I would add one point that has been bothering me lately, which starts with the "meaning" of religion. If we assume that a religion is "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs" (dictionary.com), we are considering a set of high-level systems. These systems of course have been implemented during history, and from the implementations we have all the "practices" of a religion; but I would be hardly pressed to give more importance to the exterior aspects compared to the core values.
But then, in most cases the values are kind of a background noise, and all what seem to be considered as "religious manifestation" are the practices, which descend from ages ago.
In other words, how would someone become a better person, a more considerate person, a more admirable person, depending from the way the cow who provided the steak he's eating was killed? (of course, just using this as example).
I was raised a Catholic, and I have plenty of examples like this in my original religion. I am now refusing to consider any external practice as more than a way to share someone's faith, and never as a "religious expression" in itself. Any religion lives within a society, and the ethical sensibility of that society, as defined by the laws, is what should dictate the external behavior.
The freedom of [expressing a] religion, in other words, is a personal right that ends where the society has a different position.
Your idea is quite interesting, but I am afraid it would only work if all public expenditures could be configured as assets. In the modern world unfortunately (or fortunately) there are way too many expenses that can be categorized as "services", which get consumed at the moment of fruition and therefore do not add to the financial assets. Think healthcare, or pensions, which while contributing to the general economy do not create any bookable asset...
Well, if we must be precise, Mr. Zingales notes that the 15 employees threshold doesn't seem to have created a significant statistical accumulation below that level. But it DOES note that going over the 15 people WILL severely reduce the flexibility of the companies, obliging to go through the legal system for EVERY layoff, with an average of 429 days before getting to the court (and going up to 693). There's just no way to consider this situation as promoting expansion and, most importantly, promote hiring. I actually agree with Mr. Zingales when he says that there should be a higher MONETARY compensation to the employees that are let go. But a company should always be able to take that decision, which is eminent to the responsibilities and the prerogatives of the entrepreneur. The problem in Italy is that the one and only objective of a large part of the politics (and the totality of the unions) is "protect the existing jobs, no matter what", even when that actually stymies the creation of new jobs and produces a negative net result.
Mr. Feldstein has surely some points in his analysis, but unfortunately, as Alexis Lefranc underlines, misses some extremely significant details like the Wall Street crash which has had such a significant part in the current Euro troubles.
Any case I wanted to underline that within the countries now in difficulties Italy stands in quite a different perspective. The size of its economy is way, way larger than the others (actually, larger than all the others together) and while it has indeed significant problems it is also more structurally sound, with significant exports.
This means that while Italy is indeed within the troubled countries it is as well in a quite different position, starting with the simple fact that this is really the flag case of "too big to fail", and should therefore be considered appropriately.