Ferdinando Galiani

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Ferdinando Galiani. Galiani portrait.jpg
Ferdinando Galiani.

Ferdinando Galiani (2 December 1728, Chieti, Kingdom of Naples – 30 October 1787, Naples, Kingdom of Naples) was an Italian economist, a leading Italian figure of the Enlightenment. Friedrich Nietzsche referred to him as "a most fastidious and refined intelligence" [1] as well as "... the most profound, sharp-sighted and perhaps also the foulest man of his century." [2]

Chieti Comune in Abruzzo, Italy

Chieti is a city and comune (municipality) in Central Italy, 200 kilometres east by northeast of Rome. It is the capital of the province of Chieti in the Abruzzo region.

Kingdom of Naples Former state in Italy

The Kingdom of Naples comprised that part of the Italian Peninsula south of the Papal States between 1282 and 1816. It was created as a result of the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302), when the island of Sicily revolted and was conquered by the Crown of Aragon, becoming a separate Kingdom of Sicily. Naples continued to be officially known as the Kingdom of Sicily, the name of the formerly unified kingdom. For much of its existence, the realm was contested between French and Spanish dynasties. In 1816, it was reunified with the island kingdom of Sicily once again to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. The country covers a total area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi), and land area of 294,140 km2 (113,570 sq mi), and shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.



Della moneta, 1780 (Template:Cita BEIC) Galiani - Della moneta, 1780 - 5762004.tif
Della moneta, 1780 (Template:Cita BEIC)

Born at Chieti, he was carefully educated by his uncle, Monsignor Celestino Galiani, [3] at Naples and Rome with a view to entering the church. Galiani showed early promise as an economist, and even more as a wit. By the age of twenty-two, after he took orders, [4] he had produced two works by which his name became widely known far beyond the bounds of his own Naples. The one, his Della Moneta , a disquisition on coinage in which he shows himself a strong supporter of mercantilism, deals with many aspects of the question of exchange, but always with a special reference to the state of confusion then presented by the whole monetary system of the Neapolitan government.

Naples Comune in Campania, Italy

Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. In 2017, around 967,069 people lived within the city's administrative limits while its province-level municipality has a population of 3,115,320 residents. Its continuously built-up metropolitan area is the second or third largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.

Rome Capital of Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Wit form of humour

Wit is a form of intelligent humour, the ability to say or write things that are clever and usually funny. Witty means a person who is skilled at making clever and funny remarks. Forms of wit include the quip, repartee, and wisecrack.

The other, Raccolta in Morte del Boia, established his fame as a humorist, and was highly popular in Italian literary circles at the end of the 18th century. In this volume Galiani parodied, in a series of discourses on the death of the public hangman, the styles of Neapolitan writers of the day. [5] Galiani's political knowledge and social qualities brought him to the attention of King Charles of Naples and Sicily (afterwards Charles III of Spain) and his liberal minister Bernardo Tanucci, and in 1759 Galiani was appointed secretary to the Neapolitan embassy at Paris. This post he held for ten years, when he returned to Naples and was made a councillor of the tribunal of commerce, and in 1777 administrator of the royal domains.

Parody Imitative work created to mock, comment on or trivialise an original work

A parody ; also called a spoof, send-up, take-off, lampoon, play on (something), caricature, or joke, is a work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work—its subject, author, style, or some other target—by means of satiric or ironic imitation. As the literary theorist Linda Hutcheon puts it, "parody ... is imitation, not always at the expense of the parodied text." Another critic, Simon Dentith, defines parody as "any cultural practice which provides a relatively polemical allusive imitation of another cultural production or practice". Parody may be found in art or culture, including literature, music, animation, gaming, and film.

Charles III of Spain King of Spain and the Spanish Indies from 1759 to 1788

Charles III was King of Spain (1759–1788), after ruling Naples as Charles VII and Sicily as Charles V (1734–1759). He was the fifth son of Philip V of Spain, and the eldest son of Philip's second wife, Elisabeth Farnese. A proponent of enlightened absolutism, he succeeded to the Spanish throne on 10 August 1759, upon the death of his half-brother Ferdinand VI, who left no heirs.

