Thursday, February 05, 2009

Crisis explained

Economic crisis explained.
It is a plot of which Jorge Luis Borges would have been proud: some of the best military and juridical minds in Italy are wrestling with the problem of how to dispose of the unwelcome legacy of tens - perhaps hundreds - of thousands of soldiers who never existed.

Though commanded by a real Lieutenant General, headquartered in Padua, Italy's so-called Terzo corpo designato d'Armata was a fiction - a giant cold-war bluff. It was dreamed up in the early 50s to convince Moscow that Nato's frontline was altogether more solid than was the case.


The army was disbanded in 1972 but archives and barracks the length of Italy have remained clogged with what La Stampa said was "tonnes" of paper. And none of it can be destroyed. Under Italian law, officially secret documents can only be pulped once they have been declassified. And they can only be declassified by the office or unit that created them. And, of course, this no longer exists ...
That is, an army existed almost entirely on paper, in the form of notional essence that allows physical armies, and still exists. The paper records cannot be cleared away, because of the lack of a real force to remove this notional existence.

The Italian state borrowed a notional army in order to be a player in a real military conflict, a conflict that never really happened, and so the debt never made a profit. The military archive market continues to suffer, but this notional essence locks up those archives.

A clearer example of what happens in an economic crisis couldn't be found.

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