Longitude #26

April, 2013

Leaders

The people’s pastor
by Christopher Caldwell

Catholic popes have always been heavyweight political figures. With the choice of a non-European pontiff, who embraces humility and poverty, the Church is performing a delicate balancing act as its demographic center of gravity shifts south and west.

Unmasking Italy’s mess

Nobody’s laughing now
by Lanfranco Vaccari­­

When Beppe Grillo was beyond the political pale, few took him seriously. Now he is poised to subvert Italy’s political establishment. Yet Grillo is just the latest manifestation of a peculiar Italian form of extreme populism. Like the many anti-establishment movements before it, the M5S wavers between incoherence and a dangerous knack for contagion, which is oddly appealing to a broad range of Italians.

Hodgepodge economics
by Francesco Galietti

Italy’s M5S has flirted with an array of sustainability and degrowth theories, but as yet it has no coherent economic program. What little has been proposed thus far makes one wonder how much it will cost.

Centrifugal politics
by Gianluca Sadun Bordoni

Is moderation dead? From the outcomes of recent elections in Western countries, it would seem that populist positions at both extremes have trumped all “centrist” attempts at attracting those who are wary of the traditional right-left dichotomy.

Iraq’s uneasy ride

Ten years after
by Stefano Stefanini

Operation Iraqi Freedom was supposed to change the Middle East. And it did. But not the way its planners had anticipated. As the desire for freedom and democracy increases, so does the instability of the entire region. The old balance of power has been irrevocably skewed.

The expensive art of nation building
by Vincenzo Camporini

When US-led forces invaded Iraq, they ousted Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime and tried to build democratic institutions. A decade later Americans have released a report assessing their successes and failures.

by Stash Luczkiw

There’s nothing like a dose of constructive self-criticism to temper a tendency toward hubris. But what if the examination of conscience is geared toward future ambition?

by Stash Luczkiw

Sandwiched between theocratic co-religionists in Iran and a Sunni revolt in Syria, Iraq’s Shia are bracing themselves for turbulence in the near future – especially when their moderate leader, the aging Ayatollah al-Sistani passes away.

Slippery business
by Roberto Bongiorni

On the eve of the war, cynics suspected Iraq’s massive oil resources were the prime motive for regime change. Recent deals in the oil sector, however, indicate that the situation is complex, and the big winner may come as a surprise.

Germany

Mind the gap
by Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli

While the German economy appears to be holding steady, there is a growing problem in German society: the wealth gap. The middle class is shrinking, and this is placing more strain on the poor and the ever increasing number of elderly.

Central Asia

Kazakh oil
by Pasquale Salzano

The future looks bright for Kazakhstan. With its abundance of natural resources, all this vast, sparsely populated Central Asian nation needs to do is continue as stably as it has since it gained its independence.

Kashagan Project
by Pasquale Salzano
Central Asia at a glance
Let the rivers flow
by Enrico Verga

Central Asia has abundant natural resources. But one resource in particular, water, may turn into a stumbling block for regional cooperation. Through dialogue and international agreements, this obstacle can be overcome.

The Central Asian chessboard
by Enrico Verga

The formation of a Eurasian Union has the potential to change the world’s geopolitical balance. The degree to which Russia can unite effectively with its resource-rich neighbors will dictate how the rest of the world reacts.

China

Empty homes in China
by Rodrigo Zeidan

There is a glut of empty apartments in China. Many factors make it preferable not only to invest in real estate, but also to keep the property empty. This phenomenon is having a huge impact on the economy, especially on small family-owned businesses.

The savings glut
by Michele Bagella

Increasing domestic demand and imports in China is one way of kick-starting the world economy. But in order to do that, the conditions for saving, rather than spending, must be in place.

Venezuela

Big Daddy’s funeral
by Maurizio Stefanini

Venezuela mourns the death of Hugo Chavez. In the inevitable vacuum left by the charismatic leader, various players are lining up to vie for power. At stake is the future political alignment of all Latin America’s nations.

Warming bloopers

The greening of petro-socialism
by Carlo Clini

Venezuela’s economy is driven by the oil industry. Although for years Chavez blamed developed nations for the ecological crisis, he was always ambiguous when it came to greening the industry that fueled his Socialist agenda.