Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D.
Printed in The American Almanac, June 20, 1994
During their preparations for the United Nations’ so-called International Conference on Population and Development, scheduled to be held in Cairo in September of this year, the genocidal bureaucrats of the U.N. are seeking to condition governments and public opinion worldwide to accept the notion of a “carrying capacity” for our planet. In other words, the U.N. butchers would like to establish scientific credibility for the idea that there is an absolute theoretical maximum number of persons the earth can support. Some preliminary documents for the Cairo conference set a world population level of 7.27 billion to be imposed for the year 2050, using compulsory abortion, sterilization, euthanasia and other grisly means. It is clear that the U.N. and its oligarchical supporters seek to exterminate population groups in excess of the limit.
Academic kooks like David Pimentel of Cornell University argue that the earth’s carrying capacity is even lower, and claim that their studies show the need to cut world population down to 2 billion, the “optimum human population” of “number of people the planet can comfortably support.”
But where does the idea of “carrying capacity” come from? Is there any scientific basis for attempting to posit any limit for the human family? There is none whatsoever. An examination of the history of the “carrying capacity” argument reveals that it originated as one of the epistemological weapons of the dying Venetian Republic during the late eighteenth century–that is, of one of the most putrid, decadent, and moribund oligarchical societies the world has ever known. The originator of the “carrying capacity” argument was Giammaria Ortes, a defrocked Camaldolese monk and libertine, who in 1790, in the last year of his life, published the raving tract Reflections on the Population of Nations in Relation to National Economy. Here Ortes set the unalterable upper limit for the world’s human population at 3 billion.
Ortes (1713-1790) was a Venetian charlatan and mountebank, and his “population possible to subsist on all the earth” has long since been exceeded and today has been doubled. Ortes was one of the most important ideologues of the Venetian oligarchy in its final phase. Many current proponents of U.N.-sponsored genocide would identify themselves as followers of Parson Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), the author of the infamous “Essay on the Principle of Population,” which was published in 1798. But all of Malthus’s argument is already contained in a more explicit form in the writings of Ortes. In fact, in the entire school of British Philosophical Radicalism after the time of the American Revolution–including Malthus, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1732), James Mill (1773-1836) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), there is virtually nothing that cannot already be found in Ortes. The British empiricists were, as usual, obliged slavishly to plagiarize their decadent Venetian originals.
VENICE AND ORTES
Venice during the eighteenth century was on the surface a state of almost total impotence. During the first part of the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713), Venetian territory was repeatedly violated by the contending French and Hapsburg armies, and the Venetians were powerless to do more than protest. At the same time, British and Dutch naval vessels operated freely in the northern Adriatic, which once had been a jealously guarded preserve of the Venetians. After a last war with the Ottoman Empire, which by now was also collapsing, the Venetians signed the Treaty of Passarowitz with the Ottomans in 1718. After this, Venice followed a policy of neutralism, pacifism, and anti-militarism with slogans strikingly similar to the peace movements of the twentieth century; Ortes wrote that military service was always servitude.
From Passarowitz until the liquidation of the Venetian Republic by Napoleon’s invasion and the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, with which Austria absorbed Venice, the Serenissima was able to spin out an “end of history,” with the oligarchy drawing its income from landed estates on the Italian mainland, tourism, and the service sector, including pimps, prostitutes, gigolos, and other parasites. Although more and more of the nobility was impoverished, the few dozen families who were not were among the very richest in Europe. And while Venice had no army at all and no navy to speak of, its secret intelligence agencies and diplomats were among the most active and effective in all of Europe.
By the time of Ortes, the oligarchical cancer that was Venice had largely metastasized to the City of London and the new British Empire. The center of the Venetian Party worldwide was now no longer in the Rialto, but between Westminster and St. Paul’s, and the English countryside was filling up with Georgian copies of the Venetian architect Palladio. But in many areas of intrigue and manipulation, the Venetians of Rialto remained unequaled.
So the general direction of Venetian intelligence operations was to act in support of the British Empire, especially by weakening France and the economic school of Colbert. A second axis of Venetian attack was to undercut the influence of the German scientist and philosopher Leibniz, while attempting–as always–to envelop and destroy any and all positive figures in art, music, science and intellectual life. In the process, the Venetians found ways to express their own devotion to absolute, satanic evil. Among the Venetian assets devoted to these activities we find such figures as Giacomo Casanova, Count Cagliostro (Giuseppe Balsamo), and the economist Giammaria Ortes.
The general outlines of the life of Ortes are these: He was born in Venice in 1713 into a family of well-off artisans involved in the production of glass pearls. Ortes had three brothers and two sisters all of whom, like Giammaria, chose holy orders and the religious life. In November of 1727, Giammaria Ortes entered the Camoldolese monastery of San Mattia on the island of Murano in the lagoon. Here he studied philosophy “with the Cartesian method” and was found to be of phlegmatic temperament.
