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Mauro Baranzini

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Mauro Baranzini

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A Theory of Wealth Distribution and Accumulation

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Mauro Leo Baranzini (born 31 August 1944 in Bellinzona, Switzerland) is a Swiss economist of the Cambridge Post-Keynesian school of thought. He was a student of Bruno Caizzi at the Scuola Superiore di Commercio of Bellinzona; of Pietro Balestra and Bernard Schmitt at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland; of David Soskice, John S. Flemming and Sir James A. Mirrlees at Oxford. Later on, while at the University of Cambridge, U.K., he came under the influence of the two senior post-Keynesian economists: Luigi Lodovico Pasinetti and Geoff Harcourt. He has written extensively with Roberto Scazzieri, of the Universities of Bologna and Cambridge and of the Lincei Academy. His contributions are mainly in the field of income and wealth distribution, both at the macro- and micro-level. In particular he has fruitfully incorporated into the post-Keynesian model of distribution and accumulation the well-known life-cycle theory of Ando-Brumberg&Modigliani, within an overlapping-generations model, and with a strong bequest motive.



Mauro Baranzini was born in Bellinzona, Switzerland, 31 August 1944, son of Leo Johann Baranzini-Franki, a railways worker, and of Germana Nonella-Bassi of Sant’Antonino. (His father was born in Lucerne, son of a Swiss German mother.) He first studied at the Swiss Universities of Fribourg and Zurich. In Fribourg he obtained a PhD. in economics with a thesis on economic growth under the supervision of Pietro Balestra, a well-known econometrician. Soon after, in 1971, he was awarded a Florey European fellowship of The Queen's College, Oxford, a grant scheme to bring promising European scholars to Oxford, and subsequently a senior research fellowship of the Swiss National Science Foundation for research to be undertaken, in turn, in Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard. In Oxford he wrote a DPhil thesis under the supervision of David Soskice, John S. Flemming and Sir James A. Mirrlees From 1975 to 1984 he was lecturer and director of economic studies at The Queen’s College, Oxford.

In 1984 he moved back to Switzerland. After a spell at the Faculty of Political Sciences of the Catholic University of Milan, in 1987 he was appointed full professor of macro-economics at the University of Verona. In Switzerland he was for numerous years a member (and then chairman) of Canton Ticino’s Research Committee on behalf of the Swiss National Science Foundation, and a co-founder of the Centre for Banking Studies in Lugano-Vezia.

Academic career

From 1993 to 1997 he was a member (and then chairman) of the Steering Committee that laid the foundations for the State University of Lugano. He served as acting president of that university, and, since 1997, he has been a full professor of economic theory, deputy chairman (1998 to 2005), and chairman of the Faculty of Economics (2005-2009). In 2009 he was awarded the Lincei Prize for economics, jointly with Andreu Mas-Colell. He has contributed to the Cambridge theory of income, wealth distribution and accumulation, by incorporating into the post-Keynesian theory the well-known micro-economics life-cycle theory of Franco Modigliani the hypothesis of a different rate of return on accumulated savings, and the existence of a class of pure rentiers;

More generally he has focused on the applicability of the Kaldor/Pasinetti (i.e. Cambridge) theorem or equation, according to which the rate of profits (equal to the interest rate) is determined only by the rate of growth of the system and of the re-investment rate of the entrepreneurs’ class.

His work was to lay the micro-foundations of the post-Keynesian theory of income distribution and wealth accumulation. By considering the post-Keynesian analysis of the productive sectors, of the composition of demand, and of the price structure as a well-developed research programme, the author focuses particularly on the supply side of savings (both life-cycle and intergenerational), linked to the behaviour of individuals, families and dynasties. The mechanisms are examined which lead families to allocate their disposable income between consumption, savings, and passing on a given amount of their financial resources to the next generation (inclusive of all types of assets). In the case of a stochastic model, characterized by the existence of two-tier investment opportunities, the long-term analysis of the model shows that uncertainty may, under general circumstances, generate a two-class society. Therefore this approach throws additional light on the mechanisms that lead to a different accumulation of wealth and class differences.

His papers have been published in: Oxford Economic Papers, Economic Journal, Kyklos, Australian Economic Papers, Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics, Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, and other learned periodicals. He has published, often jointly with Roberto Scazzieri, volumes with Oxford University Press (A Theory of Wealth Distribution and Accumulation), Cambridge University Press (The Economic Theory of Structure and Change, recently published in paperback), Basil Blackwell, Oxford and New York (Advances in Economic Theory, and Foundations of Economics. Structure of Inquiry and Economic Theory), Macmillan (together with Geoff Harcourt, Essays in Honour of Luigi L. Pasinetti) as well as with Routledge. In the early 1990s he sparked off a controversy with Paul A. Samuelson and Koiki Miyazaki in the Oxford Economics Papers on the validity of the Keynes-Kaldor-Pasinetti theorem of the Cambridge distribution theory.

He spends part of the year in Cambridge (UK), where he is life-member of Darwin College, and in his chalet in the Swiss Alps. He has recently published two volumes on his ancestors going back the 14th century in Canton Ticino, Switzerland, where he has reconstructed the demographic strategies and wealth accumulation processes across six centuries and nearly 20 generations. He is a foreign fellow of the Istituto Lombardo, Accademia di Scienze e Lettere, Milan, of the National Academy of the Lincei, Rome, as well as life-member of The Queen’s College, Oxford.


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