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    Norman P. Barry, The Tradition of Spontaneous Order

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    Johnathan R. Razorback
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    Norman P. Barry, The Tradition of Spontaneous Order

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback le Ven 12 Mai - 17:57

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_P._Barry

    http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/LtrLbrty/bryTSO1.html

    "The scholastic economic philosophy reached its apogee in sixteenth-century Spain where the theologian-economists of the 'School of Salamanca' developed the first general theory of value, embracing both goods and money, and accommodated traditional Catholic natural law teaching to an economic doctrine more appropriate to the needs of a developing commercial society.

    Such is the similarity between scholastic thought and late nineteenth-century economic theory that it would not be inaccurate to say that there is a continuous stream of subjectivist economics that runs from the thirteenth-century to Carl Menger and the Austrian School of economics, and that the obsession with an objectivist labor costs theory of value in 'classical' economics was a quite unnecessary and time-consuming detour. In his History of Economic Analysis, Joseph Schumpeter, who was one of the first writers to recapture scholastic economics for the modern world, wrote that all that was missing from the scholastic doctrine was the concept of the margin. It was also Schumpeter who saw that the Catholic natural law philosophy was basically utilitarian and concerned with justifying human institutions, such as property, on public interest grounds, and that the concept of 'reason' for the later schoolmen was 'sociological' rather than abstract. Reason's object was to trace out regularities that are revealed when men are left to their natural inclinations.

    In addition to Schumpeter, the work of Raymond de Roover and Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson has pioneered in rehabilitating scholastic economics. From their work it is clear that, although there were elements of cost of production theories in scholastic economics, the dominant view (which can be traced from Aristotle to St. Augustine through to St. Thomas Aquinas) interpreted the value of a good not as something that inhered in the thing itself but as a product of 'common estimation' or subjective opinion, and of the thing's perceived scarcity. Thus the 'just' price was the competitive price that emerged from the interaction of subjective supply and demand. As Diego de Covarrabias (1512-1572) put it: "The value of an article does not depend on its essential nature but on the estimation of men, even if that estimation be foolish. Thus in the Indies, wheat is dearer than in Spain because men esteem it more highly, though the nature of the wheat is the same in both places." The 'ethical' element in the theory related not to a moralistic idea that price ought to equal labor cost but to the argument that the 'just' price would emerge only under conditions of more or less perfect competition (the schoolmen were in fact strident critics of monopoly), and where there is no deceit, fraud, or force. One reason why the schoolmen were reluctant to embrace a cost of production theory rather than a subjectivist theory was that it would actually give merchants an excuse to raise prices above their market-clearing level and would therefore exploit consumers.

    The earliest exponents of subjectivism were Buridan (1300-1358), Saravia de la Calle (c. 1540) and Domingo de Soto (1495-1560); but the clearest expositor of the competitive view was the Portuguese Jesuit Luis de Molina (1535-1600). Molina, of the School of Salamanca, also showed an advanced analytical understanding of competition. The achievement of those writers was to mitigate the moralizing element in Catholic social science and to show that the customary practices of trade were not against 'nature.'

    The School of Salamanca was similarly successful in breaking out of moral theology in its theory of money. While Jean Bodin (1530-1596), the French political theorist, is normally credited with the first formulation of the quantity theory, it is now clear that this originated with the Spanish schoolmen. Influenced by the rise in the price level in Spain brought about by the influx of gold and silver from the New World, the Dominican Martin de Azpilcueta (1493-1587), wrote in 1556 that "money is worth more where and when it is scarce that where and when it is abundant." Once again, however, it was Molina who systematically placed the explanation of the value of money within the general theory of value and developed a theory of foreign exchange that anticipated the purchasing power parity doctrine. An important consequence of this latter point was that profits on exchange dealings between foreign currencies were adjudged to be not usurious and therefore not contrary to natural law. Molina also showed that the value of money was necessarily inconstant and that to "control it would do a great deal of harm to the republic"; therefore its value ought to be left to vary freely.

    Of course, to say that important elements of modern value theory were contained in scholastic theory does not make these economists classical liberals. Although the just price was the market price there is ample justification in natural law for the suspension of the market and for the public regulation of prices, especially in famines and emergencies. De Roover concedes that since scholastic doctrine authorizes interference with the market to protect buyers and sellers this could license a wholesale suspension of the competitive system. Certainly, scholastic economic theory was too closely linked with ethics and natural law to produce a systematic theory of the self-regulating market order. In her later work, Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson claims that a theory of the general harmony of the market order was absent from the sixteenth-century Spanish scholastics and does not appear until 1665 with the work of Francisco Centani.
    " -Norman P. Barry, "The Tradition of Spontaneous Order", Literature of Liberty, summer 1982, Vol. V, no. 2, pp. 7-58. Arlington, VA: Institute for Humane Studies.


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