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Political realism and models of the state: Antonio de Viti de Marco and the origins of public choice


  • Michele G. Giuranno

    () (Università del Salento - Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Economia)

  • Manuela Mosca

    (Università del Salento - Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Economia)


Abstract It is well known that one of the features of public choice, political realism, is embedded in a time-honored Italian tradition going back to Machiavelli and perpetuated by G. Mosca and V. Pareto in their political and sociological writings. The scientific spirit, which in their era led to the foundation of various social disciplines, fostered the application of economic analysis to the political sphere. In that context, Antonio de Viti de Marco (1858–1943) formulated an economic model of the state, consisting of two types of constitutional extremes: the absolute state and the democratic state. We ask herein how that model may be reconciled to G. Mosca and Pareto’s theory of the ruling class, with which De Viti de Marco agreed. Finally, we analyze his political writings in order to reconstruct his interpretation of collusion, rent seeking and “clientelism”, i.e., the redistribution of extracted rent, which takes place in the form of discretionary allocations of public jobs, public contracts and other corporative favors. Collusion is the use of democratic institutions by the ruling classes in order to gain monopoly power. While collusion is the basis of rent creation, rent extraction is not the final goal of politicians; rather, it is a means of strengthening electoral support.

Suggested Citation

  • Michele G. Giuranno & Manuela Mosca, 2018. "Political realism and models of the state: Antonio de Viti de Marco and the origins of public choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 175(3), pages 325-345, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:175:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s11127-018-0539-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-018-0539-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Giuranno, Michele & Nocco, Antonella, 2015. "Trade tariff, wage gap and public spending," POLIS Working Papers 181, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
    2. Amedeo Fossati, 2016. "The First Principles of Public Finance by Antonio de Viti de Marco: Is There Any Disparity between the Assessments of the Italian and the English Speaking Scholars?," STUDI ECONOMICI, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2016(118-119-1), pages 88-110.
    3. Manuela Mosca, 2016. "Antonio de Viti de Marco as a Political Commentator in the Daily Press," HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT AND POLICY, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2016(1), pages 43-63.

    More about this item


    Democracy; Collusion; Rent seeking; Clientelism; Marginalism;

    JEL classification:

    • B10 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - General
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H79 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Other


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