Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has argued that "liberal democratic societies cannot remain globally competitive" because their decision-making mechanisms are anachronistic. As Orbán sees it, the alternative is to build what he calls an "illiberal" democratic state. And this, he posited, is not a personal whim: "Today, the world tries to understand systems which are not Western, not liberal, maybe not even democracies, yet they are successful."
An old saying in Rome has it that the favorite candidate always enters the conclave as the next pope but exits as a mere cardinal. Matteo Renzi, Italy's maverick prime minister, is Europe's man of the hour; but the six-month rotating EU presidency which Italy kicked off earlier this month may leave him severely diminished, unless he fulfills the promise of his leadership with tangible results.
It was striking that "La Grande Bellezza" came up in a televised interview in recent days with Matteo Renzi, Italy's youngest ever prime minister. It was even more striking, however, that Renzi presented the movie in a positive light: to him, the superficially negative message was secondary to the "great beauty" of successful Italian art. What is more, Renzi used the movie to press the case for his ambitious reform agenda.