Furthermore, no one has an interest in a showdown which could lead to Italy's being locked out of international financial markets and ultimately default, as occurred with Greece, which would likely mean yet another recession in the eurozone. It is true that foreign banks' exposure to Italian debt has halved in recent years, with a massive reduction in cross-border investment: German banks now own about $100 billion in Italian bonds and French banks ‘only' $300 billion. Still, after Brexit, Italy will be the EU's third-largest economy and no one can afford for BNP Paribas or Société Générale to go belly-up. Italy remains too big to fail.
But in the near term, there may be growing tensions within the ruling coalition. Just as Europe is divided along north and south, so is Italy. The League represents the economically dynamic north, with its business interests both large and small, while the Movement represents the chronically underperforming south, which wants more funds from the central government. Salvini may eventually decide to ditch the M5S so as to govern in a more natural coalition with conservatives and other nationalists.
In truth, there is considerable continuity between the populist government and previous administrations. Already under the centre-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Rome had loudly opposed Brussels' austerity measures and had even begun to eliminate illegal immigration in the Mediterranean (of which Italy has borne the brunt in Europe since the disintegration of the Libyan government). The new government has built upon and radicalized these precedents.
On paper, the eurozone's monetary and budgetary rules, favoring balanced budgets and low inflation, have a virtually constitutional character. However, in any democracy, a constitution is only respected insofar as its values have sunk deep into the heart of the people. In the United States of America, the prestige of the Founding Fathers and of the ideal of liberty means that, for better and for worse, free speech, gun ownership, and private enterprise are far more respected there than in other parts of the world. In Europe, the "eurozone constitution" really dates to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, whose principles reflected a conjunctural and awkward Franco-German compromise, rather than the shared fundamental values of the nations fusing their currencies together.
If European democracies are to respect the rules of their shared currency union, more must be done to explain the core values which underpin it. Certainly, in this age of financial instability and environmental degradation in the pursuit of perpetual growth, the values of living within one's means and sustainability ought to have a widespread appeal.