Pier Luigi Porta

Competition and Public Happiness in Pietro Verri's System of Political Economy: The "School of Milan"

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Pietro Verri's 1771 "Reflections on political economy" (Kelley, English edn., 1993) has been the object of inquiry from several points of view. However, while special attention has been given to his analysis on price, other equally important aspects have stayed hidden in the shadows. When for example Schumpeter comes to deal with Milanese School of Political Economy in his treatment of the 18th century "Cheapnessand-Plenty" new doctrine, he includes a revealing remark, to the effect that "Verri is the most important pre-Smithian authority on Cheapness-and-Plenty". The present paper shows that a careful canvass of the texts (in coincidence with the first variorum edition of Verri's Works) substantiates Schumpeter's suggestion and therefore points towards Verri not only emerging as an important precursor of Adam Smith, but also standing out as a key figure in the transition from Physiocracy to the Smithian system. The paper also goes on to argue that the conventional consumer sovereignty version of Verri's and Smith's systems can be misleading, given that the Cheapnessand-Plenty view of the competitive economy embodies a conception of growth focussed on creativity in production.

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