Cattaneo, Carlo (1801–1861)
Cattaneo was a leading spokesman for social and political reform in his native Lombardy. A polymath, he made important contributions to history, geography, linguistics and philosophy and took a prominent role in politics, as well as writing on economics and engaging in various business ventures. However, he preferred the title of economist to all others, and a concern with economic reform runs through his work. An admirer of Charles Bonet, a follower of Condillac, he developed his own theory of human progress from barbarism to civility. At the heart of his thesis was a sensationalist epistemology adapted from Vico, which he called the psychology of associated minds. He argued that if individuals were allowed to experience sufficient contrasting ideas and situations then humankind would gradually improve and both our needs and the means of satisfying them infinitely multiply. He was therefore a staunch advocate of both political liberty and free trade, which he regarded as linked. He criticized the feudal privileges and economic nationalism of the period, calling for the abolition of the decrees against the Jews and opposing the protectionist doctrines of Friedrich List, but defended private property as an inalienable right essential to individual liberty and vehemently attacked socialist proposals for public ownership, especially Proudhon’s.
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