1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Galiani, Ferdinando

GALIANI, FERDINANDO (1728–1787), Italian economist, was born at Chieti on the 2nd of December 1728. He was carefully educated by his uncle Monsignor C. Galiani at Naples and Rome with a view to entering the Church. Galiani gave early promise of distinction as an economist, and even more as a wit. At the age of twenty-two, after he had taken orders, he had produced two works by which his name became widely known far beyond the bounds of his own Naples. The one, his Trattato della moneta, in which he shows himself a strong supporter of the mercantile school, 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. 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 with exquisite felicity, in a series of discourses on the death of the public hangman, the styles of the most pompous and pedantic Neapolitan writers of the day. Galiani’s political knowledge and social qualities now pointed him out to the discriminating eye of King Charles, afterwards Charles III. of Spain, and his liberal minister Tanucci, and he was appointed in 1759 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, minister of the royal domains. His economic reputation was made by a book written in French and published in Paris, namely, his Dialogues sur le commerce des blés. This work, by its light and pleasing style, and the vivacious wit with which it abounded, delighted Voltaire, who spoke of it as a book in the production of which Plato and Molière might have been combined! The author, says Pecchio, 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 differently circumstanced 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 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 on the 30th of October 1787, Galiani kept up with his old Parisian friends a correspondence, which was published in 1818.

See L’Abate Galiani, by Alberto Marghieri (1878), and his correspondence with Tanucci in Viesseux’s L’Archivio storico (Florence, 1878).