Bernardo Tanucci Italian noble

Bernardo Tanucci was an Italian statesman, who brought enlightened government to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies for Charles III and his son Ferdinand IV.

Galiani's published works focus on the area of humanities as well as social sciences. He left a large number of priceless letters which are not only of biographical interest but are also important for the light they cast on the social, economic, and political characteristics of eighteenth-century Europe. His economic reputation was made by a book written in the French language and published 1769 in Paris, namely, his Dialogues sur le commerce des bleds, "Dialogues on the commerce in wheat". This work, by its light and pleasing style, and its vivacious wit, delighted Voltaire, who described it as a cross between Plato and Molière. The author, says Giuseppe Pecchio, [6] treated his arid subject as Fontenelle did the vortices of Descartes, or Algarotti the Newtonian system of the world. The question at issue was that of the freedom of the corn trade, then much agitated, and, in particular, the policy of the royal edict of 1764, which permitted the exportation of grain so long as the price had not arrived at a certain height. The general principle he maintains is that the best system in regard to this trade is to have no system — countries of different circumstances requiring, according to him, different modes of treatment. He fell, however, into some of the most serious errors of the mercantilists — holding, as indeed did also Voltaire and even Pietro Verri, that one country cannot gain without another losing, and in his earlier treatise going so far as to defend the action of governments in debasing the currency. Until his death at Naples, Galiani kept up a correspondence with his old Parisian friends, notably Louise d'Épinay; [7] this was published in 1818.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Voltaire French writer, historian and philosopher

François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plumeVoltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, as well as his advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.

Plato Classical Greek philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

See L'abate Galiani, by Alberto Marghieri (1878), and his correspondence with Tanucci in Giampietro Vieusseux's L'Archivio storico (Florence, 1878).

Alberto Marghieri (1852–1937) was an Italian jurist and author of a biography about Ferdinando Galiani. He was born in Naples, where he made his career in law and politics. In 1924, he was nominated to the Senate of Italy.

Published works

Della moneta

In 1751, while still a student, Galiani written a book entitled Della moneta which intervened in the Neapolitan debate on economic reform. In this book, he discussed financial politics and gave opinions on how to develop the Neapolitan economy. At the same time, he proposed a theory of value based on utility and scarcity; this depth of thinking on economic value would not be seen again until discussions of marginal utility developed in the 1870s. In addition, Galiani's tract exhibited conventional Mercantilist ideas and some of his recommendations were adopted by the Neapolitan government.

The Chapter 1 of Book I introduces the history of money as well as the rise and fall of states in antiquity and modern times. By using historical examples, Galiani pointed out his idea that commerce was neglected by political rulers throughout the whole history of humankind. States could become rich and grew through the conquest, however they still could not enhance their power, territory and wealth without commerce.

In the core chapter of the book, Galiani explained that the value of money at any point in time derived from principles that were part of human nature itself; money was definitely not a human invention by which people deliberately changed the societies they lived in. Money generated naturally from the gradual modification of people's loves into social ideas of value that inspired commercial interaction. Money exists without relying on promises, trust, or another moral capacity of self-restraint and money is not created by agreement. If this situation is changed, commerce could not be the central of modern societies

In Della moneta, Galiani constantly described the effects of human actions in terms of providential rewards and punishments. He used the term providence to reconcile the historical dynamic of commercial progress with a set of fixed moral rules that lay at the core of successful human interaction. Galiani presented any moralistic dismissals of natural price formation and self-interested profit-seeking as reproaches to the way God intended human societies to function. Providential mechanisms were also involved in the history of money, the rise and fall of states in both antiquity and modernity and regulated the development of cultural characteristics of the dominant societies in the course of time. Throughout history man constantly reshaped the fictional moral beliefs, thereby creating the mental preconditions for commercial society.

