Monday, June 24, 2013

Suspicious Friends

Not sure if I can relate to Stephen Carson's experience when he wrote, "Some of my Christian friends are suspicious of my interest in economics." Maybe, my "friends" are not as sophisticated as Carson's friends who disliked the study of economics due to the influence of "Enlightenment rationalism, along with deism, atheism, the chaos of the French Revolution and other un-Christian aspects of the modern age." Maybe, they just consider it a diversion, something worldly, unspiritual and unworthy of the time of a Christian clergy. 

Carson then shared the relevant information he acquired from reading a book. After digesting that book, he confidently felt that he's ready to respond to his suspicious friends. 

Carson was referring to Alejandro A. Chafuen's "Faith and Liberty: The Economic Thought of the Late Scholastics." He said that the book was about the economic perspective of pre-Enlightenment Scholastics during "the late 13th century up to the mid 17th century." His description of these men is impressive:

  • " many cases their economic theory was far more advanced than many professional economists who came after them."

  • "Their brilliant economic analysis earns them a place as founders of economics."

  • "...their economic analysis was superior to the confused Adam Smith of 'The Wealth of Nations.' "

  • "One of the areas that marks the Scholastics as more sophisticated than the classical economists..."
"Far more advanced", 'brilliant", "founders of economics", "superior" and "more sophisticated" are the words used by Carson to describe the late scholastics. He mentioned several unfamiliar names and quotations. I just want to share three that caught my attention. 

The first one is by Juan de Mariana (1535-1624): "taxes are commonly a calamity for the people and a nightmare for the government. For the former they are always excessive; for the latter they are never enough, never too much."

Saavedra Fajardo wrote an interesting thought: "Coins are like young girls, is an offense to touch them' (p.68)." This quote is a warning about the ugly economic consequences once the value of money is debased as almost all governments in the world today have been doing. 

The quote from Martin Azpilcueta also speaks about alteration of monetary value: " ' is worth more where and when it is scarce than where and when it is abundant' (p.62)." Carson thinks that Chafuen is right that Azpilcueta was the first to formulate the quantitative theory of money.

Carson's concluding sentence returned to his concern about his suspicious friends. Also, I'm not sure if I can share with his experience when he said, "In being ignorant of economics, they are not only ignoring a great secular science but our own Christian heritage."

Source: Christianity's Free-Market Tradition