Category Archives: Americas

Obama and Bergoglio: the project for a new American century (to not be confused with PNAC) starting with Cuba


The rapprochement between US and Cuba could have much stronger consequences than what we can think today.

After 13 years since Bush’s Axis of Evil North Korea remained the only “evil” in the world (at least until Kim Jong-un will be alive in a way or another): Iraq, Syria and Libya are failed states in the chaos of Middle East, Iran is tamed and Cuba is back in business. The last Obama’s action in foreign policy did what Carter could not do in his time even if he tried hard, as the times were not ripe yet (1). Obama realized finally the long overdue détente with Cuba, after starting the one with Iran last year. The ‘war on terror’ that started with ‘old style’ American wars can be said to be evolved with ‘new style’ American alliances, making the US living up again to its values and trying to integrate states that in a globalized world cannot be left out. The US can still lead the world but only with the example, the soft power, not with the coercion of the hard power, and not alone anymore. Obama will probably be remembered as the first President to start this new strategy.

As George Friedman, together with other geopolitical strategists, argues (2), America is the continent out of the two big land masses of the Planet Earth that have the advantage of having access to the two oceans, and this give to the countries of North America the leverage that no other country in the world, neither China, have: the possibility of trade with the big land mass, “Eurafricasia”, on both sides, the Eastern and the Western one. The world economy will be guided mostly by who has the control of the trade and so of the seas, and the US is the first candidate in this (followed by Mexico, that according to Friedman will also become an important force on the geopolitical stage). Therefore the Western Hemisphere, or if you want the Americas (as Obama said: ‘todos somos Americanos’) will be the crucial continent in the future world if will be able to become united. Otherwise China, if able to united at least economically the Eurasian continent, with its population and its ability to project long visionary policies because of not having the burden of dealing with government changes, will represent the future leader.

After almost two centuries since the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine, it is time for the US to not only avoid a foreign power to extend its influence in the Hemisphere (like they did with the Soviet Union in Cuba) but also to avoid its impositions on the continent (as it did in the past with the support to authoritarian regimes) and instead allow its natural integration through dialogue and cooperation. Cuba could be one of the most important countries for this strategy, as it was for the strategy of isolating the Communist menace: this small country, with 11 million inhabitants, plays a fundamental role in the geopolitical bridge between North and South America and also in the collective imagination of America and the entire world. It is the country of Che Guevara myth and Castro strength, the country that stood against the capitalist giant, resisted with an alternative development to capitalism and could survive for almost six decades without failing or imploding as even the Soviet Union did. To reintegrate a country like Cuba it means much more than just a rapprochement, it means the possibility of reintegrate all the countries of the Western Hemisphere in the US economic might, with a new approach based on dialogue and soft power.

Nevertheless we could not understand deeply the consequences of this act, that after 55 years transforms two enemies if not in friends yet at least in non-enemies anymore, if we don’t analyze the role of the Pope Francis and of the Catholic Church in this new American integration and consequent influence in the construction of a new world order. As Pope John Paul II was crucial in the process of undermining the grip on the stronghold of Soviet world, Eastern Europe, helping the implosion of Soviet Union, Pope Francis could be crucial to include the Latin America ‘third way’ of social state in a new America, that would become a continent of prosperity for the XXI century. Pope Francis is the pope of the poor and the marginalized, the religious version of the Cuban revolutionary ideals and therefore Cuba accepted his intercession in order to avoid to abandon itself completely in the hands of the “Empire”. Pope Francis is the pope that could allow the US to talk again also with the countries of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua) that are proposing an alternative development to the one of Western capitalism. If “Eurafricasia”, at least in its Western side, is experiencing a new relation with Islam, struggling at its interior between the crimes of the religious terrorism and the potentialities of political Islam, the Americas could experience a new dawn, with Christian values as the ethical glue for a new economic and political development, more just and equal for all, and a new converged leadership, more shared and inclusive for the rest of the world.

New and evolved forms of capitalism and democracy is what the West needs today, we are not at the end of history for the world but at the beginning of it. Future will say but if Middle Eastern people are feeling humiliation, Europeans fear and Asians hope, as an interesting book of Moisi argues (3), Americans could feel soon a new trust and optimism in their possibilities, a trust that will be fundamental for their future evolution and the one of the world. This century, instead of an Asian one as many are expecting, could be a new American century, but in the real term of America, the whole Western Hemisphere, and in the real values of America, the ones of justice, pluralism and tolerance.

1) Carter played a role behind the scene in this rapprochement between the US and Cuba, being the only ex President of the US to have visited Cuba twice, last time 3 years ago (See:

2) George Friedman, The Next 100 Years. A Forecast for the 21st Century, Doubleday, 2009

3) Dominique Moisi, The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World, Anchor, 2010.

“Democratic ideals and reality”, Halford J. Mackinder, 1919. Is this text still actual?

Map of the "Heartland Theory", as published by Mackinder in 1904.

