Do you long for the good old days? What, exactly, were “the good old days”? Depends on your time horizon.

Today’s excerpt comes from page 11 of Economic Thought: A Brief History by Heinz D. Kurz, translated by Jeremiah Riemer (Columbia University Press, 2016).


“According to Scholastic economic thought, the answer to the material hardship experienced by large segments of the [medieval European] population was not higher production and economic growth but self-restraint and the repression of needs.

“The heart of Scholasticism was the doctrine concerning usury. A core argument was that money is sterile—it cannot “breed offspring.” Another argument said that since God gave time to all men equally, merely letting time elapse between taking and paying back a loan does not justify any interest. A third argument rested on a feature of the medieval economy—the absence of sustained growth—which meant that most loans were to consumers rather than producers. The duty of a Christian, argued the Scholastics, was to help those who had innocently fallen into need and not exploit them or exacerbate their condition by levying interest. Fenus pecuniae funus est animae—interest from money is the death of the soul. A good society demanded that its members live virtuously.” ª


The barefoot man reading is St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the leading Scholastic proponents. The picture is from his Wikipedia entry.

The book is 208 pp and has an index.