Maffeo Pantaleoni (1857-1924), Italian economist, was born at Frascati, near Rome, the son of an English mother and an Italian father. He attended the classical Gymnasium at Potsdam, near Berlin, where his father, a physician, resided for a period, and then took his doctorate in law at the University of Rome in 1881. He soon became passionately interested in economic and financial studies, which at that time were somewhat neglected in Italy, despite a traditional interest in these subjects that went back to the studies of monetary theory in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Pantaleoni received his license to teach finance in 1884. He taught at several Italian universities, and eventually, from 1901 on, at the University of Rome, succeeding Angelo Messedaglia.
Pantaleoni attracted many disciples but never formed a school; indeed, he was actively opposed to the formation of schools, declaring in 1897 at Geneva that he knew of only two schools— “the school of those who know economics and the school of those who do not” ( 1925, p. 158). This stand was a salutary one in the Italy of his day, where the economics faculties tended to take fiercely partisan positions. He went too far, however, when in later writings he maintained that so far as the economist is concerned, the history of (economic) doctrines should not include those doctrines that have been shown to be erroneous, but only those that can be shown to be true or which are at least still in dispute. Such a conception of the history of economic doctrines was not, of course, generally accepted; but its very rejection, especially Schumpeter’s critique, did stimulate in Italy the study of the history of economic thought.
Although Pantaleoni refused to be identified with a particular school of economics, his first contributions to pure economics were definitely based on the hedonistic premise that men are moved to act only to obtain the utmost satisfaction of their wants with the least individual sacrifice. He made use of this premise because of its appropriateness to his theory, declaring that it matters little whether or not theoretical abstractions exactly reflect complex concrete phenomena.
While Pantaleoni asserted that pure economics and applied economics differ in their relationship to empirical reality, in fact many of his own contributions lie between these two alleged types of economics; this is true of his studies of price fluctuation, of “political” (discriminatory) prices, of industrial cartels, of the functions of banking, and also of his attempt to substitute for a general staticequilibrium analysis a dynamic economic theory based on value theory.
Pantaleoni’s theory of value is a theory of the exchange of given components of wealth. These components are the objects of exchange, he affirmed, insofar as there are differences in the degree of ultimate utility of each component. In considering the phenomenon of utility, Pantaleoni obviously started from the analyses of the theorists of marginal utility—in particular, those of Gossen and Jevons—but their analyses did not satisfy him, so he tried to combine them with the classical analyses of Ricardo and Ferrara. He thus gave a rather complete explanation of the value of goods that is similar to Marshall’s, but he refused to accept Marshall’s case studies on demand and supply functions.
Pantaleoni’s study of the problems involved in determining the value of goods was in part influenced by the close attention that he gave to statistical data and empirical information. For many years, the standard study on the subject was hisDell’ammontare probabile della ricchezza privata in Italia (“The Probable Amount of Private Wealth in Italy”; 1884); the data he compiled played an important part in his rejection of the macroeconomic theses of the marginal utility theorists. Another of his researches that is still noteworthy is his inquiry into the vicissitudes of the 1906 depression (1925a); it gave rise to a heated controversy on cyclical fluctuations, in the course of which Pantaleoni eventually took the position that economic cycles have essentially exogenous causes.
Pantaleoni’s work as a theoretical economist had a bearing on his analysis of problems of finance. Despite his frequent criticisms of Ricardo, he was often a Ricardian in finance, as for example in his studies of transfer and of the incidence of taxes and the public debt. However, Pantaleon’s greatest originality in the area of public finance lies in his efforts to rethink the work of the marginalists, whether he was analyzing the distribution of public expenditures and the problems involved in taxation burdens or studying the system of “political prices.” (According to Pantaleoni, a political price is a price which can vary as a function of the particular characteristics of a buyer or a seller; the political price par excellence is the tax, because, according to the progressive principle, rich men can be taxed more heavily than poor, even though all obtain the same services from the government. A political price is not subject to the indifference law of prices .)
Pantaleoni took an active part in political life. In 1901 he entered the Chamber of Deputies as a member of the Radical party; he soon left the Chamber and the party. Later, especially during and after World War i, he devoted himself seriously to political journalism. His articles, a large number of which are collected in four volumes published between 1917 and 1922, were written in a keen and effective style, marked by lucidity and polemical power (see 1917a; 1917b?; 1918; 1922). During this period he participated directly in Gabriele D’Annunzio’s venture in Fiume. In 1923 he entered the Senate. He often showed himself favorable to fascism, although he did not refrain from criticism of some of the views and decisions of the fascist regime.
(1882) 1958 Teoria della traslazione dei tributi: Definizione, dinamica e ubiquitd della traslazione. Milan: Giuffré.
1884 Dell’ammontare probabile della ricchezza privata in Italia. Rome: Befani.
(1889) 1957 Pure Economics. New York: Kelley & Millman. → First published as Principii di economia pura.
(1897) 1925 Del carattere delle divergenze d’opinione esistenti tra economisti. Volume 1, pages 157-187 in Maffeo Pantaleoni, Erotemi di economia. Bari: Laterza.
1902 Pantaleoni, Maffeo; and Poli, Giovanniho scandalo bancario di Torino: Fatti e documenti. Turin: Bona.
1903 Pantaleoni, Maffeo; and Poli, Giovanniho scandalo bancario di Torino: Nuove riflessioni e nuovi documenti. Turin: Bona.
1904-1909 Scritti varî di economia. Serie 1-2. Milan: Sandron.
1910 Scritti varî di economia. Serie 3. Rome: Castellani.
(1911) 1919 Considerazioni sulla proprietá di un sistema di prezzi politici. Pages 1-59 in Maffeo Pantaleoni, La fine provvisoria di un’epopea. Bari: Laterza. → Includes an appendix by Enrico Barone.
1917a Note in margine della guerra. Bari: Laterza.
1917b Tra le incognite: Problemi suggeriti dalla guerra. Bari: Laterza.
1918 Politica: Criteri ed eventi. Bari: Laterza.
1922 Bolcevismo italiano. Bari: Laterza.
1923 Pantaleoni, Maffeo; and Broglio D’Ajano, RomoloTemi, tesi, problemi e quesiti di economia politica, teorica e applicata. Bari: Laterza.
1925a La crisi del 1905-1907. Annali di economia 1, no. 2.
1925b Erotemi di economia. 2 vols. Bari: Laterza. → Published posthumously.
D’Albergo, E. 1958 Introduzione. In Maffeo Pantaleoni,Teoria della traslazione dei tributi: Definizione, dinamica e ubiquitd della traslazione. Milan: Giuffre.
[Maffeo Pantaleoni.] 1925 Giornale degli economisti e rivista di statistica 65:105-236. → Contains articles by various authors.
Moore, H. L. 1926 Pantaleoni’s Problem in the Oscillation of Prices. Quarterly Journal of Economics 40: 586-596.
Papi, G. U. 1958 Prefazione. In Maffeo Pantaleoni, Teoria della traslazione dei tributi: Definizione, dinamica e ubiquitd della traslazione. Milan: Giuffre.
Pirou, Gaetan 1926 M. Pantaleoni et la theorie economique. Revue d’economie politique 40:1144-1165.
Sraffa, Piero; and Loria, Achille 1924 Maffeo Pantaleoni. Economic Journal 34:648-654.