In 1734, Ortes left Murano and became a student at the University of Pisa in a different country, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Here his professor was the Camoldolese Abbot Guido Grandi, who taught philosophy and mathematics. Grandi was the editor of Galileo’s works. Although the work of Galileo had been condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and would stay condemned until 1757, Grandi was already teaching a mixture of Galileo and the more recent views of the British charlatan and magician Sir Isaac Newton. From Grandi Ortes tells us he learned to think “with the geometrical method.” What Ortes means by this is that he was inspired to attempt the Newtonian or quantitative formal-arithmetical analysis of human affairs, including history, economics, and population. This completed the consolidation of Ortes as an arithmomaniac, a firm believer in the absurd propisition that everything that matters can be reduced to a column of figures.
When Ortes returned to Venice in 1738, he entered the monastery of S. Giovanni della Giudecca, where he also began to study law. He says he began to doubt the validity of contracts, including his own monastic vows. Now, after 15 years as a monk, he got his vows nullified and returned to his family home. Living in leisure with the help of his father’s modest income, he set to work on the biography of Grandi, which was his first book, published in 1744. From this point on, Ortes retained only the religious title of abate or abbé. This title should suggest to no one that Ortes was some kind of holy man: During this same period, in 1741, the notorious adventurer Casanova was admitted to the four minor orders of the Church and thus also qualified as an abbé.
ORTES AND THE VENETIAN OLIGARCHY
During these years, Ortes became closely associated with one of the most important salons or ridotti of the Venetian aristocracy. This grouping, which was at its height during the period 1740-1760, called itself the “conversazione filosofica e felice” (“philosophical and happy conversation group”). This was a Venetian salon in the tradition of the “ridotto Morosini” of the second half of the sixteenth century, out of which had come Galileo, Paolo Sarpi, and the Venetian orchestration of the Thirty Years’ War.
The “conversazione filosofica e felice” was the ideological arm of a closely allied group of Venetian oligarchical families. These included the Labia, the Memmo, the Nani, the Vezzi, the Emo, the Querini, the Conti, the Erizzo, the Mocenigo, and the Giustinian. Sometimes the salon would meet at the palace of the Emo in Venice, and sometimes at the summer home of the Labia, where Ortes usually went on vacation. Some of those who frequented this salon:
- Alvise Zuanne Mocenigo, who frequented the conversazione, was a Procurator of Saint Mark’s basilica, and thus an administrator of the centralized investment fund of Venice. Ortes had dedicated a poem to Mocenigo when he was made procurator in 1737. Later, in 1763, this Mocenigo was elected the third to last doge or ruling duke of Venice. Popular opinion was quick to give him the nickname of “the Duchess.” A total of three members of the Mocenigo family served as doge during the eighteenth century. In 1759, Ortes would contribute a sonnet to the marriage celebration of another Mocenigo.
- The abate Antonio Conti (1677-1749) was a Venetian nobleman who was the most celebrated intellectual of the conversazione. In 1715, he visited London and became a close personal ally of Sir Isaac Newton, for whom he became an international operative of great importance. Conti traveled to Hannover to meet Leibniz and to undertake operations against him in court intrigue as well as in epistemology. Conti translated Pope’s “Rape of the Lock” into Italian, and attracted attention for his 1713 debates with the French philosopher Malebranche. Conti was also well known for his pseudo-classical poetry and tragedies on Roman imperial themes.
- The Procurator of St. Mark’s Zuanne Emo was one of the leaders of the Venetian aristocracy during this time. Emo was one of the leading candidates for the post of doge in 1752, but was defeated by Francesco Loredan.
- Andrea Memmo came from a family of so-called “twelve Apostles” patricians, who were said to have participated at the election of the first doge in 697 A.D. Andrea Memmo was one of the leading figures of European freemasonry, and was a close personal associate of Casanova. Memmo worked with Casanova on Venetian intelligence operations against France during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), when world predominance passed into the hands of the British. If Memmo was unquestionably one of the leaders of Venetian foreign intelligence, he also called himself a “disciple” of Ortes. Ortes modestly wrote that he “had only been [Memmo's] maestro for a few months and only out of friendship,” and thanked Memmo late in life for his “old friendship” and “modern-day protection.”
- When Ortes published his major work on national economy, he was told that a very high official of the Venetian government had greatly praised his labors; this turned out to be Girolamo Ascanio Giustinian, a regular of the conversazione.
- The patrician Giacomo Nani was, like Ortes, obsessed with applying “geometry” to “political science.” Some of Nani’s essays are extant in manuscript at the library of the University of Padua. These include “Political Reflections on the Government of Our City” and “Political Essay about the Aristocracy of the Republic of Venice for the Year 1756.” Nani exudes the historical and cultural pessimism that is the hallmark of Ortes. For Nani, “all the ills of our Republic were less bad than the remedies.” Nani’s starting point was the obvious decadence and rottenness of Venice. “In a corrupt body,” wrote Nani, “everything is converted into evil juices and everything becomes bad food.” Therefore, Nani thought, “the lesser evil is to leave everything the way it is.” In other words, no reforms or government actions would ever produce positive results, a point repeated obsessively by Ortes.
