Let's Trade Democratic Parties

Walter Veltroni, leader of Italy’s center-left Democratic party, certainly sounds like a right-winger, judging by this Wall Street Journal profile.

[Veltroni] is also trying to push what he sees as a common-sense approach to Italy’s most intractable problems — such as excessive red tape and high taxes. Whereas currently 60 separate permits are required to open an auto-repair shop, he says, he wants to make it possible to open a new business in a single day.

He proposes slashing public spending — currently 50.5% of gross domestic product — to fund a rollback of Italy’s tax burden, which is one of the highest in the 15-nation euro zone.

So where does that leave the Italian right under Berlusconi?

[Berlusconi] is also proposing the same recipe for economic growth that he did when he was last elected in 2001: lower taxes and increased investment in infrastructure. Meanwhile, Mr. Berlusconi has lampooned the Prodi government’s crackdown on rampant tax evasion, claiming it was akin to a tax rise.

The Berlusconi “vision” is not very appealing, I think you’ll agree. As for Veltroni, well, the left has often embraced market-oriented reforms, whether out of desperation or liberal conviction. But Veltroni sounds like an arch-Thatcherite, far more than even Blair. I gather there’s something I’m missing here.