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Author:
Stefano Mieli, Former Managing Director for Banking Supervision and Regulation, Banca d’Italia, Rome - Italy

Jean-François Melon Contribution to the Theory of Public Debt: A Fil Rouge Connecting the Economic Debate from the 18th Century until this Day

Volume 76 - Issue 4, November 2023
(pp. 529-546)
JEL classification: B11; B12; B13; B21; B22; H60; H63
Keywords: Public Debt; History of Economic Thought

Abstract

Jean-François Melon, a John Law follower writing in a period which is considered the last phase of Mercantilism, depicted in his Essai politique sur le commerce (1734) public debt as debts from the right hand to the left one.

Melon’s work is today known only by a few specialists and is often considered a curiosity of the early stages of the economic discipline.

The aim of this paper is to examine briefly the debate on public debt over the centuries, outlining the impact and the today’s relevance of the French economist contribution.

The analysis of his Essay makes possible to see him as a forerunner in the field of economic theory: in particular, he anticipated to a certain extent the Keynesian belief of the possibility of sustaining the level of economic activity via deficit financing.

However, he should be considered at least as the man who gave vent to intense debates on public debt from the 18th century until this day.


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Institute for International Economics
of the Genoa Chamber of Commerce


Istituto di Economia Internazionale
Camera di Commercio di Genova
Via Garibaldi, 4 (III piano) - 16124 Genova (Italy)
www.ge.camcom.gov.it