May 12, 2010

The Austrian School of economics: its Italian roots

Several early Italian economists influenced the development of continental European economic thought in the centuries before Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School of economics: Gian Francesco Lottini (1512–1572), Bernardo Davanzati (1529–1606), Geminiano Montanari (1633–1687), and Ferdinando Galiani (1728–1787). Galiani, in particular, with his contributions to value theory, interest theory, and economic policy, had a great influence on the Austrian School of economics itself. Read this article at the Ludwig von Mises Institute website to learn more. Here is an excerpt:

Galiani believed that government generally should not interfere in the natural workings of the economy. A government that attempts to stimulate all sectors of the economy, agricultural and industrial, stimulates nothing. Stimulation means that a particular sector is given preference over the other sectors, and how can one sector be given preference over another if all sectors are stimulated?

Quite interesting, indeed. It’s also interesting to note that Friedrich Nietzsche, who was an expert in matters of intellectual excellence, in his Beyond Good and Evil pointed out his “friend” Ferdinando Galiani as an example of Cynic of genius and described him as “the most profound, sharp-sighted, and perhaps also the foulest man of his century” (please note that foul, in Nietzsche’s vocabulary, is perhaps the greatest compliment…). He also wrote that Galiani “was far profounder than Voltaire and consequently also a good deal more taciturn.”

Furthermore, Galiani’s 1769 Dialogues sur le commerce des blés, written in French with vivacious wit and a light and pleasing style (you can read it here), delighted Voltaire, who in his Dictionnaire philosophique (“BLÉ ou BLED”) spoke of it as a book in the production of which Plato and Moliere might have been combined  (“[Galiani] trouva le secret de faire, même en français, des dialogues aussi amusants que nos meilleurs romans, et aussi instructives que nos meilleurs livres sérieux”). What is surprising is that Galiani is still relatively little known.

[Thanks: The Commentator]

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