Dialogues sur le commerce des bleds

During the period of being a diplomat in Paris, Galiani wrote Dialogues sur le commerce des bleds, which emphasized the importance for the regulation of commerce—an argument that opposed the physiocrats, who advocated complete freedom. This book was published in 1770 and Galiani indicated in this book that there are increasing returns to manufacturing, and diminishing returns to agriculture, and the wealth of a nation depends on manufacturing and trade. Although approving of the edict of 1764 liberalizing the grain trade, Galiani rejected much of the physiocratic analysis, notably its "land theory of value". His 1770 piece also provided a quite modern analysis of balance of payments.

Physiocracy Economic theory

Physiocracy is an economic theory developed by a group of 18th-century Enlightenment French economists who believed that the wealth of nations was derived solely from the value of "land agriculture" or "land development" and that agricultural products should be highly priced. Their theories originated in France and were most popular during the second half of the 18th century. Physiocracy is one of the first well-developed theories of economics.

In the Dialogues, Galiani described that wheat can be seen at two different aspects. The distinctions between two different aspects is important, as a product of the earth, wheat can be considered both commerce and economic legislation. As a product of first necessity, wheat is a symbol of social order and belongs to administration. As Galiani put it in an illuminating way, ‘As soon as supplying [wheat] is the concern of administration, it is no longer an object of commerce’. Correspondingly, ‘It is certain that what is sensible and useful from one standpoint, becomes absurd and harmful from another’.

Galiani believed that there are many shocks to economy, which can cause disequilibrium and it takes long time for the restoration of equilibrium. He thanked that something instead of the nature law needed to face the challenge and shocks. Administration dealt with the ‘sudden movements’ of the economy, such as shortages in the wheat supply. In other words, the legislator could not but consider the down-to-earth constraints of subsistence. In this respect, the physiocratic enlightened despot consistently and independently ruling economic matters according to natural laws was not enough to maintain social order.

Attitude to physiocrats

Galiani not only has theoretical brilliance with his idea of “natural” laws in economics, but also was a practical man, skeptical about the reach of abstract theory, particularly when action was necessary and urgent. He was repelled by the wide-eyed policies called for by the physiocrats, which he believed were, unrealistic, impractical and, in times of crisis, downright dangerous.

Galiani disagreed the physiocratic argument which is said that in order to provide a sufficient supply of grain, it suffices to establish a completely free trade. In fact, the foreign trade agreed with the physiocrats that internal free trade can benefit the economy. However, Galiani used the case of exportation to challenge the physiocrats. At one point in the Dialogues, he even stated: ‘Here I am not talking about the internal liberty of trade… Let us talk foreign trade’ (Galiani 1770, 224-5). Whereas the physiocrats advocated total liberty both domestically and internationally, Galiani believed internal liberty was the first priority. Even though he was not totally opposed to grain exportation, Galiani often condemned the physiocratic liberty to export grain. Precisely, he argued that the foreign trade can threaten domestic liberty, for the frontier provinces of the kingdom may find foreign markets more attractive than domestic ones. Therefore, as long as there is no certainty as to the existence of a permanent surplus, Galiani claimed, the nation must concentrate its efforts on the internal circulation of grain.

For him, the physiocrats were a dangerous group of impractical men with wrong ideas. In 1768, as France collapsed in a near-famine, the physiocrats still called for "non-action", muttering on their ordre naturel and the glorious wisdom of Quesnay, which galvanized of making their own remarkable contributions in opposition.


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  1. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1996). Christopher Middleton (ed.). Selected letters of Friedrich Nietzsche. Translated by Middleton. Hackett Publishing. p. 274. ISBN   0-87220-358-1.
  2. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1886). "II 26". Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil). Ian Johnston (trans.).
  3. See Fausto Nicolini, Un grande educatore italiano, Celestino Galiani (Naples, 1951)
  4. He is usually referred to, in French contexts, as the "abbé Galiani".
  5. Acton, Harold (1957). The Bourbons of Naples (1731-1825). London: Faber and Faber. ISBN   9780571249015.
  6. Pecchio, Storia della economia pubblica in Italia: ossia epilogo critico 1829.
  7. This correspondence furnished the material for Francis Steegmuller, A Woman, A Man and Two Kingdoms: The story of Mme d'Épinay and the Abbé Galiani, 1991.