The Giornale degli Economisti

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19th HETSA Conference

School of Business

University of Ballarat

4 - 7 July 2006

The ‘Pareto School’ and the Giornale Degli Economisiti


Michael McLure*

University of Western Australia

‘The Giornale degli Economisti … has always been the journal par excellence of Pareto and his school’ Giovanni Demariai


Many leading international sites for the dissemination of scientific economic thought were established, and their reputations developed, when the second generation of marginalist economists was placing their authority on the profession. As Magnani (2003, p. 14) has noted, journal such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics (1886), the Revue d’Èconomie Politique (1897), the Economic Journal (1891), the Journal of Political Economy (1892) and even the American Economic Review (1911) emerged during the epoch of marginalism – the period when the production and dissemination of marginalist ideas was growing rapidly.

In Italy too, journals played a large part in the dissemination of marginalist thought and, between 1890 and 1920, none were more significant than the Giornale degli Economisti. Importantly, the development and dissemination of original marginalist ideas in the Giornale degli Economisti over this time rivalled those of the abovementioned international journals. An appreciation of the international importance of developments disseminated in this journal is now emerging, with E. Roy Weintraub commencing his article ‘Why so many Italian economists?’ with the following introduction:

I recently received an e-mail from a former student. In it, he told me ‘I have become aware of a fairly large literature on utility and demand written by Italians, and published mostly in the Giornale degli economisti between around 1890 and 1915. The mathematics used is typically fairly sophisticated by the standards of most economists of the time, and a number of results in Slutsky either correct problems in the Italian literature or build directly on foundations built by the Italians, especially Pareto. Despite this, these papers in the Giornale seemed to have been largely (but not completely) ignored outside of Italy right up to the present day.’

(E. Roy Weintraub 1997, p. 253)1

The Giornale degli Economisti

A complete history of the Giornale degli Economisti is beyond the scope of the present study. Nevertheless, to identify the culture of science that prevailed in this journal during the period when Pareto and his followers were active contributors, it is necessary to consider the major moments in its evolution.2

The first series of the Journal was not marked by continuity or success. It was established in 1875 by the Associazione per il Progresso degli studi Economici in Italia in Padua under the management and editorial direction of Eugenio Forti. However production was suspended in 1878. Over this initial period, the Journal’s content was largely aligned with the approach to economics typified by the German historical school. In particular, it revealed a protectionist approach to public policy. The first series of the Giornale degli Economisti was revived again in 1886, this time operated from Bologna under the management and editorial direction of Count Alberto Zorli. Over the next few years, the Journal became an ‘arena for all opinions’ (Magnani 2003, p. 25): free traders put some views while protectionist and advocates of the historical school put different view. Maffeo Pantaleoni also contributed the regular ‘Rassegna finanziaria’ to review issues in public finance. However, the Journal was still unable to sustain itself and slowly degenerated into reporting reviews, bibliographical information and the like.

The last issue of the ‘first series’ of the Giornale degli Economisti was published in 1890. The first issue of the ‘second series’ was published in July of the same year, but with three additional directors: with Ugo Mazzola (1863-1899), Antonio de Viti de Marco (1858-1943) and Maffeo Pantaleoni (1857-1924). Each had acquired a one quarter share of the Journal and, as a consequence, the editorial direction had largely come under the control of Italy’s then leading public economists who were also committed marginalists. These new editorial directors were also among that country’s most forceful and articulate advocates for liberty in economic and political matters and restraint and sustainable balances in matters of public finances.