In 1752, a Venetian abbé by the name of Milesi congratulated Ortes for “the honor in which he was held by the main and most illuminated persons of this Republic.” In addition to his friends of the conversazione, Ortes had built up his own direct relations with other influential patricians like Tomaso Contarini.
Ortes’s friend and ideologue Nani divided the Venetian aristocracy into four parties or classes: These were the “signori,” or richest nobles; the “poveri,” or destitute nobles, and then two ideological groupings: the “good or quiet ones” and the “strong and free spirits.” The latter two were determined by their belief either in quietism or what Nani called “libertinismo.” Nani classed himself and his friends among the libertines. He said that the libertines really had “a spirit that matched that of the Republic” and represented the “real,” “original” values of Venice.
The libertines were a powerful force for the destruction of eighteenth-century European society. These were the freemasons, cabalists, hedonists, gamblers, necromancers, alchemists, charlatans, and polyvalent procurers who advanced under the banner of Hobbes and Locke, Voltaire and Rousseau. The world of the libertines is evoked in Schiller’s novel Der Geisterseher. The libertines were a social movement especially in France from the days of Montaigne and Bayle through the French Revolution; they were the social milieu through which Casanova and Cagliostro moved. Libertine networks were an important asset of Venetian intelligence.
In a letter written by Andrea Memmo to his friend Giuseppe Torelli, Memmo described Ortes as “a good Christian, a good man, a philosopher, and totally indifferent” in the sense of being an agnostic. According to Ortes scholar Piero del Negro, “good Christian” is underlined in the original, as “an indication of the ironic character of the definition.” [Piero Del Negro, "Giammaria Ortes, il patriziato e la politica di Venezia" in Giammaria Ortes: Un `Filosofo' Veneziano del Settecento (Florence: Olschki, 1993), pp. 125-182.] In 1757, a Venetian literary newspaper attacked Ortes as being a “physiotheist.” In the ensuing affair, Ortes’s book, Calculation on the Value of Human Opinions, was outlawed by the Venetian censors. On another occasion, an attempt by Ortes to get a book published in Bologna was blocked by the censors of the papal states.
These facts about Ortes are important because they undercut the efforts of Ortes himself and of his Anglo-Venetian successors to present him as a lonely and eccentric recluse. Towards the end of his life Ortes wrote of himself as a man “almost unknown to his own country” who had “very few friends and even fewer patrons.” But during these same years, Ortes was writing to the patrician Fiordelise Labia as her humble servant and to one of the Querini as “my good patron and friend.” And as we have seen, he always kept in touch with Memmo.
All his life Ortes was officially celibate. But he was a passionate devotee of the theatre and the opera, and corresponded with a number of female singers and actresses. He was also addicted to card playing, especially to the popular game of faro. At the end of many of his writings Ortes added his motto: “Chi mi sa dir s’io fingo?” This means: “Who can tell me if I am pretending?” Those who conclude that Ortes was indeed a faker and a libertine will be on firm ground.
By contrast, the public profile of Ortes, especially after about 1760, was that of an ultra-clerical reactionary. Ortes’s first book on economics, his 1771 Popular Errors Concerning National Economy is already largely given over to a defense of the prebends and livings of the priesthood and the holy orders. This book contains a table in which widespread “errors” are answered by “axioms” formulated by Ortes. Error IV reads “The incomes of churchmen are excessive.” Axiom IV answers: “The incomes of churchmen cannot be excessive.” Error V: “The incomes of churchmen reduce those of the general population.” Axiom V: “The incomes of churchmen increase those of the general population.” [Errori popolari, p. 17] This recalls Malthus’s argument that a well-funded state church is necessary to provide the effective demand needed to prevent crises of overproduction–an argument summed up in Malthus’s creed that a “church with a capacious maw is best.”
In 1785, Ortes devoted another book to a defense of ecclesiastical mortmain (called fidecommessi or manomorte in Italian), which was under attack by the Venetian government. Mortmain was a device used in wills to guarantee that property, especially land, could only be passed on to members of the same family or ecclesiastical community, and not otherwise disposed of. Anticlerical forces attacked mortmain, but Ortes supported it as necessary for the stability of church and state.
Ortes was also employed by Venetian intelligence as an operative in foreign countries. He went to Vienna in 1746, during the War of the Austrian Succession in which France, Prussia, Bavaria, and Spain were opposed to Great Britain, Austria, and Holland. During the following years, Ortes travelled extensively through Italy. In 1751, he was in Tuscany with a lifelong contact, Count Octavian Karl Nicolaus von Sinzendorf, the Grand Prior of Hungary and a secret counselor (Geheimrat) of the Imperial Austrian court. At other times, Ortes was also in contact with the Austrian Empire’s ambassador to Venice, Count Philip Joseph Orsini-Rosenberg, who had married a former lover of both Casanova and of Andrea Memmo, Giustiniana Wynne.
