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Conversazione su Einaudi e Croce

Anno XXII, n. 98, luglio-settembre 1987
Centro Einaudi


On Einaudi and Croce

The essay is centred round two great masters of Italian liberalism: Croce and Einaudi. It is written by Bruno Leoni who is himself of outstanding intellectual stature. The author looks at the interpretations of liberalism put forward by the two, revealing their affinities and differences. As is widely known, the polemic on free-trade in economics was one of the main motives for division between Croce and Einaudi. The former, who tended towards grand historical synthesis, claimed it was possible to find elements of liberalism even in certain forms of ascetic communism: he extended the meaning of liberalism so far that he overlooked the role of institutions which he regarded indiscriminately as being capable of contributing to the affirmation of liberty. Einaudi, on the other hand, had a taste for the particular, for the empiric research typical of economic science: he thus regarded the distinction between different institutions as important for the safeguarding of liberty and was suspicious of Croce's indiscriminate, generic use of the term 'communism'. Nonetheless, they both regarded the realisation of an absolute free-trade system as a utopia and augured forms of 'socialisation'. Einaudi, for example, approved those of the railways and felt that it was important to eliminate 'natural' monopolies. Leoni explicitly shows that he considers Einaudi's conception of liberalism more convincing thanks to the greater attention it devotes to the results of empiric research. Nonetheless, he feels bound to defend Croce on at least one point: in his belief, that is, that liberty is inherent in man's very life and action.