I’m writing this week from Italy. My wife and I have come to Florence for a week of non-stop eating and drinking. This is probably my fifth or sixth trip to Florence. I came here for the first time on a student tour while in high school in the mid 1970’s. One of my clearest memories of that trip was the sight of uniformed men in the streets in Italy and Spain carrying automatic weapons. It was amazing to me that any country could require that kind of security, and I felt privileged to live in the United States where nothing like that could ever happen. Accordingly, one of the most notable aspects of this trip is the comparison between the enormous security we now endure in the US, as opposed to the fairly lax security in Europe. The German and Italian airports we flew through only observed the basic airline security common in the US before 9/11, and I was surprised that we did not even have to go through any kind of passport control to get into Europe. Despite the fact that many European countries have been enduring terrorist attacks much longer and more consistently than the US, they seem to have come to terms with the problem and decided not to burden their citizens with annoying, intrusive, expensive, and perhaps questionable security procedures.
It is also very clear that the unavoidable oil crisis will have a much less severe impact here than in the US. All the cars in Italy are tiny and get forty miles or more per gallon. High efficiency diesel autos are common, and electric cars are gaining in popularity. People walk, and a large percentage ride bikes and scooters. Gas is already over $5.00 per gallon, so society has already learned how to be more efficient. Many Italians have large families, yet they seem to survive without the enormous gas guzzling all terrain vehicles that dominate American highways.