Henry A. Abbati: Keynes' Forgotten Precursor
Edited by Serena Di Gaspare
Routledge – 2010 – 346 pages
Henry A. Abbati was not an economist by profession. After retiring from business, in 1924 he published his first book, The Unclaimed Wealth: How Money Stops Production in which he expounded his theory of ‘effective demand’ (terminology of his own) and its differences with respect to current theories on economic fluctuations. He was advocating public intervention in the economy in the crisis. His second book, The Final Buyer marshalled his criticisms of current theories and further clarified salient aspects of his theory, such as ‘saving’ and its various definitions, the working of the banking system, the interest rate and the role of public works as a means of reducing unemployment. Later work in the 30s and 40s looked at full employment, reflections on the economic crisis and further analysis of the concept of unclaimed wealth.
In many ways Abbati’s work in the twenties was an important precursor to Keynes’ Treatise on Money, though despite being admired by Robertson and indeed Keynes, his work is today largely unknown and entirely ignored by the numerous authors who have examined the debate of the twenties and thirties on the crises and business cycles and by academic opinion in general. In this book, Di Gaspare restores Abbati’s position as a pioneer in macroeconomic theory with a selection of his writings and a far reaching introduction to his contribution to the history of economic thought.
"Di Gaspare surprises us with the forgotten writings of a novel precursor of Keynes, who should have been cited in the General Theory. The work of Abbati is ever more relevant as many of his remedies against the recession are compatible with Keynesian expansion and incompatible with mainstream dogma – not a surprising feature since Abbati learned economics through business practice." - Marc Lavoie, Full Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa, Canada
"Serena Di Gaspare provides a valuable service by making available the writings of Henry A. Abbati. Scholars in the History of Economic Thought should find the book quite important and useful." - Martin H. Wolfson, University of Notre Dame, USA
Acknowledgements Biography of Henry A. Abbati Introduction Part 1: The Unclaimed Wealth: How Money Stops Production Prologue 1. The Problem 2. The Limits of Production 3. Purchasing Power 4. The Monetary System 5. The Supply of Money 6. Credit Money 7. Paper Money 8. Saving 9. Saving and the Utilisiation of Purchasing Power 10. The Abuse of Surplus 11. The Inefficiency of Currently Proposed Remedies Part II: The Final Buyer 1. Introduction (1927) 2. The Potential Supply of Money 3. The Quantity of Money 4. Determining Factors of the Condition of Markets and the Behaviour of Final Buyers 5. The Nature and Effects of Saving 6. The Irregular Final-Buying by Countries Abroad from the Home Country 7. The Irregular Final-Buying by Governments 8. The Irregular Final-Buying Resulting from the Activities of Producers and Distributors 9. The Cry for Increased Consumption 10. What is Trade Depression? PART III a) The Economic Lessons of 1929-31 Bulletin No. 1: The Beliefs, Objects and Methods of the Unclaimed Weath Utlilization Committee Bulletin No. 2: Insufficient Buying and Trade Depression Bulletin No. 7: General Trade Depression in the Making Bulletin No. 8: Budgetary Policy in the Present Situation The irregular final-buying resulting from the activities of producers and distributors b) The Search for Confidence in 1932 Bulletin No. 12: The Case for a 'Moratorium' for Taxpayers in the Over-Deflated, Gold-Logged Countries Bulletin No. 13 Statement on the Case for a 'Monatorium' for Taxpayers in the Over-Deflated Countries Bulletin No 14 The Economic Crisis and the Disarmament Conference c) Economic Readjustment in 1933 Bulletin No. 26 Gentlemen Prefer Gold. II: A Midsummer Night's Dream of 1928 Bulletin No. 27: America Takes the Lead. I: The Heman PART IV a) National Debt and Taxation b) What is Saved? c) Lord Keynes' Central Thesis and the Concept of Unclaimed Wealth d) The New Economic Theories and the Depression of 1929-1933
Serena Di Gaspare is Assistant Professor of Political Sciences at the University of Turin, Italy.