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About Luigi Einaudi
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Luigi Einaudi (1874-1961), A Personal Interpretation

Luigi Einaudi was born in 1874 in the small market town of Carrù (Piedmont, Northern Italy).  In 1888, his father died, and his mother took the children to live with her family in near-by Dogliani. 

In 1895, Einaudi graduated with highest honors in political economy from the University of Turin.  That university, in the capital city of Piedmont, became his institutional base, as professor and rector, from 1902 until his death 59 years later.  For nearly a quarter century – until his dismissal forced by the fascist dictatorship in 1925 – Einaudi also taught courses at the Bocconi in Milan and the Polytechnic in Turin.

Also in 1925, Einaudi resigned as editorial columnist with the Corriere della Sera to protest the abolishment of freedom of the press.  He continued, however, to write in the Riforma Sociale, a journal he had edited since the turn of the century. When the regime prevented the Riforma Sociale from publishing in 1935, Einaudi founded the Rivista di storia economica and kept it open in implicit opposition from 1936 until he was forced to flee to Switzerland in 1943.  During his Swiss exile, he focused on social policy and labor laws, writing the Lezioni di Politica Sociale

In 1945, Einaudi became Governor of the Bank of Italy and for the next ten years worked constantly at the highest levels of government.  Elected to the Constituent Assembly and the first republican legislature, he directed Italy’s economic policies (at one point simultaneously head of the central bank, minister of finance and budget, and deputy prime minister) until 1948, when he was elected President of the Republic. 

Returning to private life as a scholar and journalist in 1955, he died in Rome in 1961 and was buried in the family cemetery he had designed at the foot of one of his vineyards in Dogliani.

A handful of traits, some known, others less so, some even apparently contradictory, were key to this complex and highly productive life. The core of Luigi Einaudi’s being was his love for his land and his books.  Upon graduating from the university, he immediately applied his new training to Dogliani.  Concluding that the great agricultural crises of the Nineteenth Century (depressions and plagues like phylloxera) would not be repeated or could be corrected in the Twentieth Century, he decided that land, even land once farmed then abandoned, would make a good investment.  This economic forecast he combined with a desire to recover old plots which misfortune had forced his forebears to sell. 

In 1897, borrowing to the hilt, he bought San Giacomo, an 18th-century house and vineyard gone to ruin.  By the time of his death, 64 years after that first purchase, he had built a model farm that validated his academic analyses, but which above all satisfied his most intimate desires.

His library, today moved from San Giacomo to Turin and used by thousands of scholars every year, is the product of a concept different from that of a collector of first editions and rare or beautifully illustrated books.  He collected those, too, when fortune smiled.  But the driving force was his iron will to trace the development of human thought in all matters related to economic life.  Searching out the changing expressions and interrelationships among the social sciences, he used the materials so harvested to lighten the efforts of research with the satisfaction of physical possession. 

Einaudi's deep Piedmontese roots led him as a young man not to accept a university chair in Geneva.  Later he would reject all attempts to induce him to leave the University of Turin or even to participate in conferences elsewhere in Italy or abroad (is it possible to imagine another President not leaving his country once during a seven-year term?). But this powerful sense of place did not keep him from understanding that change is essential to the development of knowledge and of society. 

Of critical importance was his intimacy with the Anglo-Saxon world.  For more then three decades he gave the readers of The Economist regular insights into Italy’s development and its crises.  In the 1920s and 30s, Einaudi worked with Carnegie as the general editor of the Italian version of the Economic History of the First World War (to which he personally contributed two volumes).  In that same period, Einaudi was the Rockefeller Foundation’s representative in Italy, enabling young scholars to leave to breathe the air of freedom in the America of Roosevelt even during the darkest years of fascism. 

Central to Einaudi’s thought, in addition to the values of liberalism and free trade expressed throughout his writings, was his conviction that the sovereign state had become an anachronism.  In 1918-19, Einaudi sharply criticized Woodrow Wilson’s illusion that the League of Nations could succeed without being able to enforce decisions by force.  In 1944, from his exile in Switzerland, he issued an impassioned proposal for a United States of Europe, capable of overcoming petty localisms with new supranational institutions. In 1956, the published compilation of his presidential memoranda contained a “proposal for an eventual European army.”

Einaudi had a very personal commitment to research and teaching.  Thousands of sheets covered with his minute handwriting still provide mute testimony to years of hard archival labors. At the same time, he felt deeply the need to reach from the ivory tower to the man in the street.  Eight 800-page volumes collect 1,320 of his newspaper articles between 1893 to 1925.  And although that alone averages to an article a week for thirty years, Einaudi claimed the compilation would have been more than twice that size had he not excluded purely factual articles or descriptive materials.

On two fronts, the academic and the journalistic, his influence was great. Luigi Einaudi’s economic writings between 1912 and 1940 are central to the Italian school of public finance on which Italy’s reputation in the study of economics is largely based. The approach to journalism he expressed on the pages of the Stampa and the Corriere della Sera and 150 other periodicals is a notable example of Italian newspaper writing in this century.

There remains finally the enigma of a man who lived most of his life as a resolute critic of partisan politics (he was appointed Senator in 1919 for academic merit), but who after the fall of fascism suddenly found himself in command of his country’s economy and then, despite having earlier voted for retaining the monarchy, the first full-term president of the new republic.

For the years 1945 to 1948, the explanation lies in his conviction that his independence from the normal obligations of a political career, together with the assurances he obtained, gave him the opportunity to reestablish the economic stability essential in those critical immediate post-war years.For 1948 to 1955, the explanation lies in his belief that the historic moment required him to set aside personal doubts so as to facilitate the transition from the monarchy to the new republic. 

Once elected, the application of the constitution he had sworn to defend became his daily goal.  Others in government understood this was not rhetoric.  Private letters in the archives of the Luigi Einaudi Foundation indicate that, on February 18, 1953, when it appeared that the constitution might be changed by a new legislative provision on the nomination of judges for the Constitutional Court, Luigi Einaudi informed the Prime Minister that should that happen, he would convene the two branches of parliament in joint session to elect a new president who would sign such a law, “something I do not intend to do, because my duty is to hand intact to my successor the powers established by the Constitution.

Einaudi’s defense of the new republic went beyond the juridical.  At the Quirinal Palace in 1954, Einaudi formally received the father of the seven Cervis brothers, peasant farmers all seven of whom had been executed by the Nazis in 1943.  The cold war was at its height.  The Cervis were known to have been members of the Communist Party.  In a signed article for the press, the President of the Republic described the Cervis as national heroes and identified himself with their love of land and innovation. The independent critic had never disappeared, and was calmly using ideas and values to transcend partisanship, advance civil society and consolidate the republic.

In 1964, Luigi Einaudi’s heirs moved his books and papers to Turin and donated them so as to ensure their continued life.  At the Luigi Einaudi Foundation, new generations of scholars use them to promote international understanding grounded in the social sciences and in the best Piedmontese tradition.The archives of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi in Turin conserve Einaudi’s letters and manuscripts that made possible the identification of the articles for The Economist collected in these two volumes.  What led him to write them was perhaps best expressed by Luigi Einaudi himself.  In the prefatory note to Gli ideali di un economista, Firenze, La Voce, 1921, Einaudi wrote:

This is a collection of articles that are not strictly economic in nature, but are of a kind each of us feels driven from time to time to write at the margins of our particular field of knowledge, and then to set loose upon the world, almost as proof that we do not feel ourselves to be merely economists, or geologists, or chemists, but that we live also the life of others, and in particular that of our community. The collection is not complete so as not to unnecessarily increase its volume, but it is perhaps large enough to reveal what are . . .  my obsessions:  schools and education, England, the formation of Italy understood through the history of Piedmont, the need for supranational government . . .  There is also talk of war, with what I hope is a logic not at variance with the earlier predilections, with respect toward enemies and with the eye focused on the traditions of my country.Turin, at the end of 1920.LUIGI EINAUDI

Drawing on recollections of his grandfather and an essay by his father, Mario Einaudi (1904-1994), Luigi Einaudi’s oldest son who left Italy in 1933 for the freedom of the United States, founded the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi in 1964 in Turin.Published in Roberto Marchionatti, Ed., “From Our Italian Correspondent,” Luigi Einaudi’s Articles in The Economist, 1908-1946(Fondazione Luigi Einaudi, Studi, 36; Firenze, Leo S. Olschki, 2000), Volume I, 1908-1924, pages LI-LIV.