Map of the “Geographical Pivot of History”, in the article of Mackinder published by Royal Geographical Society in 1904 (15 years before his book “Democratic ideals and reality”)

Mackinder, English geographer and one of the founding fathers of geopolitics and geostrategy, wrote his milestone book almost one century ago, between the two WWs, like Carr’s “Twenty years crisis”. “Democratic ideals and reality” is a product of the concepts of political geography and environmental determinism, and has played an important influence on American strategic and international studies until today. Two decades before Carr’s distinction between realist and utopian ideas, Mackinder’s realism is based on geopolitical analysis and on opposite concepts of ‘organizer’ (realist) and ‘idealist’ foreign policy.
The author argues that idealism is the ‘salt of the earth’, to move societies and civilizations, but in 1919 it had lost its social momentum, its hold on reality. The WWI had just ended and Wilson 14 points, as well as the Versailles treaty, were not convincing Mackinder. The British academic made an excursion since the end of the 18th century with the French principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, to the 19th century with the principle of nationality to the 20th century with the creation of the League of Nations and its democratic ideals (for a world community and a fair division of wealth). He argued that in reality productive power and social organization are more important in the modern civilization and that the great organizer is the great realist, because his imagination turns to ‘ways and means’ instead of ‘elusive ends’. Therefore he tried to define the geographical and economic ‘realities’ of modern world in order to help the organizer to balance the world, speaking about the ‘seaman’ and ‘landman’ points of views and considering the land power superior to the sea power.
The core geopolitical message of his book, passed through generations, is that “who rules East Europe commands the so called Heartland, who rules the Heartland commands the world-island (or great continent, that is the Euroasianafrican continent) and who rule the world-island commands the world”. Mackinder defines the Heartland as the internal part of the Euro-Asian continent, which goes from the Arctic coast to central deserts on the east, and from the Baltic to the Black Seas on the west. Mackinder believed that the power in the world was shifting from the sea-borne empires to countries that included the great land masses and who had both could have dominated the world. So if either Germany or Russia (that could have access to the sea) were able to conquer the heartland they would have conquer the world. Actually the rivalry of empires on this issue started already when Russia, as the Heartland, was the rival of England, the sea power, in the 19th century and also Germany took the lead to dominate East Europe in WWI for the same reason.
But Mackinder speaks also about other elements apart the geographical approach to international relations. In particular he dedicates two chapters to the freedom of the nations and the freedom of men, arguing that both need the same thing: a balanced and complete life. The first has to be based on equality of resources and so on external control of the economic growth with a balanced development of each nation (in order not to get out of hand and clash). The second should be based more on balanced life of provinces than on class organization. This is a very interesting point as the author remembers how the independent cities of Athens or Florence were foundational of our civilizations because they had complete and balanced microcosms, in which human beings could put in practice their ideals, remembering a sentence of Bernard Shaw: “he who can does, he who cannot teaches”. For Mackinder therefore we should go back to human scale provinces, and the national organization should be based on provincial communities. This is very actual also today with the trends of globalization counteracted with the localization, in a ‘glocalization’ process, in particular when he speaks about the demand for ‘home rule’ in Ireland or Scotland, to recuperate the values of local life against the nation-wide class organization. One hundred years after we had a referendum for autonomy in Scotland, exactly to recuperate this connection with locality, destroyed by modernization, international capitalism, and globalization.

The influence of this famous book is still discussed but has been said to have affected Hitler ideas (through the German geo-politician Karl Haushofer, who supported an alliance between Germany and the USSR in order to defeat the maritime powers). We don’t know for sure but the Hitler idea of Eastern expansion is similar to the idea of Mackinder. The book has influenced also the US, given that US grand strategy cannot allow domination of either end of Eurasia by a potentially hostile power (that today could be China ).
I would argue that Middle East, more than Eastern Europe, is the pivot region of the world today. May be the XX century saw the three world wars (the third being the Cold War) fought around Eastern Europe (and even today it is crucial as we can see on the “battle for Ukraine”) but at the time of Mackinder the energy resources of the Middle East were not discovered yet. And resources are more important than land in our modern world: who controlled them, more than who controlled Eastern Europe, won the WWI and II (UK and France, with the support of the US and URSS) and the Cold War becoming the world hegemon (the US). Also the superiority of the land countries respect to the sea-born countries is disputable today, one hundred years after Mackinder book, as again the US is a maritime power in the world. In the future actually, as George Friedman argues(1), US will retain its power thanks to this and Mexico will become an important force on the geopolitical stage. To be surrounded by oceans became the foundation of American security and wealth, economic and military power, and in the globalization era to control the sea seems more important than to control an “impregnable fortress” like the Heartland, as we can see from the naval presence of the US in East Asia and Southwest Asia (or Middle East) that allow the US to avoid the domination of either end of Eurasia by a potentially hostile power.

(1)George Friedman. The Next 100 Years. A Forecast for the 21st Century. Anchor, 2010

Jacksonian American tradition: how much realism still guide American foreign policy?


To understand American foreign policy we need to look back to the foundation of American identity and its “Jacksonian tradition”. To do it I will analyze here an interesting article written by Walt Russell Mead, professor at Bard College and editor of The American Interest, written 15 years ago but still useful today.