During 1755, Ortes was in France, perhaps with Sinzendorf. Then Ortes went on to Vienna, where his contact with Sinzendorf is confirmed. Between April and August 1756 Ortes was in Berlin, and he returned to Vienna at the end of that year.
A short unpublished manuscript is conserved in the archives of Venice’s Biblioteca Marciana in which Ortes, writing from Vienna on Nov. 12, 1756, gives his views on a white paper of the Prussian government which set forth the official reasons for Frederick the Great’s termination of his treaty with Austria. Ortes, ever the arithmomaniac, states that “the survival of a principality depends on the amount of its own forces multiplied by its deception to defend itself from the forces of its neighbors.” [Bartolo Anglani, p. 77] Ortes supports the Austrian position and thus, formally speaking, comes down against the British-allied side. This is not surprising, since Ortes was clearly assigned at the time as an Austrian handler.
The period of Ortes’s intensive travel roughly coincides with the 1748 to 1756 interval of peace between the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War, the two phases of the world war of the mid-eighteenth century from which the British Empire emerged victorious. A short biography of Ortes provided by his posthumous editor Custodi states that Ortes also visited England during these years. Around 1745, Ortes became interested in the English writer Alexander Pope, and began work on an Italian translation of Pope’s “Essay on Man” which was published three decades later, in 1776. The economic writings of Ortes also show that he was aware of the existence of extreme poverty in England, which he describes.
During the summer of 1755, Louis XV of France and Count Kaunitz, the Austrian foreign minister, began to negotiate what became known as the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, the famous “reversal of alliances” which for the first time in centuries saw French Bourbons and Austrian Hapsburgs allied, specifically against Great Britain and Frederick the Great of Prussia. Later, Count Kaunitz would ask for two copies of Ortes’s book on national economy. Ortes’s itinerary of the period touches three capitals immediately involved in the rapid policy shifts of 1755-56–Paris, Vienna, and Berlin. The full story of Ortes’s role in these events is still hidden in unpublished materials in the Venetian archives.
THE OUTLOOK OF ORTES
Ortes often speaks most frankly in the works which he never published, but which have survived only in manuscript. Such is the case of Ortes’s work Reflections of an American Philosopher of a Few Centuries in the Future on the Customs of the Europeans of the Current Century, with Some Considerations on these of a European Philosopher of the Current Century. This is a work full of hatred for western civilization, expressed from a multicultural standpoint. Writing two centuries in the future from Ortes’s time, the noble savage Aza, one of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, offers a commentary on the decadence and corruption of “those barbarians,” that is to say of the Europeans. Aza is later joined by another noble savage of the Americas, named Zima, who offers further observations. Then the entire package is commented upon by a European of the time of Ortes. Aza and Zima embrace the typical doctrines of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, while the European philosopher answers with the ideas of Thomas Hobbes.
For Aza and Zima, the cause of European decadence is the existence of society itself. Aza finds that “if nature ever produced a bastard, then it was certainly in the European race of that time.” Aza continues:
“It is true that in order to realize their error it should have been enough [for the Europeans] to extend their thoughts beyond what their eyes could see, beyond that margin of the earth where they had so thoughtlessly multiplied themselves, to the vast tracts of America, Africa, and Asia. Here they would have seen humanity, without vices and not afflicted by any social establishment, living free and independent, without needs or desires which could not be easily satisfied; and they would have seen from the larger and more tranquil part of mankind what is their natural condition.” [Bartolo Anglani, "Ortes e Rousseau: Le `Rifelssioni di un Filosofo Americano'|" in Giammaria Ortes: Un `Filosofo' Veneziano del Settecento, pp. 102, 104.]
Within society, Ortes targets in particular religion for a special attack. Aza traces the origin within western society of authority, first as custodian and interpreter of the laws, then as the arbitrary creator of laws. The “necessity of the times created a similar authority, and not being able to assign it on earth, they thought to extract it from the sky…. It was agreed to give credence to a heavenly authority armed, in the absence of a sword, with thunderbolts and darts.” [Anglani, pp. 101-102.] Then came the invention of “another life” after life on earth, a life of “invariable and eternal length” to be lived out by “a special and separable essence” called “soul or spirit.” Finally, religion was represented as quasi-human and modelled on “sublimated human authority.” Later, says Aza, “a species of men took over the actual representation of this spirit, and formed that famous union among themselves which they called Church. These men were destined to consider themsleves as mediators between that spirit and every other common man…. And to make that more persuasive, they tried to make the spirit itself palpable, giving it human form and making it visible for all time in a succession of lieutenants.” [Anglani, 101] The answer given to all this by the European philosopher of 1760 is the brutal Hobbesian one that human beings are compelled to live together in society in order to avoid the attacks and aggressions of which they would otherwise be the target.
Here we see the constant themes of Venetian propaganda from the Third Crusade through the war against the Renaissance to Mazzini: the denigration of western civilization and Latin Christianity by a city-state that was always a part of the Byzantine-Orthodox tradition; the desire to wipe out the Roman papacy; and the exaltation of backwardness and irrationality. Given his need to preserve his cover as a churchman, Ortes was well advised not to have published this piece of writing, which would have placed him among the most raging libertines of his century.
But Ortes’s published works are revealing enough. In 1757, Ortes published his “Calcolo sopra i giuochi della bassetta e del faraone,” a mathematical study of card playing. Here the abbé makes the following observation on the essence of gambling and human nature:
“The fact that a passion for gambling is a superstition will not seem strange to anyone who considers that any human passion is just as much a passion and an error, precisely because it is a persuasion for which no reason can be furnished…. So that we would say that since in human affairs everything depends on passion, everything depends on superstition, that one superstition does nothing but fight another, that the man who is considered the most important is the most superstitious, and that the lazy man is the most abject among men because he is without passions and without superstitions.”
In the same year of 1757, Ortes published two essays in one volume entitled Calculation of the Value of Opinions and of the Pleasures and Pains of Human Life. The atmosphere here is Hobbes and Mandeville, and prefigures the later hedonistic calculus of Jeremy Bentham. Ortes’s main point in the Calculation of the Pleasures and Pains of Human Life is that man is above all a creature dominated by pain and suffering, and that what is called pleasure is merely the momentary absence of pain. Pain is the norm, and pleasure the brief exception.
Ortes sums up his argument thus:
“That man is subjected by nature to pain and not to pleasure, that pain and pleasure proceed in man from the torment and from the relief of his fibers, that pain in man is in greater supply than pleasure, that the number of pains and pleasures depends on the force of application–this can be said with certainty…. If these doctrines are thought to redound to the discredit of humanity, I find myself to be of this species without complaining about it; and if I conclude that all the pains and pleasures of this life are only illusions, I can add that all human ratiocinations are only madness. And when I say all, I do not except my own calculations.” [Anglani, pp. 147-148]
It was the Calculation of the Value of Human Opinions that got Ortes in trouble with the censors and brought him under public attack as a “physiotheist.” The Venetian newspaper Novelle della repubblica letteraria of Aug. 27, 1757 listed a series of propositions found by the reviewer in Ortes’s book. Among these were that “every man is equal to every other, and all are equally worth nothing.” Then came “prudence,” which Ortes was accused of having defined as “a useful deception.” Ortes had written that:
“every man is inclined by nature to the pleasure of the senses. This induces him to live in society from which he derives a quantity of these pleasures.” [Anglani, p. 122]
Ortes further asserted that:
“the value of opinions are riches, since it is clear that riches change and buy opinions like any other type of commerce, and thus become the common measure of opinions as of all the products of nature and of art. These riches, then, that measure opinions are those that we possess or that we acquire or that we can make use of by means of these opinions, divided by the number of supporters of these opinions.” [Anglani, 126]
During these years, Ortes was interested in contemporary French writers like Maupertuis and La Mettrie. After 1757, Ortes published nothing for more than a decade. In 1761, he wrote to a friend that he had stopped studying. This is when he decided to become an economist.
ORTES THE ECONOMIST
In 1774, Ortes published his principal work, Della Economia Nazionale (On National Economy). He begins by dismissing as superficial those believers in progress and humanitarians who wish to improve the material prosperity of humanity. Those who have insight can see that:
“national economy is a matter which cannot be improved in any way by any particular action, and all attempts by persons seeking to organize national economy according to a better system, as regards provision or increase of goods, have to end up as useless efforts.”
Ortes expands on this theme:
“But that the general wealth cannot be increased for some without an equal deficiency of them for others; that no one can find himself better off without someone else being worse off, or without somebody’s suffering; that the mass of common goods is determined in every nation by the need, and that it cannot exceed this need by even a hairsbreadth, neither by the charms of a charlatan nor by the work of a philosopher nor even by the work of a sovereign; this is what, as far as I know, was never said or at least was never proven by anybody, but is rather contrary to what is usually advanced on this subject in public discourse, in secret murmurings and with all kinds of books, be they the most common or the most bizarre. [Nuccio, Ec. Naz., p. 41-42]
Ortes goes on to add some observations on what he calls “economic good and evil” or the abundance and deficiency of products. As a Venetian Aristotelian, Ortes believes that production is rigidly determined by the number of people involved, and cannot otherwise be increased. The only problems that can be solved by human intervention or the policies of government are to some degree those of distribution.
