Needs, the Principle of Minimum Means, and Public Goods in De Viti De Marco
Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 427-438, December 2006
13 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2005 Last revised: 5 Jul 2010
Date Written: July 4, 2010
Antonio De Viti de Marco is perhaps the most representative scholar at the origin of the Italian tradition in Public Finance: this paper follows the path of his teaching from 1886 up until the final draft of 1939. Interest is, however, limited to the justification of public intervention on the economy, observed through the singling out of public services. Firstly, his early use of marginal analysis is discussed in order to clarify a possible contradiction between his subjective need-based criterion to define public goods and their objective character of indivisibility. Then, it is argued that the early De Viti used need as a mere premise of fact, but really he singled out public goods by the principle of minimum means. Only afterwards did he develop the notion of collective need, connecting it with the contrast of interest due to social cohabitation. Such an elaboration adds little to De Vitian thought: the real determinant of his public services remained the principle of minimum means as at the beginning. The assumption of the principle of minimum means might collide with De Viti's claim to follow a positive approach: it is argued that this contradiction might perhaps be solved because he was considering the Cooperative State, even if De Viti's faith in it seems to have been fading away with time.
Keywords: Collective needs, Public goods
JEL Classification: B15, B31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation