Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Worldly Ascetic: San Bernardino of Siena

By: Murray N. Rothbard

"The great mind, and the great systematizer, of scholastic economics was a paradox among paradoxes: a strict and ascetic Franciscan saint living and writing in the midst of the sophisticated capitalist world of early fifteenth century Tuscany. While St. Thomas Aquinas was the systematizer of the entire range of intellectual endeavor, his economic insights were scattered in fragments throughout his theological writings. San Bernardino of Siena (1380–1444) was the first theologian after Olivi to write an entire work systematically devoted to scholastic economics. Much of this advanced thought was contributed by San Bernardino himself, and the highly advanced subjective utility theory was cribbed word for word from the Franciscan heretic of two centuries earlier: Pierre de Jean Olivi.

San Bernardino's book, written as a set of Latin sermons, was entitled On Contracts and Usury, and was composed during the years 1431–1433. The treatise began, quite logically, with the institution and justification of the system of private property, proceeded to the system and the ethics of trade, and continued to discuss the determination of value and price on the market. In ended with a lengthy discussion of the tangled usury question."

Read the whole article here.