Moral Reflection on Economic Justice in Scholastic Economic Thought

James Halteman and Edd Noell

in Reckoning with Markets

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199763702
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932252 | DOI:
Moral Reflection on Economic Justice in Scholastic Economic Thought

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The moral reflections of the medieval Scholastics on trade and loans are discussed in this chapter. Institutional change in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Europe facilitated specialization, the widening of markets, and the spread of monetary exchange. Thomas Aquinas and others respond to these developments with instruction on the Christian duties of merchants, borrowers, and lenders. Drawing on Aristotle, Roman law, and the Scriptures, they identify the criteria for justice in a particular product exchange by focusing on its purpose and identifying practices of fraud and economic compulsion. Scholastic opposition to usury is grounded in the phenomenon of economic duress, though several extrinsic titles to interest are eventually extended. By the sixteenth century, Scholastics are laying greater stress on the impersonal dimensions of exchange and the manner in which competition fosters commutative justice in product and labor markets. The vignette “Medieval Scholastics and Moral Values for the Subprime Mortgage Crisis” is included.

Keywords: thomas aquinas; usury; economic compulsion; just price; commutative justice; just wage; thinking

Chapter.  5433 words. 

Subjects: Financial Markets

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