The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Verri, Pietro (1728–1797)

  • Peter Groenewegen
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-349-95189-5_1606

Abstract

Italian economist, administrator and philosopher, Verri was born in Milan in 1728, educated in Rome and Parma, served with Austria in the Seven Years War and at this time was introduced to the study of economics by General Henry Lloyd (Venturi 1978, 1979). His economic writings of the 1760s, such as Elementi di Commercio (1760) and the dialogues on monetary disorders in the State of Milan (1762), led to his appointment to a number of positions in the Austrian civil service in Milan. His administrative achievements include the abolition of tax farming (1770) and lowering and simplifying the tariff (1786). From 1764 to 1766 he edited with his brother Alessandro the periodical Il Caffè, which attracted contributions on economics from Beccaria and Frisi as well as himself (Verri 1764). His most important economic publication, Reflections on Political Economy, appeared in 1771, went through numerous editions and was translated into French, German and Dutch and more recently into English. Other economic works on monetary and trade questions, including his 1769 pamphlet advocating freedom of the domestic corn trade, contribute to his reputation as a most important 18th-century Italian economist (McCulloch 1845, pp. 26–7). More recently he has been noted for inspiring early developments in mathematical economics (Theocharis 1961, pp. 27–34). He died in 1797.

Keywords

Balance of production and consumption Consumption taxation Marginalism Mathematical economics Tax incidence Verri, P. 

JEL Classifications

B31 

Italian economist, administrator and philosopher, Verri was born in Milan in 1728, educated in Rome and Parma, served with Austria in the Seven Years War and at this time was introduced to the study of economics by General Henry Lloyd (Venturi 1978, 1979). His economic writings of the 1760s, such as Elementi di Commercio (1760) and the dialogues on monetary disorders in the State of Milan (1762), led to his appointment to a number of positions in the Austrian civil service in Milan. His administrative achievements include the abolition of tax farming (1770) and lowering and simplifying the tariff (1786). From 1764 to 1766 he edited with his brother Alessandro the periodical Il Caffè, which attracted contributions on economics from Beccaria and Frisi as well as himself (Verri 1764). His most important economic publication, Reflections on Political Economy, appeared in 1771, went through numerous editions and was translated into French, German and Dutch and more recently into English. Other economic works on monetary and trade questions, including his 1769 pamphlet advocating freedom of the domestic corn trade, contribute to his reputation as a most important 18th-century Italian economist (McCulloch 1845, pp. 26–7). More recently he has been noted for inspiring early developments in mathematical economics (Theocharis 1961, pp. 27–34). He died in 1797.

Verri’s Reflections is a complete treatise on political economy, reminiscent of Turgot’s Reflections on the Production and Distribution of Wealth (1766) with its tight, logical framework and division into fairly short sections. Although these cover a wide range of subjects, they are interconnected by the basic theme of the work, the increase in annual reproduction of the nation through trade of surplus product which Verri related to the balance of production and consumption. This ratio or balance is the key concept in Verri’s economic analysis, since it not only influences economic growth but also value (it approximates the ratio of sellers to buyers at home and abroad), the rate of interest (it represents thriftiness conditions) and, via its influence on the balance of trade, it also determines national money supply. An excess of production over consumption lowers the price level and the rate of interest, expands the money supply, animates industry and facilitates the collection of taxes. Some features of this analysis may be specifically noted. Verri does not appear to have been aware of the importance of capital, as is demonstrated in his general discussion of production (sections 26–8) and his treatment of the interest rate as a monetary phenomenon (sections 14–15). Secondly, his emphasis on supply and demand (used to determine all prices including the rate of interest) combined with references to utility and scarcity in the context of value (section 4) explains why this part of his work has been linked with marginalist economics. The last 11 sections discuss taxation and public finance, including a presentation of five canons of taxation (section 30), a tax incidence analysis arguing against the Physiocratic view that all taxes fall on the landlord (sections 32–3) and a plea for indirect consumption taxation as a fair and administratively easy way to raise revenue. Anti-Physiocratic elements in his economics are not confined to tax issues, but apply to his discussion of special classes (section 24), the importance of agriculture (section 28) and are apparent in his view that free trade should be largely confined to domestic activity (section 40). Verri’s Reflections were highly regarded when they appeared, and could be found, for example, in Smith’s library. His work, though now largely ignored, may therefore have exerted greater influence than is generally believed.

Selected Works

  • 1760. Degli elementi di commercio. In Scrittori classici italiani di economia politica, parte moderna, vol. 17, ed. P. Custodi. Milan, 1804.

  • 1762. Dialogo sui disordine delle monete nello stato di Milano nel 1762. In Scrittori classici italiani di economia polìtica, parte moderna, vol. 16, ed. P. Custodi. Milan, 1804.

  • 1764. Considerazioni sul lusso. In Scrittori classici italiani di economia politica, parte moderna, vol. 17, ed. P. Custodi. Milan, 1804.

  • 1771. Reflections on political economy. Trans. B. McGilvray and ed. P. Groenewegen, Reprints of economic classics, Series 2, No. 4. Sydney: University of Sydney, 1986.

Bibliography

  1. McCulloch, J.R. 1845. The literature of political economy. London: LSE reprint, 1938.Google Scholar
  2. Theocharis, R.D. 1961. Early developments in mathematical economics. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  3. Venturi, F. 1978. Le ‘Meditazioni sulla economica politica’ di Pietro Verri: edizioni, echi e discussioni. Rivista storica italiana 90: 530–594.Google Scholar
  4. Venturi, F. 1979. Le avventure del generale Henry Lloyd. Rivista storica italiana 91: 369–433.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Groenewegen
    • 1
  1. 1.