Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

Gian Rinaldo Carli (1720-1795): a remarkable early 'money doctor'

Tusset Gianfranco, University of Padova

“Some mathematicians maintained that money is like water, which flows and swirls around until it finds its equilibrium again: the matter is totally different, especially in Italy” (Carli 1751-54). This quotation from one of Gian Rinaldo Carli’s main works, Dell’origine e del commercio delle monete (On the origin and trade of money), clearly points to his focus on the conditions in which money circulates in order to guarantee the monetary equilibrium. It was not so much for his education and interests as for his scientific style, based on observation, experimentation and quantification, and his establishment of new research tools that Carli seemed the most Galilean of the monetary economists of the 18th centuries. For his time, his analysis of monetary value was clear and rigorous. It was his very clarity that enabled him to go beyond the analysis and say that continuously altering its value prevented a balanced circulation of money based on its proper, natural value. No theory was needed. The signs or symptoms of the now much more extensive phenomenon were clear: what mattered was the remedy. An empirical law establishing the correct value of money, and observation to compare its ongoing value with its natural value sufficed. Then, going a technical intervention might be necessary to restore and maintain the equilibrium.

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Keywords: Galilean economists; monetary equilibrium; index number

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