Prior to becoming directors of the Journal, these three new directors had all made important contributions to the grounding of fiscal studies in the hedonistic approach of the early stages of the marginal revolution. Teoria della Pressione Tribtaria (Pantaleoni 1887), Il Carattere Teorico dell’Economia Finanziaria (de Viti de Marco 1888) and Il Fondamento Scientifico dell’ Economia di Stato (Mazzola 1888) had all been published prior to the 1890. In addition, Pantaleoni had already published Principii di Economia Pure (1889), a book of considerable historical importance for providing Italy with its first fundamentally marginalist text in which the general laws of the economic phenomenon were considered in the context of social evolution. Pantaleoni’s book had a particularly significant influence on Pareto who, in a letter of 8 August 1911 to Guido Sensini, wrote that:

I was induced to study pure economics and mathematical economics3 by reading Pantaleoni’s Principii. Before that I began to read the works of Walras, but could not proceed because the part that is metaphysics, for which I had disgust, was very large in those works. From Pantaleoni’s Principii, I was made aware that pure economics offers things other than metaphysics. I returned to read the works of Walras without noticing the metaphysics, as if it had not been written, and I saw that there was a theory of great importance… I owe it to Pantaleoni that I have a concrete conception of pure economics and to Walras that I have a clear conception of economic equilibrium.

(Pareto 1975, p. 735)

The scientific hallmark of the second series of the Giornale degli Economisti was a commitment to the dissemination of the new marginalist economics and new ideas in public economics. Its social and cultural hallmark was an equally strong commitment to the dissemination of public policy ideas based on economic and political liberty. As Pantaleoni was to note: ‘The Giornale will have a strictly liberalist direction and it will be anti-protectionist and, as such, anti-socialist’ (Pantaleoni, letter to Domenico Berardi of 24 April 1890, cited in Magnani 2003, pp. 68-9).

From the early editions of the second series, Pantaleoni, Mazzola, and de Viti de Marco engaged in policy polemics, attacking customs restrictions and legislative restrictions on working hours. The policy dimension of the Journal was even evident from its subtitle Rivista Mensile Degli Interessi Italiani (Periodical of Italian Interests). In addition to scientific articles, from 1891 the Journal introduced a special feature entitled ‘Cronaca’ which chronicled developments in public policy, public finances and the state of the economy. In the early stages, these chronicles were written by Ugo Mazzola.

The first point that must be made about the relationship between Pareto and the Giornale degli Economisti is that it was by no means limited to scientific issues. Pareto fully supported the liberal agenda. In September 1891, Pareto actually stood in for Mazzola by writing the chronicle for one issue of the Journal. His general commitment is clear from his letter to Maffeo Pantaleoni of 7 March 1893, when he offered to write the chronicles for the Journal:

In regard to the Cronaca, and as for any other work that you may need, I am at your disposition. It is unnecessary to talk of the circumstances that prevent you from making remuneration for the work. If I had means, as perhaps I will one day, it would be my duty to make a substantial contribution to sustain the Giornale that defends liberalist ideas. But I do not have money, and therefore I must provide at least that which is in my power; that is, work. Therefore, not just for one month ‘yes’ and another month ‘no’, but for all the months, if there is need, I am ready, very ready, to prepare the Cronaca, and whatever else you want. … I am at your disposition to undertake any work necessary for the Giornale to defend liberal ideas.

(Pareto 1960a, p. 354)4

Between 1893 and 1897, the Giornale degli Economisti published 52 of Pareto’s chronicles, which were generally very critical of Italian Government policy.5 By 1897 Pareto became concerned that his continued strong criticism of government and special interest was beginning to harm the Journal and, in view of this, he expressed a desire to be relieved of this duty. De Viti de Marco took over responsibility for writing each Cronaca from 1897. At that time, Mazzola was suffering from serious health problems and was in his final years of life (he died in his 30s) and de Viti de Marco was a more optimistic, and less controversial, liberal figure than Pareto.

During the period in which Pareto was writing the chronicles, the Government of Italy was lead by Prime Ministers Francesco Crispi (1887-91 and 1993-96) and Antonio Starabba di Rudini (1981-92 and 1896-98). Pareto was particularly critical of the Crispi Government for military and imperial adventurism, protectionism, banking and monetary crisis and supporting particular interests without regard to the general interest or maintaining sustainable fiscal balances. While Rudini appeared liberal in opposition, during the early stages of his second term of government Pareto expressed some alarm at early signs of backtracking on constraining public spending, although he conceded that imperialist activities in Africa, initiated by earlier governments, had reduced the discretionary component of budget expenses .