“An observer who thinks of American foreign policy only in terms of the commercial realism of the Hamiltonians, the crusading moralism of Wilsonian transcendentalists, and the supple pacifism of the principled but slippery Jeffersonians would be at a loss to account for American ruthlessness at war” wrote Mead in that article. So we need to understand Jacksonians values if we want to grasp the nucleus of American foreign policy (and also the identity of people like Robert Kagan) based essentially on realist theory of international relations and war “as continuation of politics by other means”, as Clausewitz said.
Jacksonian values are based on honor, self-reliance and hard work, equality, respect of individualism without judgment, financial esprit (credit and borrowed money is for self-discovery and expression) and courage. Plus Jacksonians people care as passionately about the Second Amendment (right to bear arms) as Jeffersonians do about the First (freedom of speech and religion). They don’t like federal power, they are anti-elitists (we could say ‘populists’) skeptical about do-gooding at home and abroad and they oppose federal taxes but favor benefits helping their middle class such as Social Security and Medicare. They believe that “while problems are complicated, solutions are simple” and in practically they believe in the triad “God, family and country” as many other nations in the world. The problem is that in American history these principles applied only in a ‘Jacksonian society’ from which many minorities were excluded, from African-American to Asians, Latinos or Indians, creating economic and social discrimination that today are even more present.
But from where the Jacksonian identity came from? It was rooted in American identity much before Jackson presidency, even if it takes the name from the 7th President of the US.  Actually while Jeffersonian is the American book-ideology based on Enlightenment (and so based on French-Italian-Mitteleuropean traditions) the US Jacksonian is the American folk-ideology, based on a ‘community identity’ of the first “Scot-Irish” settlers here in Virginia 400 years ago, as Mead says, “hardy and warlike people, with a culture and outlook formed by centuries of bitter warfare” (1). Also David Hackett Fischer, famous historian (Albion’ Seed, 1989), argued that the first settlers brought to America five features still present today: democratic politics, capitalist economy, libertarian laws, individualist society and pluralistic culture. But how come the first settlers could influence so much the American identity? The problem is that, as Mead explains very well, Jacksonian culture spread beyond its original ethnic limits and it “Americanized” immigrants in the centuries, more than the opposite way around. Also because the nation state concept, with its political, economic, judicial and educational institutions, make the new citizens to abide by the same rules and principles of the older ones. At the end of the day the motto of America was and remains “e pluribus unum”, from many one, so pluralistic culture but homologated, not the European “in varietate concordia”, united in diversity. The Manifest Destiny made the rest: American settlers were destined to expand throughout the continent and possibly the world because of the special virtues of American people. Exceptionalism at its best and the risk of imperialism was already there.

But is today still useful to look back to the “God, family and country” concept of the first settlers and to the Jacsonian tradition in the construction of our future global world? For Mead it seems yes. Jacksonian politics are poorly understood and rejected abroad as well as often at home too, as too hawkish, but without them the US would be a much weaker power. Plus in foreign policy Jacksonians support democracy, even if they don’t trust governments, they don’t know much about the world and sometimes (as some Tea party representatives) they are proud of their ignorance as well as of not having a passport. They are instinctive and pessimist, the world out there is “nasty and brutish” and we need to defend us and our national interest, following realist concepts: power and anarchy, not institutions or shared values, is what count in the world. So America is trapped, as Mead asserts: “the US cannot wage a major international war without Jacksonian support; once engaged, politicians cannot safely end the war except on Jacksonian terms”, that are complete victory. But this is the indispensable element to American strength according to Mead, as without winning wars the US could have not applied the Wilsonian, Jeffersonian and Hamiltonians principles of democracy and freedom to the world. Well, that might have been true last century, in particular in the world wars, but today, in a multilateral, globalized, complex and convergent world, with the Eastern rise and Western decline, with new paradigms to explain reality and new global threats for the planet, is really Jacksonian identity instead of diplomacy and cooperation the indispensable approach for the future of world order? I doubt it. Another famous realist American author and political commentator, Charles Krauthammer, trying to understand how to manage unipolarism after 9/11, in a lecture at the American Enterprise Institute in February 2004, also argued that there are three contending schools in American foreign policy (isolationism, liberal internationalism and realism) but the best US foreign policy, would be a forth one: a “democratic realism”, that support democracy everywhere but intervene militarily only in places where there is a strategic necessity for national interest (for example against Arab-Islamic terrorism). Recently, regarding ISIS, Krauthammer declared that this is a global “ideological war” that reaches into many nations because of its roots in the Muslim religion, re-proposing again the concept of “clash of civilizations” (2).
Actually it would seem that today the Obama administration is still following the Jacksonian values and the “democratic realist” approach with his new intervention in the Middle East. But if we listen carefully to the Obama speech at the UN General Assembly, on the 24th of September 2014, maybe we would think differently. Obama said that the strategy to fight sectarianism and terrorism should be based not only on intervention to destroy ISIS but on 3 more points: first Muslim communities around the world should “explicitly, forcefully, and consistently” reject the ideology of ISIS and extremism, second we should address the cycle of conflict in Middle East through mediation and negotiation, to address differences directly, honestly, and peacefully, rather than through gun-wielding proxies, and finally we should focus on the potential of the local people through empowerment of youth and women. So it seems to me that realism today is good just as an emergency tool, for when it comes the moment to remove the rotten apple and the arrogant dictator. For the rest, let’s leave foreign policy to who knows about diplomacy, to who wants to build the future and not look constantly to the past: our globalized world need leadership for multilateralism and cooperation, not balancing or power politics. To say it again with Obama: “the central question of our global age is whether we will solve our problems together, in a spirit of mutual interests and mutual respect, or whether we descend into destructive rivalries of the past. On issue after issue, we cannot rely on a rule-book written for a different century”. Pure realism should have his days numbered if we want to maintain human life on this planet, otherwise what we will have built will be countries armed ones against the other not waging war only because of the threat of nuclear holocaust.