In the course of this argument, Ortes sets up the single axiom upon which his entire study of national economy will depend:
“This will be, that everything that is done, is done with sufficient reason; which means that nobody undertakes an action, work, or job of any kind without an impulse of motivation for this, be this motivation good or evil….” [Nuccio, pp. 43-44]
This is doubtless a conscious parody of Leibniz’s famous doctrine of sufficient reason, which for him was a principle of the intelligibility of causality. What Ortes means, by contrast, is the most vulgar materialism and hedonism. Ortes means that a human being will normally tend to inert torpor, but will be roused to work as much as necessary to survive or to satisfy other needs. However, no one will ever work more than is necessary for survival and for the satisfaction of these needs. Hence derives for Ortes the fixed and unimprovable level of the wealth of each nation, which will always be the product of its population multiplied by this irreducible minimum amount of work. Or, as Ortes says:
“Having posited this truth, I say again, the substances spread throughout a nation and by means of which the nation exists must be determined precisely by the needs of the nation, without any abundance or deficiency; so if we suppose in any nation some number of persons, they will require certain goods in order to survive, and the reason for the production of these goods will only be precisely providing for these persons. Because however these persons can only consume a determined quantity of goods, these goods cannot fall short or be excessive in relation to their need, thanks to the fact that if the goods were not there or were inferior to the needs of all, all those persons would not survive, which is contrary to our supposition; and if the goods were excessive or were superior to the need, then those goods would have been produced and would be kept without sufficient reason, without which nothing is ever done, as we pointed out.” [Nuccio p. 44]
Ortes has thus preceded John Von Neumann and others in defining economic reality as a zero-sum game. The experienced card-playing abbé makes this very explicit:
“The good therefore, understood as the possession of goods in excess of what is needed, can only be expressed between the individual and the commonality as the number zero, and since there is an inevitable lack of goods for some if these are to be abundant for others, this good can only appear as a mixture of economic good and evil, which tends neither to one nor to the other, or as the vector sum of forces which, operating with equal energy in different and opposite directions, destroy each other and resolve themselves into nothing. [Nuccio, p. 45]
Ortes then proceeds to provide a graphic and extreme illustration of these absurd ideas. He sets up the contrast between the Roman Emperor Nero, who was certainly a bloody and repressive tyrant, and the emperor Titus, whom he presents as a model of good and mild government. Ortes then argues that Roman soceity was just as well off under Nero as under Titus:
“people will certainly say that Titus promoted [the common good] in his time, and that Nero promoted it in the totally opposite direction, since Titus pursued his own interests without destruction and Nero pursued his interests with the destruction of the common good, so that wealth grew under Titus and decreased under Nero. But economic good and the lack of it were equal under these two emperors, which can be convincingly shown by the fact that no matter how many people Titus made happy, without making anyone unhappy, and no matter how many people Nero made unhappy in order to make himself happy, Titus would nevertheless eternally have found someone to make happy, and Nero someone to make unhappy.” [Nuccio, p.50]
Which goes to show that a determined Aristotelian kook can “prove” literally anything.
ORTES AS DEMOGRAPHER
Ortes’s most influential work was his Reflections on the Population of Nations in Relation to National Economy, published in 1790, but apparently written starting in 1775. The dirigists and kameralists of the eighteenth century were agreed that one of the main purposes of government was the promotion of population as the key source of national wealth: gobernar es poblar, to govern is to populate, said the Spanish proverb. Ortes starts off by noting that
“these writers are all accustomed to teach that the growth of population is a great advantage to a nation, with the supposition of thus increasing wealth and by consequence the national greatness and power which depend on that wealth.” Against this, Ortes contends that “the population in any nation must be contained within certain limits….” [Ortes, p. 7]
Alongside of population growth, Ortes attacks foreign trade:
“I have no doubt in asserting that domestic trade is to be preferred to foreign trade in the certainty that domestic trade is the one by which a nation is provided with the goods necessary, commodious, and pleasurable for its maintenance, and foreign trade is only a supplement for deficiencies in domestic trade.” [Ortes, p. 8]
In other locations Ortes endorsed free trade precisely as this type of supplement, arguing that such free trade would be equally beneficial for all concerned.
Against all evidence, Ortes has no trouble in denying the obvious fact that the standard of living and productive capacities do vary among nations. He repeats his creed that:
“the goods of a nation are in every nation in proportion to the population, without excess or deficiency, and that given the same population it is not possible to increase them for some people without reducing them just as much for others.” [Ortes, p. 10]
What of the fact that the sovereign, government, and great nobility of certain countries seem to be much wealthier than those of other countries? Ortes concedes that they may indeed be wealthier. But he quickly adds that:
“since the capital of money and of goods in every nation is in proportion to its population, it must be said that the greater wealth of some only occurs through just as much greater poverty for others in the nation itself.”
