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Croce-Einaudi, attualità di una polemica

The Debate between Croce and Einaudi on Liberalism and Laissez Faire Seen in the Present Perspective

Anno XXIX, n. 127, ottobre-dicembre 1994
Centro Einaudi


Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese

This essay reconstructs the debate on liberalism and laissez faire which took place between the philosopher Benedetto Croce and the economist Luigi Einaudi in the late twenties. The author identifies Croce's central argument as that of the primacy of ethics, in the sense that ethics comes before economics and affects its results. Croce argued that the efficient functioning of laissez faire economic institutions could be explained, first and foremost, as the manifestation of the moral liberty with which they were endowed. Einaudi, for his part, believed that, empirically speaking, the superiority of the laissez faire principle over collectivist and, to varying degrees, dirigiste principles went without saying, even at an ethical level. In his view, the pattern of the society with equal starting points turned into the pattern with wide-ranging starting opportunities, especially in terms of the formation of human capital and free access to the labour market in equal conditions. The author believes that a reappraisal of Einaudi and Croce, who both stress the ethical aspects of liberalism, may offer helpful indications to those who seek to cut statistm, bureaucracy and taxation without wishing to claim that "anything goes" in the name of money.