Francesco Saverio Nitti’s economic thought has been widely studied, but the influence of education on economic progress and growth is still relatively neglected in the relevant literature. This paper identifies two mechanisms by which, according to Nitti, human capital positively affects the economic system. Firstly, education contributes to economic growth because it spurs innovation. The second mechanism has its roots in Classical economic thought: education affects the economic system as it influences people’s behavior by making them wiser. Nitti reinterprets this approach, by establishing a link between human capital and social capital. In his view, education makes people able to collaborate and to hinder antisocial behaviour, such as the corruption and patronage that hampered Italian economic and social development. Finally this paper examines the role of human capital in Nitti’s program for the development of southern Italy.
Keywords: History of economic thought; Francesco Saverio Nitti; human capital; education; social capital; economic development.
Jel Code: B25, B31, H52, I25