Therefore, to increase a nation’s population and foreign trade with the goal of making that nation richer, greater, and more powerful than the others is nothing but a fraud, in which instead of looking at the whole nation only a few are considered, such as the sovereign and the great nobles who shine most brightly; and this is a very false thing, because the nation is made up not just of this sovereign or of those great nobles, but of these together with the rest of the population, without which there would be no sovereign, no great nobles and no nation at all. [Ortes, p. 12]
To make the government and the nobility rich, far greater masses of people are made poor, resulting in “servitude and oppression.” [Ortes, p. 13] Economists ought to be concerned about redistribution of wealth by “diminishing the excessive wealth of the rich,” but the economists do the opposite. The current century claims to be the most illuminated, but is in reality the most stupid and senseless of all.
In his first chapter, entitled “Unlimited Progress of Generations,” Ortes starts from his standard population sample of two men and two women of an age suitable for reproduction, with two surviving parents and one surviving grandparent. He assumes a natural and unalterable tendency of each couple to produce 6 children, of which 2 die before reaching the age of 20. Ortes then shows, with tables, that at this rate, the population will double every 30 years. He produces further tables to show that after 900 years, a population which doubles every 30 years will reach more than 7.5 billion.
“Thus, taking into account only time and the faculty of generation, the population, after those 6,000 years which are usually counted from the creation of the world until today, would by now be found to have grown to so many living persons not only as to not be able to breathe on the earth, but even so many as could not be contained on all its surface from the deepest valleys to the steepest mountains, packed numerous like dead and dried herring in their barrels. This makes known that there is a necessary limit at which the progress of generations stops….” [Ortes, p. 28]
In the case of animals, the limit to population growth is provided by the actions of mankind or by predators and other natural factors. Human population increase is limited by mankind’s need for products like “food, clothing, and dwellings of the vegetable and animal types as they are in use in human life….” These are limited, says the abbé. Therefore, human population growth must also be limited:
“In this way, since it is believed that all the products mentioned above as necessary for human life which can be extracted from the entire surface of the earth and from the animals that are found there are as many as are sufficient to feed, to dress, and to house up to 3,000 million persons, this will therefore be the maximum of persons capable of surviving at the same time on earth, and that progression will have to stop when it arrives at that number; this is something that will happen after 840 years if the 7 persons assumed had found themselves alone on the earth at the creation of the world or after a universal flood. If that progression [of population] were to proceed beyond this, the parents would have to strangle their babies in their diapers or use them as food, unless the earth were expand like a balloon blown up from the inside, and did not double its surface for each new generation until it filled the immensity of the skies.” [Ortes, p. 34]
Ortes always strictly ignored technological change and the impact that this might have on, for example, agricultural production, or infant mortality and life expectancy. For him, all forms of production were fixed, frozen, and never had and never would change. There was no such thing as progress or improvement. In ignoring technological and scientific innovation, Ortes ignored the primary data of economics and the main factors which determine relative potential poopulation density in the real world. Ortes is interesting only as a kind of Canaletto of economic pathology who provides us with snapshots of a society of monstrous stagnation and decadence, Venice on the eve of its extinction.
Although Ortes set the world’s “carrying capacity” at an immutable maximum of 3 billion, he estimated that in his contemporary world the total human population was slightly more than 1 billion. Why had world population not already collided with the 3 billion upper limit? Ortes blamed the rich, who limited the size of their families in order to keep their wealth concentrated in a single line of inheritance, and thus kept the poor too impecunious to be able to maintain any family at all. These arguments are deeply tinged with Venetian provincialism. Population would expand, Ortes thought,
“if men were less greedy or did not oppress each other with poverty and with excessive riches.” [Ortes, p. 35]
Ortes believed that it was necessary to stabilize world population in a zero growth mode. For this, he recommended celibacy. He called for as many persons to remain celibate as got married, and used tables to show that if this were the case, population would remain permanently stationary. As undesirable alternatives to celibacy he listed prostitution, eunuchs, polygamy, and “other modes of incontinence used by the barbarous nations…” [Ortes, p. 41]
Later Ortes established his model of an ideal or “natural” nation, which was a state of 5,000 square miles of territory of the type found in the Italy of his day (The miles used by Ortes are old pre-metric system Italian miles which approximate nautical miles), with a population of 1 million, and a population density of 200 persons per square mile. In his view, such a state would allow the optimal use of economic resources by minimizing the depradations of government and court. He added that if a country got any bigger, the mutual intelligibility of dialects would be lost and the people would no longer speak the same language. Ortes contrasted to this model of a “natural” nation the “artificial” nations, characterized by “immense numbers of people on lands that are even more immense in relation to their numbers.” In the artificial states, wealth and population were concentrated in the congested capital and other big cities, leaving vast areas empty.
Ortes thought that the more “natural” European states were the petty Italian and German states, Holland, and Switzerland, where the population density reached 200 per square mile. In Spain, France, Great Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Poland, he estimated a population density of 72 per square mile. In Russia and European Turkey he estimated 40 inhabitants per square mile. This gave a total European population of 160,000,000. He estimated that Asia was five times bigger than Europe, but with a population of only 480,000,000 because of an even lower population density. But he thought that Asia was more densely populated than either Africa, with 220 million, or the Americas, with 240 million, according to his estimates.
