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Pietro Verri (1728-1797), a writer and economist, was one of the chief figures of the Italian Enlightenment (he founded and edited Il Caffè, the official organ of the "Società dei Pugni", a discussion group concentrating on public policy and economics). His first literary works were satires against the nobility and the clergy, and he later dedicated himself to economic studies. In 1764, he became an advisor to the Austrian government, from which he demanded fiscal reforms for the Milan area. His works include Saggio sulla grandezza e decadenza del commercio di Milano (1763), Meditazioni sulla felicità (1763), Osservazioni sulla tortura (1768), and Meditazioni sull’economia politica (1771). The essay we publish here is taken from the anastatic reprint of Discorsi del conte Pietro Verri (Milan, Giuseppe Marelli, 1781) made by the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.