But why adopt an Italian model?

Of all the various industrial strategies that could be tried:


His debut in British public life came in 1966, when he was asked by the Labour prime minister Harold Wilson and his minister for economic affairs George Brown to become managing director of the newly announced Industrial Reorganisation Corporation.

Based on an Italian model, the IRC was intended to drag British industry into the modern era by writing blueprints for industrial sectors and promoting mergers to create “national champions”.

Why in buggery adopt an Italian one?

11 thoughts on “But why adopt an Italian model?”

  1. Something to do with corporatism? Let’s not forget that it was the Italian socialist Benito Mussolini who invented fascism and the corporate state. While Mussolini and fascism were defeated there were huge chunks of the corporate state still in action after the war. And of course the British variant of fascism was started by ex-Labour Party socialist Oswald Mosley, who similarly worshipped the corporate state.

  2. Because Italian industry was relatively functional at the time? Even western Europe was pretty statist, central-control, planned-economy, subsidies and favouritism, winner-picking at the time. Even a modest shift in a liberal direction would have worked. If Italy’s become left behind in the intervening 50 years, doesn’t mean it was behind then. (Well, obviously the south was and always will be).

  3. Industrial Reorganisation Corporation. The very name sends a chill down the spine. I’m sure I read about it in Ayn Rand.

    If the comrades hate capitalism so much, why do they keep calling their bureaus ‘corporations’?

  4. The Italians did reasonably well in the 1950s and 1960s. If you look at PPP adjusted constant per capita GDP on the Penn Tables, Italy went from $6000 in 1950 to $13000. The UK goes from $10000 to $14000. The US went from $15000 to $22700.

    OK some of this is postwar reconstruction and some is the convergence effect, but the UK averaged 2.2% and Italy averaged 4.9% (real per capita). 1960-1966 saw 2.3% in UK and 5% in Italy.

  5. “Obviously a motorhead: Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini….”

    But only those motorheads who can afford a BMW or Volvo to drive while the Bugatti, Ferrari or Lambo sits in the shop for weeks at a time.

    A friend of mine is a certified Ferrari and Lambo mechanic (along with all the Germans), and he once spent half an hour walking me around a Lambo Countach pointing out all of the cosmetic and mechanical quality control failures on that particular car. My favorite? The wad of duct tape used to secure on of the front headlights after the factory line’s installer had managed to break the retaining bracket attempting to install the headlight.

    One of the few joys I’ve experienced in late middle age is the reintroduction of Fiat to the U.S. market, joyous in large part because they’ve become the favorite of dimwitted hipsters everywhere. Now hipsters get to become acquainted with the three words that send chills down the spine of all motorheads of a certain age… Italian. Build. Quality.

    If fact, about the only other three words I can think of that would be scarier to a motorhead would be… Lucas. Electrical. Components.

  6. So Much for Subtlety

    Has anyone pointed out that this has been tried in Britain already?

    BLMC was created in 1968 by the merger of British Motor Holdings (BMH) and Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC),[5] encouraged by Tony Benn as chairman of the Industrial Reorganisation Committee created by the Wilson Government (1964–1970).[3] At the time, LMC was a successful manufacturer, while BMH (which was the product of an earlier merger between the British Motor Corporation and Jaguar) was perilously close to collapse.

    How did that work out?

    Although the better example is this:

    The company was formed in the United Kingdom as a statutory corporation on 29 April 1977 as a result of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act. This called for the nationalisation and merger of the British Aircraft Corporation, Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Hawker Siddeley Dynamics and Scottish Aviation. In 1979 BAe officially joined Airbus, the UK having previously withdrawn support for the consortium in April 1969.

    So how has having a “national champion” (i.e. a de facto monopoly) worked out for us?

    When the L85A1 and L86A1 were first sent into major combat during the Gulf War, their performances were appalling. The L85A1 proved seriously unreliable in semi-auto mode, and slightly better in full-auto, while the L86A1 performed the opposite. Specific complaints included: the poor quality plastic furniture fell apart and the gun was damaged easily; the magazine release catch was easily knocked accidentally and dropped the magazine; the catch on the housing over the gas mechanism was too weak and constantly popped open, so it had to be taped down; only 26-28 rounds could be loaded in a magazine because the springs were weak, and it also had to be kept very clean and the lips checked for dents; the LSW had a small magazine capacity for its role and overheated after 120-150 rounds fired in bursts; the weapons were difficult to strip and reassemble, with the gas plug easily jamming in place and requiring an armorer to remove; and ergonomic issues related to the safety catch, cocking lever, and the location and stiffness of the fire selector switch.[12]
    Immediately after the first Gulf war 1990 (Operation Granby), the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) commissioned the LANDSET Report (officially entitled “Equipment Performance (SA80) During Operation Granby (The Gulf War)”), into the effectiveness of the L85A1 IW & L86A1 LSW.[29] This report criticised the acceptance of the weapon into service. Neither weapon had managed to pass the sand trials and both frequently jammed. The mechanism of both weapons needed to be well lubricated as the weapon became prone to seizure if fired “dry”, yet in sandy condition the lubricated weapon became unreliable due to the lubricant attracting sand into the moving parts. The LANDSET report identified in excess of 50 faults. Most notably the magazine release catch, which could easily be caught on clothing and therefore accidentally release the magazine; the plastic safety plunger which became brittle in cold climates; firing pins that were not up to repeated use and prone to fracture, if used in automatic fire mode. Although this report identified over 50 faults, and some of the rifle’s problems were corrected as a result (e.g. the magazine release guard and trigger); these modifications only addressed seven of these issues and complaints over reliability in service continued.
    As a result, a more extensive modification programme was executed. In 2000, Heckler & Koch, at that time owned by the British defence conglomerate BAE Systems, was contracted to upgrade the SA80 family of weapons. 200,000 SA80s were re-manufactured at a cost of £400 each, producing the A2 variant.

    We could have bought off the shelf M-16s for the cost of just the last re-design done by the German subsidiary of BAe. Although in fairness, BAe was not entirely to blame for the design work.

  7. FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act, the centerpiece of his New Deal legislation, was taken almost word-for-word from Mussolini’s Fascist laws. Of course, in the 1920s and early 1930s Mussolini was widely admired as the savior of Italy. By 1968 people should have known better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *