Pareto as Businessman and Spurned Politician

After leaving school, Pareto decided to take up a business career. Heserved for a time as the director of the Rome Railway Company and then be-came managing director of an iron-products company based in Florence. Inthese early years of his career, Pareto frequented aristocratic salons and movedin the circles of the high bourgeoisie, but, following in his father's footsteps,he expressed fervently democratic, republican, and even pacifist sentiments.These sentiments were soon to change and the son later violently rejected theideals that had imbued his father.

In 1876, the free-trading rightist regime that had run Italy fell frompower. There followed a long period in which the moderate left partiesdominated Italy's political scene; they moved away from free trade, pursuedan economic policy of protectionism, and led Italy into military adventuresabroad. Pareto soon became a violent opponent of the political regime, the so-called transformism, and attacked it in a series of newspaper blasts. Hischanged orientation can be accounted for by his principled stand in favor offree trade and against government intervention, as well as the distasteful neces-sity to make "deals" with influential deputies and government agents in hiscapacity as company director. In 1882 he ran as an opposition candidate for aFlorence constituency but was beaten by the government-supported candidate.Increasingly bitter about the current state of affairs, he now saw in the newruling elite of Italy a band of corrupt, contemptible, and self-serving careeristswho used the levers of government to enrich themselves and to buy politicalsuccess through economic favors in rigged elections.

Pareto's father died in 1882, and when his mother died a few years later,Pareto decided to change his whole style of life. He gave up his directorshipin 1889, married Alessandrina Bakunin, a young, impoverished Russian girlfrom Venice, and moved from Florence to semiretirement in a villa at Fiesole,where he diverted himself with translations from the classics, read avidly insix or seven languages, and turned to a serious study of economics. No longerencumbered by managerial obligations, Pareto continued his fierce crusade against the government's foreign and domestic policies in the name of freetrade and old-fashioned liberalism. Between 1889 and 1893 he wrote no lessthan 167 articles, mostly violent and vituperative antigovernment polemics, butsome of them of a more scholarly cast.

Pareto now turned against the Mazzinian ideals of his father. His demo-cratic faith in the virtues of the people was shattered and he developed thatcynical contempt for humanitarianism, republicanism, and progress that was tocharacterize his views until the end of his days. Like a lover spurned, heturned against the Italian political system that rejected his advice and wallowed,so he felt, in a mire of corruption.

During the years of his semiretirement, Pareto cultivated relations with anumber of Italian economists and publicists of liberal persuasion who sharedhis free trade, Manchesterian principles. Somewhat earlier he had joined theAdam Smith Society in Florence, which was founded by Francesco Ferraraand included in its membership such other liberal economists as De Johannisand Martello. One of its members, Maffeo Pantaleoni, a leading liberal econ-omist, became his close friend and acquainted him with the mathematicalequilibrium system in economics then elaborated by Leon Walras, the pro-fessor of political economy at Lausanne. From then on, Pareto contributedarticles of economic theory, reflecting the Walras viewpoint, to a number oflearned journals in Italy and France.

From Coser, 1977:403-404.


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