The consequences of unproductive capital on production and distribution in the work of Camillo Supino (STOREP Session)
Massimo Di Matteo  1, *@  
1 : University of Siena
* : Auteur correspondant


During all his life Camillo Supino (1860-1931) was particularly interested in understanding the evolution of the capitalist system and more particularly the economic crises. He first (1898) wrote “La borsa e il capitale improduttivo” and shortly afterwards “Le crisi economiche” (1907); finally he came back to the topic in his last paper “Il capitale immaginario” published in 1932 immediately after his death. In these works he analyzes the role and the effects of the unproductive capital on the production and distribution of wealth in the economic system. His work being written during the first globalization appears to be particularly interesting today.

There are four parts in the paper. In the first a brief outline of Supino's interpretation of crises is offered.

Then the concept of unproductive capital (hence UK) is introduced and defined. His roots in the classical analysis are noted as well as the criticism towards Say's law. The many ways in which capital changes from productive into unproductive are stressed.

Thirdly the various forms in which UK manifests itself in the financial sector are described in great detail and with attention to the technical issues of the stock market. Bonds and shares are given different treatment and the peculiarities of public capital with respect to private are analyzed. He stresses that the interest on government bonds is ultimately paid by indirect taxes which are regressive.

Finally a thorough analysis of the many effects of UK on the distribution of income and wealth is provided. In turn these effects will change the structure of demand and production over the cycle and the long period. More precisely the consequences of large public debt on the production of new wealth are worked out. Supino argues that the growth in UK is a remedy towards the fall in profits while at the same time damaging workers by decreasing wages, both real and monetary, and increasing unemployment. He further expresses the view that speculation in the stock market gives rise to an extreme volatility with side effects on real production. The conclusion of the analysis is that capitalism is changing to a regressive form of organization following the gap between personal interest and social benefit.

In the ending remarks of the paper a general interpretation of Supino's arguments in connection with the present debate on the long run tendency of wealth distribution is offered.


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