The lure is covered in rags. When the fish strikes the rag, it wraps around the fish bill and won’t let go because of the friction. The fish don’t get hurt and can be released, no problem.”

“That’s pretty neat. Maybe we could use something like that. . . .”

The people here participate in what seems like an almost random combination of ideas. One conversation leads into another, and it is difficult to guess what idea will come up next. Peter’s Café is a nexus point in the world, one of the most extreme I have ever seen.

Brain drain is good for innovation. Not enough young talent is leaving Italy.

1 comment:

Allen said...

I would be curious to know if the growth in wealth in Italy correlates with higher levels of migration. On the big reasons that a team like Juventus is so popular in southern Italy was all the migrants that went and worked at Fiat in the north, especially in Turin. Later when they moved back south, they still supported la Vecchia Signora. And in fact they passed that on to their children and grandchildren.

hmmmm.... now that I mention it, I wonder when the migration back south occurred and if correlated with larger gains in wealth.