Giovanni Tria and European Affairs Commissioner Stefano Montesi - Corbis/Getty Images

Give Italy’s Government a Chance

Given the poor track record of populist economic policies, it is understandable that the European Commission's first instinct is to take a hard line against the Italian government's proposed 2019 budget. But in doing so, it is condemning Italy to continued economic stagnation, and risking a much larger political crisis.

LONDON – In Europe, hardly anyone has a good word to say about Italy’s upstart ruling coalition, which comprises the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the nationalist League party. The only disagreement is between those who want to penalize Italy immediately for defying eurozone budget rules and those who are willing to delay punishment, or at least administer it more slowly. But here’s an idea: Why not eschew punishment altogether and give Italy’s government a chance?

The reason is not that the coalition is particularly likeable. It isn’t. M5S goes out of its way to insult and threaten critical journalists, and the League disparages immigrants and badgers local governments that show hospitality toward asylum seekers who have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean.

Still, there are good reasons to reserve judgment on the government. After all, it is still very new, is domestically popular, is in a position actually to do some good, and is challenging fiscal rules that needed to be reformed anyway.

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