1) Quite ‘warlike people’ if we look at how warfare changed since the “conquer of America” by them. See the Mystic Massacre of 1637 to understand the different approaches to war between Anglo-Saxons and Indian Americans


Robert Kagan recent article “America’s Dangerous Aversion to Conflict”: looking always to the past instead of to the future


Robert Kagan(1) is back. In his recent article on WSJ, with his classical realist pessimist self-fulfilling prophecies of inevitability of violent conflict because of “has always been like that”, he explains us that similarly to Europe after WWII, “who sought an escape from the tragic realities of power that had bloodied their 20th century”, the US, after Iraq and Afghanistan wars, “seems to be yearning for an escape from the burdens of power and a reprieve from the tragic realities of human existence”. And it goes without saying that for Kagan human existence is based on power, conflict and war.

In its very much debated and famous article written on the aftermath of 9/11, “Power and Weakness”, he explained to the world how the US and Europe were to be considered always on a different track in their approach to international politics, order and security. We had “to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world”(2). The bases of unipolarism were explained with this impacting analysis and the “New American Century” had to start, because Europe and the US had different identity and perceptions and could not go together towards a new world order after the end of the Cold War. Kagan believed that the European insignificance in solving major conflicts was based on its faith in the international law: European comes from Venus, with a vision of peace and rule of law while Americans comes from Mars, with a dream of “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness”.

Let’s analyze more in depth his old “Power and weakness” article, to see from where comes his idea that “raw force remains a key element in international politics”. The sharp distinction that Kagan did between the US and the EU didn’t give much space for mutual rapprochement, as the US will always be more prone to the use of military force while European will always look for diplomacy and less harder interventions (like economic sanctions). According to Kagan this depended not only on different military powers and ability to project them (when European powers were strong they were using strength and martial glory, now it was the turn of the US) but on their identity based on different values: America has a Hobbesian vision of the world while Europe a Kantian one. So the European project and the mere maintenance of peace in Europe has always depended on the American military protection with the NATO presence (a clear realist view that deny any role to economic interdependence or construction of common values) not on the idealist construction of integration and institution of supranational sovereignty. Today, Kagan says, also “a majority of Americans (and of the American political and intellectual classes) seem to have come close to concluding not only that war is horrible but also that it is ineffective in our modern, globalized world”. And instead of considering it an achievement he defines it a danger.

My criticism to Kagan (and all the realists as Mearsheimer) is that even if he is right on shaping the differences of identity between the US and Europe and on the fact that European invasion from Russia could have been avoided overall because of American presence, the European “Kantian paradise” is not a result only of the US protection. France and Germany didn’t attack each other anymore not because of the American presence but because of the will to build a ‘new identity’, based on the European integration. As constructivism teaches us ideas shape policies and social practices creates new ideas and new identities. Plus the US never had fortunately the experience Europeans had of national ideological folly and war tragedies since millennia and this make the American realist analysis unable to grasp European reasons behind its evolution.

As Cicero said “history is master of life” so if Kagan and his realist friends keep just looking back to history,  from Peloponnesian war to WWII, just as a cyclical repetition, they are not helping to envision the future, on the opposite: they are trapped in a self-fulfillment prophecy of repeating the past. True, the European legal order is something that is still in process, but an international order based on law cannot be created “from the day to the night” (as we say in Italy) in particular in a world that is constantly shifting and moving from one side to another as our modern globalized, complex and liquid world. Each institutional building that change the bases of an international system needs time as it must change minds and hearts of people and political wills of states. The fact that the ICC born after many years of discussion (even if with many countries outside its sphere of action, like the US indeed) is a demonstration of that.

Besides this we saw also how long the American unipolar moment lasted, with the disaster of Iraq war and the consequences we are living today, so we cannot take for granted that the diplomacy is not a valid approach to security as much as powerful interventions. Even if the US is now still a “primus inter pares” it has not anymore the global hegemony, and notwithstanding the fact that is the world’s longest democracy and wants to bring freedom and happiness with its Manifest Destiny, we can say with President Jimmy Carter that “America didn’t invent the human rights, human rights invented America”(3). So it is time for the US to stand up to its democratic principles (created in the European enlightenment) also on his actions in international arena. America has to listen to other perspectives of great or less great powers overcoming the thought of being the only entitled power that have the duty to bring order to the world(4).

