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Free Marketers, Classical Liberals, Leftist Liberals, Libertarians...

Anno XXXI, n. 133, gennaio-febbraio 1996
Centro Einaudi


Testo disponibile solo in lingua inglese.
This essay criticises the use made in the Italian political and economic debate of the term "liberismo" (economic theory of free markets, as distinct from political liberalism), however justified it may be in the context of historical analysis. The Italian language is unique in possessing this derivative of "libertà", or liberty. But far from being a conceptual advantage, this is a source of misunderstanding, especially vis-à-vis the most advanced schools of contemporary liberalism: the Austrian School, monetarism, Public Choice, anarcho-capitalism, libertarianism. Tracing these liberal schools to "liberismo" creates a dual distortion: first, assimilation under an economic doctrine and policy related to classic economics and overriden by the marginalist revolution in all the social sciences; secondly, the lack of distinction among all the various components. Those who use the term "liberismo" polemically are barking up the wrong tree, since they fail to realise that contemporary liberalism does not boil down to the classical, free market liberalism of the last century. Yet those who like to call themselves "liberisti" are also on the wrong tack, since they fail to grasp the originality of contemporary liberalism. In the final analysis, the use of the term "liberismo" in its worst sense is a means for leftist liberals to appropriate liberalism in the vain belief that liberalism can exist without firm economic premises.