The zeal with which the Giornale degli Economisti advocated an almost radical form of liberalism was matched by the enthusiasm with which the new economics was being explored and disseminated. The culture of liberalism in public policy matters was a reaction to the prevailing state of government. In many ways it was an ideological response. Tommaso Giacolone-Monaco (1960) has pointed out that Pareto’s Cronaca bears all the hallmarks of a moralist. The moral indignation at the action of Italian political elites proved a motivating factor for the huge effort required in producing so many chronicles for the Journal. But, while indignation influenced the critical tone of the chronicles, it did not displace careful investigation.

Given the background of Pantaleoni, de Viti de Marco and Mazzola, it is no surprise that careful investigation extended from the practice of public finances to the theory of public finances, with the Journal becoming the primary site for the dissemination new ideas in the Italian tradition of fiscal studies. James Buchanan (1960, p. 73) has observed that prior to 1920 almost all important contributions in this field were published in the Giornale degli Economisti. The same emphasis on the critical investigation also extended to general economic theory, with major contributions to general equilibrium economics made by Pareto, Barone and others within the first few years of the second series of the Journal. Many of these economic expositions relied extensively on mathematical formulation; and the Giornale degli Economisti became the premier journal for the publication of mathematical economics in Italy.

With its second series then, the Giornale degli Economist had evolved to an extent where there was a coincidence between the critical thought in the defence of liberty in practical matters and critical and original thought on scientific matters. This was especially so when scientific thought had clear implications for public policy, such as welfare theory and trade theory. It mattered little how scientific thought was expressed: mathematically, textually, statistically or historically, no approach was rulled out. As it was open to different methods, the Journal was became the window through which Italian economists considered formative thought and debate it.

This became a critical feature of the relationship between the Journal and Pareto, especially in the initial and intermediate phases of his scientific work. However, there was an asymmetric aspect to Pareto’s personality: he was more than willing to criticize the work of other, but was very sensitive to criticisms of his own ideas. While he was embraced by the Journal, he tended to adopt the slightly paranoid stance of a scholar just outside the dominant clique by tending to highlight things that differentiate him from other Italian economists, and largely ignore their common ground. Initially, Pareto saw both his own work and the Giornale degli Economisti as outsiders to the mainstream of economic science, which he regarded as fundamentally socialist or linked to the historical school in a manner that emphasizes state intervention. By the second phase of his work, he had come to set himself slightly apart from his contemporary marginalists too. However, by that stage the association between Pareto and the Journal had become strong enough to withstand difficulties – the scientific reputation of the Giornale degli Economisti had increased substantially because of its association with Pareto, a personal bond of friendship had forged between Pareto and the directors of the Journal, most especially with Pantaleoni, and Pareto had a stage from which he could rapidly disseminate new ideas to his Italian followers and from which these followers could also make their voice known across the economics profession in Italy. While scholars working on Paretain issues published in many sources, the Giornale degli Economisti was the main journal, a situation which continued beyond its second series.

A ‘third series’ of the Giornale degli Economisti commenced in 1910 under the title Giornale degli Economisti e Rivista di Statistica in which the existing owners and editorial directors, namely Pantaleoni and de Viti de Marco, were jointed by the statisticians Giorgio Mortara (1885-1967) and Alberto Beneduce (1877-1944). De Viti de Marco withdrew as director during World War I and was not replaced, but, following Pantaleoni’s death in 1924, Gustavo del Vecchio joined the Journal in 1925 as a director.

