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Abstract. The spirit of capitalism arose not from a change in religion, as Max Weber claims, but from a break in the philosophic tradition that was initiated by Machiavelli, whose economic consequences were spelled out by the Neapolitan Antonio Serra in a path breaking treatise of 1613. Serra called for an active government promoting manufacturing enterprises that would enjoy ever advancing technology and indefinite declines in unit costs. A newly-structured market economy would guarantee an ever-growing consumer basket in an acquisitive system centered in self advantage, national and individual, pursued in independence of traditional moral restraints on avarice. Writing in jail, Serra advances his new and anti-scholastic ideas with great discretion for fear of persecution by political and ecclesiastical authorities who were, at the time, against innovation of all kinds.