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Aquinas Economic Thought Essay

1495 words - 6 pages

One for Another: Thomas Aquinas and the Just Price
Aquinas and His Influence The philosopher Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was born in the Italian town of Aquino. His family wished him to enter the Church's priestly ranks, in the hopes that he could acquire a high church position. But Aquinas had different ideas. While still a student at the University of Naples, he became a Dominican monk. Aquinas devoted his life to the Dominican order, both as a scholar and teacher. He taught first at the University of Paris, at that time the most important university in Europe. As his reputation grew, he joined the papal court in Rome, where his thinking had a deep impact on official Church views. Aquinas achieved remarkable scholarly fame during his own lifetime, and is now considered one of the most influential thinkers of the Middle Ages. His philosophical system continues to infuse the doctrines of Roman Catholicism today.

In his writings, Aquinas combined the classical ideas of Aristotle with Christian laws, thereby laying the groundwork for the religiously based medieval thought known as scholasticism. Like Aristotle (see the article in Chapter 5 of the Online Learning Center), he touched on a wide range of subjects, though with the purpose to provide a system of thought that combined the worldly and divine in a seamless unity. Given the breadth of Aquinas's interests, it is not surprising that his treatment of worldly affairs included economic topics.Lending and Interest Aquinas echoed an age-old Christian tradition with his condemnation of interest-based money lending, known in his day as usury. To buttress his argument, he cited passages from the Bible, including a statement by Jesus, as recorded by the apostle Luke: "Lend freely, hoping nothing in return." In addition, Aquinas extended the view of Aristotle, who believed that the proceeds of usury represent an unfair profit made at the expense of the borrower. In Aquinas's words: "..to receive usury for money lent is, in itself, unjust, since it is a sale of what does not exist.."1For Aquinas and his contemporaries, the payment of interest brought into question the stability of the monetary system, since it seemed to presume that money necessarily depreciates in value over time. With an annual interest rate of 10 percent, for example, $100 received today is worth the same as $110 received in one year's time. And accepting such constant depreciation in the value of money, it was thought, would be as harmful as allowing political rulers to decrease the worth of their own currencies in order to make a dishonest short-term gain.2Today, economists tend to view interest as a payment for an identifiable service. If borrowed funds are invested in a profit-making enterprise, it is possible to turn a given monetary amount at one point in time into a larger amount at some point in the future. If, instead, borrowed funds are used for consumption, borrowers are still willing to pay interest. This is because...

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