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Fryderyk Skarbek

Fryderyk Florian Skarbek (1792–1866) was a thinker with a variety of achievements, remembered above all for his scientific work in the field of economics. Nevertheless, his rich creative output also includes novels, dramas, poems, translations, historical works, and landscape paintings.

Skarbek came from an old noble family which possessed the Abdank coat-of-arms. As a young man he was educated under the supervision of Nicolas Chopin, the father of Frédéric Chopin. In secondary school, he was taught by the famous linguist Samuel Bogumił Linde, whom he helped in the work on the dictionary of the Polish language. Next, he went to study in France and after two years he returned to his homeland. For a dozen or so years he lectured political economy at the University of Warsaw. During his lifetime, the Polish scholar held many public offices.

Skarbek gave economic science a national hue, which is why he is also called the father of Polish economics. In his works he brought to the foreground the concept of the nation, binding together all the phenomena related to the national economy.

Skarbek saw the conditions for development and social welfare in the existence of a broad group of medium-sized owners. In turn, in order to eliminate the poverty of peasants and the misery of workers, he postulated transforming them into a multitude of small entrepreneurs. He rejected the concept of homo oeconomicus, emphasising the individual’s aspirations to achieve not only material goals, but also spiritual and social ones.

Skarbek stressed the importance of private property, which better serves the flourishing of society than state interventionism and bureaucracy. He postulated the development of industry, as well as measures aimed at reducing the public debt and a reduction of fiscal burdens. The scholar stressed the need to raise capital through private savings and stressed the indispensability of balanced growth of all sectors of the economy. He also conducted social activities and charity work – he supported the establishment of savings banks for workers and the construction of shelters for the homeless and poor.

Among the major works of the Polish economist, it is worth mentioning his magnum opus “General Principles of the Science of the National Economy”, a two-volume textbook “The National Economy”, a historical work “The History of the Duchy of Warsaw”, as well as the novel “The Memoirs of Seglas”.

Grzegorz Jeż