At the end of the day the recent diplomatic efforts of the US and Europe in the Middle East (Iran, Syria and Palestine) demonstrate that the US is starting a new track respect to what Kagan keep saying about the ‘inevitability of Hobbesian intervention’ (since already the “New beginning” speech of Obama in Egypt in 2004). And I believe that Middle East has to be let to govern itself sooner or later, as Jeffrey Sachs argue(5) , as the regional powers of Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will have to decide by themselves if going on during this century with their cleavages and national interests or create a community of security and economic integration (as the EU did, even if after two world wars) for the stability of the region and as a seed of the future world order.


1) Robert Kagan is senior fellow at Brooking Institute, Council of Foreign Relations and co-founder of “Project for the New American Century”/PNAC (famous think tank that promoted American leadership and strongly influenced Bush administration). His recent article on WSJ:

2) Robert Kagan, Power and weakness, Policy Review, June/July 2002.

3) Jimmy Carter, speech at FLACSO, Quito, Ecuador, 2009

4) See on this “The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy”, William Pfaff, 2010.


Free speech alive at nation’s universities? An article from Kathleen McCartney (president of Smith College in Northampton, MA)


Reading this passionate article on the webpage of CNN, regarding free speech at risk in our Universities, I remembered a book written a couple of years ago by Marta Nussbaum, “Not for profit: why democracy needs the Humanities”, on the importance of Socratic debate through the study of Humanities. The problem of concentrating only on natural or material sciences, Nussbaum argued, was that our societies can build more things, make them working to the perfection and beyond…but without liberal arts what is the destination of our democracy? Will our hearts and minds still alive for debate, discussion, disagreements? If we increasingly treat education as if its primary goal were to teach students to be economically productive rather than to think critically and become knowledgeable and empathetic citizens, this will not be good for our democracy. Democracy finally is “agree to disagree” but if we unlearn how to disagree we cannot neither agree. If we forget about how to protest and express our freedom of speech without harass and condemn how can we argue, reflect, think creatively, solve our conflicts and improve our societies?

So we really need to reflect on how to empower our debates and as a result our participation to the public sphere. The important thing is to start through education, in particular in our Universities, our old Agoras, given that fortunately we still have them. And also in our social media, our new Agoras, even if we need to take care about bullying and harassment that social media can reinforce nowadays. Therefore it is important to write the rules of the game, through which everyone can feel comfortable in expressing the personal opinion, even if different from the rest of the mass. And it is important to do networking as alone we cannot be really free, because ‘freedom is participation’, as Giorgio Gaber, a famous Italian intellectual, was saying. Some web pages on increasing public participation (both in the US and Europe) can help us to start to participate and so use our freedom of speech in a constructive way:


Money in politics, is there a way to deal with it between extremes?


“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” –Louis D. Brandeis

I just finished my summer program at Carter Center few days ago, where I was working as research assistant on how to improve democracy in Latin America. In particular I studied the relation between media, money and political campaign according to the electoral laws in eleven countries. Perfection doesn’t exist unfortunately in the mix of these elements to help create real democratic regimes, but we all understand that “Equal time rule”, “Network neutrality” and “Fairness doctrine” (recently eliminated in the US) are important tools to guarantee the so called “par condicio” (in Latin words “equal treatment”) in the use of media during campaign. At the same time the relation between money and politics is a delicate issue given that both public and private funds are potential improvements and potential limits to democratic systems. Public financing and party subsides (that should aim to equality and pluralism) tend to create corruption (as the disastrous Italian example shows) while private funds (that should aim to meritocracy and popular support) tend to create extremely powerful lobbies and so the problem of unbalanced lobbying (like in America) and the corruption of the crony capitalism (all around the world).

The point is that democracy is always struggling to find the right equilibrium between these two possibilities of financing its politics. Both the Italian and American examples demonstrate how more often democracies chose the extreme solutions that are not very much beneficial to the functioning of their systems. Italy for example now is choosing to eliminate the public funds after having them dominating the public policy through corrupted parties since the born of the Italian Republic (as a too angry and embittered population cannot accept any more the idea of public support to politicians). While in the US public funds can be received only if the candidate refuse the private ones (the last two Presidents opted for the private funding as it was much more than the public) and this system gives money too much power in influencing politics of the government (often blocked because of lobby power) with the risk of creating the “tyranny of the wealthy” instead of the “tyranny of the majority”. Actually, as an interesting recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page argues (1) in the US economic elites and interest groups representing business have an enormous influence in policy, respect to average citizens and mass-based interest groups. This is not exactly healthy for a democracy, being in reality more comparable to an oligarchy.

But there are countries that have in their laws norms that require a strict and limited use of funding in politics, and from these best practices we can learn to improve our democracies around the world, like in the case of Italy and the US. The problem is that as usual laws are not sufficient to guarantee a real democratic functioning of the party system (otherwise Latin American countries like Brazil, Colombia or Mexico, that have very good electoral laws would have uncontested political campaign and level of democracies higher than what in reality have). Constitutions and electoral laws can help to control the power of money in politics, however we need strong political, judicial and social systems in order to guarantee that laws are applied and used in a proper manner.

Besides this the issue of the role of money in politics has an equal opposite and broader question that is related to it: the one of the role of government in the economy of a country. As a matter of fact if the money doesn’t have to influence too much politics than politics has to regulate money or otherwise it will become sooner or later conditioned by it. But in our capitalist democracies the role of government in the regulation of money is not very much accepted (and actually created the level of inequality and the power of the banks that we have today).  A couple of interesting recent books (A commercial republic, O’Connor, Capital in the twenty-first century, Piketty, and Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, Harvey (2)) show how today capitalism is at a crossroads with this dilemma: how much a democracy needs to control the inequality created by capital for its own survival? Again as Italian poet Manzoni said: “Ai posteri l’ardua sentenza” (posterity will judge) but in the meantime we need creative, constructive and concrete solutions to cure our sick capitalist democracies before is too late.


Second Amendment: is the time arrived for constitutional reforms also in the US?

Gun-Control image

(This poster is one of the superficial propaganda made in this polarized period to support the right to bear arms)


Second amendment (as ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, then-Secretary of State): A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.


Does it make sense to keep one law, even if from the founding fathers, that became obsolete being his deviated application quite dangerous after more than two centuries?

There are plenty of studies explaining how high gun ownership make countries less safe ( and the US is probably the least safe country among the rich democracies of the ‘West’. Mass shooting here in the States are on the rise every year and as an interesting article few months ago on The Week clearly exposed ( the argument for the second amendment today would be difficult to justify. But the tragedies created from the ‘sacred’ right to carry arms against a possible “Nazi government” (that actually would be much better equipped with drones and other weapons respect to few rifles of the people, that the reason of the existence of a militia is already unrealistic) are not pushing the majority of the American citizens to reflect on possibilities to change their Constitution, as other modern democracies did already several times.


The Constitution, as well as the Bill of Rights, are considered the base of American culture and change them would mean to change American identity, something so sacred that nobody can even think about it (see on this the recent article on But globalization is strong, even if its deep effects are slow, and sooner or later human beings all over the planet will have learned from  different perspectives that different cultures bring with them. This in the smallest village of Africa as in the culture of the ‘land of the free’.


Actually since a couple of years there is a ferment among some scholars and activists calling for a Second Constitutional Convention of the United States. Article V of the Constitution describes several ways in which the constitution itself could be changed, and three-fourths or 38 of the 50 states would be needed to ratify any change. But even if the US Constitution is “not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead” as the only Italian American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Antonino Scalia, said recently, I doubt that any change in the second Amendment could happen in the next decades, given also the fact that southern states would never ratify it. As a matter of fact the southern states are radicalizing their position recently on the issue: Georgia for example since the first of July, with the new ‘Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act’, allow to carry guns to many new places like bars, parts of airports, government buildings, schools and even churches. And even if in the north eastern states of the US things seemed to start to change, in particular after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in 2012 (the biggest mass shooting in a school in the US) and after the ex NYC mayor Bloomberg supported new guns control associations like Everytown for Gun Safety and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the reality is that fifteen months have passed since gun legislation stalled on Capitol Hill and nothing moved until now.


And even if stricter laws doesn’t guarantee lower violence (as a recent research seems to demonstrate: ) one thing is sure: as Obama said, America has to think sooner or later on how to solve this problems, being the only country where this kind of things happen daily. But if the powerful NRA (with all its money for lobbying in DC) keeps training millions of children every year (making the country not safer but the opposite: together with the ‘normality of violence’ everywhere in the US (from millions of video-games to millions of movies and TV shows) and the increase of spying attitude in every corner (from the social media end of privacy to the NSA ‘big brother’) the future of this country doesn’t seem very safe for innocent people who wants to live a normal and happy life. So how we protect the American dream, the simple desire of living a real free life, free not only from government invasions but also from violence and fears? How do we remain loyal to the unalienable rights at the base of the Constitution of this wonderful country: life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? Because a fearful and mistrustful society of all armed against each other doesn’t seem very compatible with neither one of these high human values.


This was actually the reason of creating a militia, to protect these rights of the people, the reason behind the right of the people (not the right of the individuals) as a whole to keep and bear arms: to guarantee the security of a free state. Nevertheless today the deviation of this right became the nightmare for “old immigrants” (Americans) and “modern ones” likewise, for all who come here to have a better and more free life. So who is betraying the funding fathers, who suggest to rethink and may be modify what they wrote, even in the sacred Bills of Rights, in order to respect what they really meant or who call it a sacrilege? And what if the Constitution would have in some way being misinterpreted with the time?

In fact, as an interesting recent book suggests (1) even a period instead of a comma in the Declaration of Independence seems to have changed the entire idea of the importance of the government in the life of the people in the United States. So why not the idea that the right to keep and bear arms is individual and not of the people as a whole,  for a well regulated militia, that could have deviated completely the intentions of the founding fathers?