While the Giornale degli Economisti is recognized for disseminating new contributions to economic theory, the scientific scope of the Journal went well beyond pure theory. This was, to a considerable extent, a product of its acceptance of liberty in the world of ideas and a perception that economists have many areas of interest. The classification of articles that the Journal prepared for its first three series of the Giornale degli Economisti includes:

General Matters: covering education issues, bibliographical issues, the methodology of the social science and the history of the social sciences; Statistics: covering statistical theory, applied statistics, applied financial statistics, statistics applied to demography, statistics applied to social matters; Sociology: covering general matters and particular matters; Economic and Social History, covering the history populations, colonialisation, migration, agriculture, industry, commerce, communications, money and prices, credit and insurance, consumption, public finance and protection, and the relationship between social classes, guilds and corporations; Economic Demography and Economic Geography: focusing extensively on population economics; Economic Theory: covering general economic science, theory of economic equilibrium, production, circulation of money, distribution theory, business economic; Applied Economics and Economic Policy: covering the economic situation and economic cycles in Italy, the economic situation abroad, international economics and commercial policy, colonial economics, economic organization and its legal problems, money and savings, transport communications and tourism, urbanization and municipal government, agricultural commodities, mineral and energy economics, and industries; Social Policy: covering social conditions, labour laws and protection of labour, organization of labour, pensions and insurance, social assistance and public health; Public Finance: covering general issues, international issues (war debts and reparation payments), Italian public finances, taxes, public spending; and Domestic and International Politics: covering electoral issues, political parties, the political situation, political issue in Europe, political issue outside of Europe.

In 1938, following the 14 July Manifesto degli Scienziati Razzisti and the application of the Royal Decree N1390 of 5 September, the Journal faced a crisis with both del Vecchio and Mortara being expelled from their Universities (Bologna and Milan respectively) on the basis of their racial origins and were barred from academic activities.6 In the next year the Journal was resurrected as a ‘new series’ established after merging with the Annali di Economia del’ Università Bocconi and under the extended title of the Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia. The management of this ‘new series’ was located at the Università Bocconi in Milan where it operated under the editorial direction of Giovanni Demaria from 1939 to 1975.7 The Journal continued after Demaria’s retirement from his editorial role and is still published today under the same titled by the Università Bocconi. It is currently under the editorial direction of Michele Polo.

The strong association between the Giornale degli Economisti8 and Pareto had its foundation in the liberalism of the editorial directors of the Journal second series. The longevity of this relationship, however, requires further consideration. Undoubtedly, the strength of Pareto’s personal friendship with Pantaleoni was a significant factor. However, the broad scope of issues treated in the Journal also meant that Pareto’s more mature contributions, as his primary interest in theory broadened from economic equilibrium to social equilibrium, could be readily accommodated. It was in the interests of the Giornale degli Economisti to maintain the relationship as the contribution of Pareto and his followers improved the standing of the Giornale degli Economisti among the community of economists. As Pareto’s reputation grew on Italy, Europe and the World, the importance of the Journal also became more widely recognized, with Edgeworth and Slutsky making contributions to the Journal based on Pareto’s work and Kühne, Sanger, Fisher and Schultz and others citing the work of Paretians published in the Giornale degli Economisti.

Pareto’s followers also had additional reasons to associate with the Journal. The sentimental, but still significant, reason concerns the desire to follow in the footsteps of the master by taking the same path that Pareto took to the Italian community of economists. In following the same path, the opportunity for forming a school of thought also emerged by facilitating dissemination of their scientific product to the community in a manner that has the greatest probability of influencing the profession. Also, the Journal’s willingness to publish mathematical and sociological treatment of economic issues was important as most of Pareto’s followers were mathematically proficient and many developed an interest in sociology. Related to this is the general culture of knowledge associated with the Giornale degli Economisti in which the scope of scientific investigation is very wide. In this regard, part of Pareto’s intellectual legacy in Italy concerned examination of the sociological part of economic phenomena and, in this journal, economics and sociology were not necessarily strange bedfellows.

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