The only bit of Neoliberalism that isn’t Fascism is the ‘Neo’ bit

It really does seem that the only remaining difference between Neoliberalism and Fascism is a slightly more liberal social policy outlook – although even that might be debatable in some cases.

I now discover that whereas Hitler started the privatisation lark, his Fascist colleague, Benito Mussolini, started the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

Admittedly, it wasn’t dressed up in quite such fancy terms, but it was definitely exactly the same method of keeping debt off the books.

John Flynn, the American author of ‘As We Go Marching‘ published in 1944, wrote:

Mussolini resorted to a subterfuge to pay contractors without increasing his budget. He would make a contract with a private firm to build certain roads or buildings. He would pay no money but sign an agreement to pay for the work on a yearly instalment plan. No money was paid out by the government. And hence nothing showed up on the budget.

In reality, therefore, the government had contracted a debt just as much as if it had issued a bond. But because no money was exchanged the whole transaction was omitted from the treasury’s books. However, after making such a contract, each year the government had to find money to pay the yearly instalments which ran from ten to fifty years. In time, as the number of such contracts increased, the number and amount of the yearly payments grew: by 1932 he had obligated the state for 75 billion lire of such contracts!

As with PFI payments in the UK, those billions will have to be paid for decades to come. And again, as with PFI, what Mussolini’s debt ‘innovation’ did was conceal from the people the fact that he was plunging the nation ever deeper into debt.

All this was actually written up in ‘Private Eye’ from 2007.

Sorry I’m so late.


  1. Sean Danaher -

    Never liked PFI, but to be fair the Italian Autostrada particularly in Northern Italy are a civil engineering triumph. Not sure many PFI hospitals will be standing 80 years later.

  2. Peter May -

    And I thought Mussolini only made the trains run on time:) I read that the first autostrada was authorised in 1921 which was the year the fascists joined the coalition government – “built by Piero Puricelli, a civil engineer and entrepreneur”. Cannot find out whether or not he was a Mussolini ‘friend’. I think he seemed to build more, so presumably he became one – if he wasn’t already! And I agree re the engineering.

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