As the Italian poet said: Ai posteri l’ardua sentenza (Posterity will judge)


(1) “Our declaration. A reading of the Declaration of Independence in defense of equality”. Danielle Allen, A Liveright book, 2014(

(For some more data on gun violence:

(Picture: one of the superficial analysis made in this polarized period to support the right to bear arms)

The migrant children of the “global south”: citizens of nowhere

which way home

Abandoned by their families, because they left already for the US or because they don’t have enough money to support them, or abandoned by their states, who leave them in poverty and in the insecurity of criminality, the children of Latin America, like the children of the other continents of the so called “global south,” have been forgotten for long time. Sometimes they get to the news because of some NGOs reporting the level of human poverty among them, or because of some international event, like the World Cup in Brazil, exposing the prostitution and the drug-addiction to which they are relegated. But for the most part they are the forgotten citizens of our modern world. They don’t have voice, no right to vote, no income or revenue, no tax payment and no possibility to defend themselves from the violence and the power of the adults. Pedophilia, increased since some decades also through globalization, is not only a phenomenon of the Catholic Church, it is a symbol of the defenselessness and the violence in which the children, in particular of the “global south”, are living in our modern times.
This violence and insecurity of young ages is an emblem of our modern global inequality and discrimination, because when there is exploitation by the powerful to the powerless the first to be caught in the net are the most powerless among the powerless, not only and probably not so much women and elderly today, but more and more the children. Either as soldiers, prostitutes, workers or street beggars the children of the poor countries of the world are living aberrant lives. Lives of animals, not human beings. While they should be our most precious human beings, they are abandoned by our societies, which are too busy to deal with the patriarchal values of power and money to think about protection of the vulnerables.


The children of Central American poor countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, are arriving to the border of the US in thousands recently. In the past years many of them were caught at the border with Mexico, or inside the Mexican state, but with Mexico struggling more and more with drug war nowadays the children have more possibilities now to reach the US using the famous “death trains”.  Recently John Kerry said that the US feel co-responsible of the poverty and insecurity that the children in Central America are living and that force them to leave towards the north. Since last October over 47,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the border into the US, suffering from mistreatment and mental health issues before to be send back to their countries to live again the same miserable lives and waiting to escape again. This rising in numbers respect to former years is caused also by the long term rumors that the future Obama immigration policy would have allowed sooner or later the unauthorized migrants to be regularized in the US, in particular the children. But one year after the US Senate passed the bipartisan comprehensive reform bill today the House of Congress, dominated by Republican party, doesn’t seem interested in approving the bill (see on this the article on CNN, with also an interesting documentary: )


After the increasing of these numbers in the last period may be the US Congress will start to talk about this issue again or may be the US government will start to think about how to help to change the situation from where these children escape and do something  regarding the drug wars, the criminality and the poverty in those countries in the American backyard. But citizenship remains the fundamental discriminatory tool of our modern times of the North versus the South, not only in the Western Hemisphere. Migrations have always existed but only after decolonization rich states started to defend their borders with more stricter rules, afraid of the invasion of the poor people. But migration are natural movements of humankind and cannot be stopped. Besides this, the modern migrations are caused by the conflicts and suffering lived by the poor countries, facilitated, if not produced, by the rich countries. So it is time to think differently, with new perspectives and more just global policies, if we want to address this problem not with fortresses but with bridges, this is also democracy. We need to review the concept of citizenship as we are building a planetary human being that at the same time is often not considered a citizen of a country. We need to look at human citizenship more then state citizenship for our future democracies. This not only in the US but also in Europe, where after the deaths of so many people, including children, in the Mediterranean Sea during last years, may be Europe will start to think on how to deal with the conflicts, the poverty and the insecurity of the populations of North Africa and Middle East. We need to help those countries to overcome poverty and insecurity but at the same time we need to build real policies for asylum seekers instead of thinking on how to defend ourselves from the ‘barbaric invasions’. We have to stop to accept the illegal immigration as useful to our economic interests because undocumented immigrant cannot be protected by the labor laws.
The only hope we have is that our leaders will start to think more wisely, with longer vision strategies for the international migrations in particular of the youth from the “global south”. Because a democracy that doesn’t consider citizens its immigrants just because they are undocumented is not a real democracy, as the power is not anymore ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’. And a society that abandon its children is not an healthy society but a society that seeds its own devastation. And a civilization that steel the childhood to its children is not a long lasting civilization but a civilization that seeds its own decline. So if we don’t want to see enormous and increasing problems and suffering in our planetary future we need to act in the right direction and act quickly. To think to our future generations means to think to our children today. To their education, empowerment and realization. There is no more urgent issue, neither climate change or terrorism, that is more imperative than build a good and dignified life for our youth in this world. Otherwise the sufferings of today will become the hell of tomorrow. There is no space for indifference: ‘I care’ not ‘mind your business’ has to be the motto of the policies in our Western countries. Like Niemoller taught us during Nazism, if we don’t care today there will be nobody, tomorrow, to take care about us. And if we don’t care about our children today, there will be no adult children tomorrow, to take care about humankind.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
(Marin Niemoller)


Recent Data on the issue:

Documentary “Which way home” (it shows how Central American children use the “death trains” in long exhausting trips to reach the ‘paradise’ of the north) :


From a ‘democratic Florentine’ a question on the state of democracy in the “West “

Today I want to remember an historic figure to who I look up to as a champion of democracy and humanism, another ‘democratic Florentine’ who emigrated, like me, from Florence to Virginia at his middle age, in order to reflect on the state of democracy in the US and the Western world nowadays.
Filippo Mazzei born near Florence the 25 of December 1730 and died in Pisa the 19 of March 1816, but he didn’t spend all his life in Tuscany. He was an Enlightenment thinker and a philanthropist who after many years abroad, as a physician in the Middle East and a businessman in the UK, at the age of 43 moved to Virginia and became a close friend of Tomas Jefferson. He bought an estate near Monticello and named it Colle, “Hill”, as it remembered him his dear hills of Tuscany. There he cultivated oil, wine and other Tuscan products but he also started to ‘cultivate his spirit’, influencing the spirit of Jefferson too and at the same time the spirit of his old fellow citizens in Florence and his new fellow citizens in Charlottesville. He started to write for a Florentine and a Virginian Gazette about the new values of freedom and democracy that were generating in the British Colonies, with him as an active contributor to that ‘new humanism’.
It is known that Mazzei influenced the future President Thomas Jefferson in the draft of the Declaration of Independence and in shaping some principles of the new Constitution. As some letters to Jefferson conserved in the Archives of Monticello show and also President JFK remembered (Kennedy, John F. A Nation of Immigrants, pp. 15-16) he played a role in shaping the American democratic values with his knowledge of tolerance, freedom and respect of diversity. Besides this fundamental contribution he also spread and publicized the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution in Europe (with translations and presentations) becoming one of the most famous Italo-american patriot. In 1779 he went to Florence and Paris, where for some years he worked as a secret diplomatic agent to purchase arms for the state of Virginia and in 1785 he left Virginia for good, going to France, where he participated to the fervors of the French Revolution and also to Poland, where he became a privy councilor at the court of King Stanislaus II. He wrote a political history of the American Revolution, the “Recherches historiques et politiques sur les Etats-Unis de l’Amerique septentrionale”, and at the end of the century he returned to his country, where he went back to cultivate the land in Tuscany, this time in a small vegetable garden, and write his memories.

Mazzei is remembered as an Italo-American patriot and a fighter for democracy and tolerance wherever he went. This ‘cultural mediator’ had the lucky and the leadership talent to become an active participant to the main political events of the end of XVIII century that would have shape the future of democracy and of the western world as we know it today. But in his memory, and in the memory of all who participated to the building of those ideals it worth to ask today how is the health of those high human democratic principles, both in the US and in general in the Western world: do we currently follow and put in practice those canons of civil life and citizen empowerment today? Or it is needed to go back to those values that shaped American and French constitutions in this period of our history as the Renaissance did with the Roman classics times in order to come out from Middle Age? I think that to help our ‘mature democracies’ to overcome current critical moments we really need to return to the core of the values of democracy, freedom and tolerance, more than two centuries after the draft of those enlightened texts and see how to improve their application. Some scholars in the US, from both left and right political spectrum, are actually calling since some years for a Second Constitutional Convention towards a substantive effort to reform politics in this country. I don’t know if this is what the US need to do right now but for sure the US and the West in general have to reflect on the challenges that its democracies are living today.

Democratic transitions are never fast. The American democracy for example took almost 100 years before the values of the American Constitution would start to be applied to everyone with the abolition of slavery and political equality for African-Americans took another hundred years (with the Civil Rights Act). And a real economic equality still has to happen in our countries, actually today we are experiencing a trend of reduction of it with an increasing gap between rich and poor in the US as well as in other Western democracies. So democracies can also draw back and regress, as the challenges of our ‘mature democracies’ today demonstrates. The rights of freedom, equality and justice are threatened nowadays in the US (from the NSA surveillance to the Guantanamo prison to the block to immigration reforms by the polarized political parties) as well as in Europe (look for example at the citizens exclusion from the decision making on austerity politics that are destroying the economies and the social fabric of countries like Italy, Spain or Greece). So democracy today need to reflect on a more direct participation of the citizens in the Res-publica, the “public thing”, and even if participatory democracy seems a ‘natural law’ of the politics in the future, the path to go towards more grassroots and individual participation without falling in populism or inefficiency seems still long and full of obstacles. We know that democracy is a never ending process, and even if political parties corruption, crony capitalism or economic inequality are often blocking the path of world communities towards better life and more just societies, we also see improvements in the transparency of information and the empowerment of civil society actions.


So from the Virginian motto Sic semper tyrannis come to us today a call, a call for a step forward on the path of democracy, not only to fight against the tyrants but to fight in favor of the citizens, toward a tipping point in which empowered citizens can participate in the construction of better political and social systems in their country, from the West to the East, from the North to the South. Remembering how Filippo Mazzei did, with his Florentine spirit of Enlightenment and his planetary attitude of Humanism.

For an interesting analysis on current democracies around the world: