1902 Encyclopedia > Political Economy (Economics) > Political Economy - The Historical School (cont.) - Italy; France

Political Economy
(Part 15)


Italy —It is to be regretted that every little known in England of the writings of the recent Italian economists. Luigi Cossa’s Guida, which was translated at the suggestion of Jevons, has been us some notion of the character and importance of their labours. The urgency of questions of finance in Italy since its political renascence has turned their researches for the most part into practical channels, and they have produced numerous monographs on statistical and administrative questions. But they have also dealt ably with the general doctrines of the science. Cossa pronounces Angelo Messedaglia (b. 1820), professor at Padua, to be the foremost of contemporary Italian economists; he has written on public loans (1850) and on population (1858), and is regarded as a master of the subjects of money and credit. His pupil Fedele Lampertico (b. 1833) is author of many writings, among which the most systematic and complete is his Economia dei popoli e degli stati (1874-1880). Marco Minghetti, distinguished as a minister, is author, besides other writings, of Economia pubblica e le sue attinenze colla morale e col diritto (1859). Luigi Luzzati, also known as an able administrator, had by several publications to prepare the way far reform. The Sicilians Vito Cusumano and Giuseppe Ricca Salerno have produced excellent works:—the former on the history of political economy in the Middle Ages (1876), and the economic schools of Germany in their relation to the social question (1875); the latter on the theories of capital, wages, and public loans (1877-8-9). Cossa, to whom we are indebted for most of these particulars, is himself author of several works which have established for him a high reputation, as his Scienza delle Finanze (1875; 3d ed., 1882), and his Primi Elementi di Economia Politica (1875; 4th ed., 1878), which latter has been translated into several European languages.

Of greater interest than an imperfect catalogue of writers is the fact of the appearance in Italy of the economic dualism to which we have referred as characterizing our time. There also the two schools—the old or so-called orthodox and the new or historical—with their respective modified forms, are found face to face. Cossa tells us that the instructors of the younger economists in northern Italy were publicly denounced in 1874 as Germanists, socialists, and corrupters of the Italian youth. In reply to this charge Luzzati, Lampertico, and Scialoja convoked in Milan the fist congress of economists (1875) with the object of proclaiming their resistance to the idea which was sought to be imposed on them "that the science was born and died with Adam Smith and his commentators." M. de Laveleye’s interesting Letters d’ Italie (1878-79) throw light on the state of economic studies in that country in still more recent years. Minghetti, presiding at the banquet at which M. de Laveleye was entertained by his Italian brethren, spoke of the "two tendencies" which had manifested themselves, and implied his own inclination to the new views. Carlo Ferarris, a pupil of Wagner, follows the same direction. Formal expositions and defences of the historical method have been produced by Schiattarella (Del metodo in Economia Sociale, 1875) and Cognetti de Martiis (Della attinenze tra l’ Economia Sociale e la Storia, 1865). A large measure of acceptance has also been given to the historical method is learned and judicious monographs by Ricca Salerno (see especially his essay Del metodo in Econ. Pol., 1878). Luzzati and Forti for some time edited a periodical, the Giornale degli Economisti, which was the organ of the new school, but which, we gather from Cossa, has ceased to appear. Cossa himself, whilst refusing his adhesion to this school on the ground that it reduces political economy to a mere narrative of facts,—an observation which, we must be permitted to say, betrays am entire misconception of its true principles,—admits that it has been most useful in several ways, and especially as having given the signal for a salutary, though as he thinks, an excessive reaction against the doctrinaire exaggerations of the older theorists.

France—In France the historical school has not made so strong an impression,—partly, no doubt, because the extreme doctrines of the Ricardian system never obtained much hold there. It was by his recognition of its freedom from those exaggerations that Jevons was led to declare that "the truth is with the French school," whilst he pronounced our English economists to have been "living in a fool’s paradise." National prejudice may also have contributed to the result referred to, the ordinary Frenchman being at present disposed to ask whether any good thing can come out of Germany. But, as we have shown, the philosophic doctrines on which the whole proceeding of the historical schools id founded were first enunciated by a great French thinker, to whose services most of his fellow-countrymen are singularly dead. Perhaps another determining cause is to be looked for in official influences, which in France, by their action on the higher education, as was seen notably in the temporary éclat they gave on the wider philosophic stage to the shallow eclecticism of Cousin. The tendency to the historical point of view has appeared in France, as elsewhere; but it has shown itself not so much in modifying general doctrine as in leading to a more careful study of the economic opinions and institutions of the past.

Much useful work has been done by Frenchman (with whom Belgians many here be associated) in the history of political economy, regarded either as a body of theory or as a system—or series of systems—of policy. Blanqui’s history (1837-38) is not, indeed, entitled to a very high rank, but it was serviceable as a first general draught. That of Villeneuve-Bargemont (1839) was also interesting and useful, as presenting the Catholic view of the development and the tendencies of the science. C. Perin’s Les doctrines économiques despuis un siècle (1880) is written from the same point of view. A number of valuable monographs on particular statesmen or thinkers has also been produced by Frenchmen,—as for example, that of A. Bathie, on Turgot (Turgot Philosophe, Economiste, et Administrateur, (1861); of Piere Clément on Colbert (Histoire de Colbert et de son Administration, 2d. ed., 1875); of H. Baudrillart on Bodin (J.Bodin et son Temps; Tableau des Théories politiques et des Idées économiques au 16 siècle, 18530; of L. de lavergne on the physiocrats (Les Economistes Francais du 18 siècle, 1870). Works, too, of real importance have been produced on particular aspects of the industrial development, as those od Léonce de lavergne on the rural economy of France (1857), and of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1854). The treatise of Emile de Laveleye, De la Propriété et de ses forms primitives (1874; Eng. trans. By G. R. marriot, 1878), especially worthy of notice, not merely for its array of facts respecting the early forms of property, but because it is co-operates strongly with the tendency of the new school to regard each stage of economic life from the relative point of view, as resulting from an historic past, and bearing in its boson of a future, predetermined in its essential character, though modifiable in its secondary dispositions.

M. de Laveleye has done much to call attention to the general principles of the historical school, acting in this way most usefully as an interpreter between Germany and France. But he appears in his most recent manifesto (Les Lois naturelles et l’objet de l’Économie Politique, 1883) to separate himself from the best members of that school, and to fall into positive error, when he refuses to economics the character of a true science (or department of a science) as distinguished from an art, and denies the existence of economic laws or tendencies independent of individual wills. Such a denial seems to involve that of social laws generally, which is a singularly retrograde attitude for a thinker of our time to take up, and one which cannot be excused since the appearance of the Philosophie Positive. The use of the metaphysical phrase "necessary laws" obscure the question; it suffices to speak of laws which do in fact prevail. M. de Laveleye relies on morals as supplying a parallel case, where we deal, not with natural laws, but with "imperative prescriptions," as if these prescriptions did not imply, as their basis, observed coexistences and sequences, and as if there were no such thing as evolution. He seems to be as far from the right point of view in one direction as his opponents of the old school in another. All that his arguments have really any tendency to prove is the proposition, undoubtedly a true one, that economic facts cannot be explained by a theory which leaves out of account the other social aspects, and therefore that our studies and expositions of economic phenomena must be kept in close relation with the conclusions of the larger science of society.

We cannot do more than notice in a general way some f the expository treatise of which there has been an almost continuous series from the time of Say downwards, or indeed from the date of Germain Garnier’s Abrégé des Principes de l’Économie Politique (1796). That of Destutt de Tracy forms a portion of his Éléments d’Idéologie (1823). Droz brought out especially the relations of economics to morals and of wealth to human happiness (Économie Politique, (1829). Pellegrino Rossian,—an Italian, formed, however, as an economist by studies in Switzerland, professing the science in Paris, and writing in French (Cours d’Économie Politique, 1838-54),—gave in classic form an exposition of the doctrines of Say, Malthus, and Ricardo. Michel Chevalier (1806-1879), specially known in England by his tract, translated by Cobden, on the fall in the value of gold (La Baisse d’Or, 1858), gives in his Cours d’Économie Politique (1845-50) particularly valuable matter on the most recent industrial phenomena, and on money and the production of the precious metals. Henri Baudrillart, author of Les Rapports de la Morale et de l’Économie Politique (1860-2d ed., 1883), and of Histoire du Luxe (1878), published in 1857 a Manuel d’Économie Politique (3d ed., 1872), whose Cossa calls an "admirable compendium." Joseph Garnier (Traité de l’Économie Politique, 1860, 8th ed., 1880) in some respects follows Dunoyer. J. G. Courcelle-Seneuil, the translator of J. S. Mill, whom Prof. F. A. Walker calls "perhaps the ablest economist writing in the French language since J. B. Say," besides a Traité théorique et pratique des operations de Banque add Thérie des Enterprises Industrielles (1856), wrote a Traité de l’Économie Politique (1858-59), which is held in much esteem. Finally, the Genevese, Antoine Élise Cherbuliez (d. 1869) was author of what Cossa pronounces to be the best treatise on the science in the French language (Précis de la Science Économique, 1862). L. Walras, in Éléments d’ Éléments d’Économie Plitique pure (1874-77), and Théorie Mathématique de la Richesse Sociale (1883), has followed the example of Cournot in attempting a mathematical treatment of the subject.

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