It may be obvious already that Ortes had never studied population growth as such, but was merely describing some aspects of the moribund society of which he was a part–decadent Venice a few years before its end. Whether his ideal state has 1 million people or 3 million (as at various points in On National Economy) it is clear that he has only Venice in mind. At this stage the city of Venice had about 160,000 inhabitants, a sizable decline from earlier centuries.
ORTES ON VENETIAN DECADENCE
Ortes admitted more or less openly that he was writing about Venice. His chapters on the demographics of noble families reflected the Venetian decadence: for the family fondo to remain concentrated in a single line of biological inheritance, all the sons but one had to remain unmarried, with the youngest son often being given the responsibility for carrying on the line. More than two-thirds of the daughters of the aristocracy had no hope of finding husbands, and generally entered convents and other religious institutions which quickly acquired a reputation for licentiousness. According to E. Rodenwalt, in the sixteenth century 51% of Venetian male nobles remained unmarried; in the seventeenth century this had risen to 60%, and in Venice’s final century to 66%. Of the fourteen doges who reigned between 1675 and 1775, only four were ever married–and this does not count the “dogaressa” mentioned above.
The impoverished nobility formed a social class known as the barnabotti who retained their membership in the Maggior Consiglio, but who were forced by their noble status to abstain from any productive work and who thus tended to become corrupt state officials, political fixers, spies for the Council of Ten, etc. Many barnabotti lived on government welfare payments. Free housing and other provisions were offered to any of the barnabotti who agreed to remain unmarried and to have no offspring. In order to avoid the decimation of the ranks of the aristocracy, family membership in the Maggior Consiglio was offered in return for large cash payments at various times during the eighteenth century. This was the policy warmly recommended by Ortes as one of the main policy points of his Reflections on Population: a way of selling luxurious state rooms on the Titanic.
In addition to having provided the main ideas for the English philosophical radicals, Ortes also received high praise from Karl Marx. The samples of Ortes’s demagogy proivded here may cast some light on the reasons for this affinity. Ortes always provides a class analysis imbued with class conflict according to the shifting alliances of the various strata of Venetian patricians. In volume I of Capital Marx praised “the Venetian monk, Ortes” as “an original and clever writer.” For Marx, Ortes was “one of the great economic writers of the eighteenth century [who] regards the antagonism of capitalist production as a general natural law of social wealth.” Marx quotes Ortes’s remark at the opening of On National Economy that “instead of projecting useless systems for the happiness of the peoples, I will limit myself to investigating the cause of their unhappiness.” In Marx’s view, Ortes was distinguished by his steady contemplation of “the fatal destiny that makes misery eternal….” Doubtless instructed by his master David Urquhart, Marx railed against Malthus as a reactionary plagiarist, but summoned only respect for the Venetian Ortes.
In reality, Ortes was no economist, but an evil Venetian charlatan. He was a writer of excruciating boredom who managed to be a pedant while citing no authors other than himself. Yet it is in the name of doctrines of population stability and world carrying capacity traceable back to this raving faker of Venetian intelligence that the international Malthusian movement and the United Nations bureaucracy propose to carry out the greatest genocide of human history. The insanity of Giammaria Ortes is one more good reason to boycott and shut down the Cairo Conference.
For summaries of the biography and writings of Ortes, see Giammaria Ortes: un “filosofo” veneziano del Settecento (Florence: L.S. Olschki, 1993), based on the proceedings of a conference of the Cini Foundation.
See also material on Ortes in Gianfranco Torcellan, Settecento Veneto e altri scritti storici (Torino: Giappichelli, 1969).
For Ortes’s relations with the Venetian oligarchy, see Piero del Negro, “Giammaria Ortes, il Patriziato e la Politica di Venezia” in the cited Giammaria Ortes collection, pp. 125-182.
See also in the same collection Bartolo Anglani, “Ortes e Rousseau: Le `Riflessioni di un Filosofo Americano.’|”
A number of the shorter and/or previously unpublished works of Ortes appear in Bartolo Anglani (ed.), Giammaria Ortes: Cacolo sopra la verita’ dell’istoria e altri scritti (Genoa: Costa & Nolan, 1984).
On National Economy quotes refer to Ortes, Della Economia Nazionale (Milano: Marzorati), edited by Oscar Nuccio.
Quotes from Reflections on the Population of Nations and other economic works are from the multi-volume anthology Scrittori Classici Italiani di Economia Politica (parte moderna), edited by Custodi;
Reflections on the Population of Nations is in volume 31 of this collection;
Popular Errors Concerning National Economy is in volume 32.
For material on Venice in the eighteenth century, see–among many others–John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice (New York, Knopf, 1982).
For Anrea Memmo and Casanova, see John Masters, Casanova (New York: Bernard Geis, 1969).