segunda-feira, 23 de janeiro de 2006

Ainda os Escolásticos, Adam Smith, Calvinistas e Católicos...

Why I Wrote My Histories of Thought by Murray N. Rothbard:

"(...) It turns out that the Scholastics were not simply "medieval," but began in the thirteenth century and expanded and flourished through the sixteenth and into the seventeenth century. Far from being cost-of-production moralists, the Scholastics believed that the just price was whatever price was established on the "common estimate" of the free market. Not only that: far from being naïve labor or cost-of-production value theorists, the Scholastics may be considered "proto-Austrians," with a sophisticated subjective utility theory of value and price.

Furthermore, some of the Scholastics were far superior to current formalist microeconomics in developing a "proto-Austrian" dynamic theory of entrepreneurship. Moreover, in "macro," the Scholastics, beginning with Buridan and culminating in the sixteenth-century Spanish Scholastics, worked out an "Austrian" rather than monetarist supply and demand theory of money and prices, including interregional money flows, and even a purchasing-power parity theory of exchange rates.

(...) Instead of subjective value, entrepreneurship, and emphasis on real market pricing and market activity, Smith dropped all this and replaced it with a labor theory of value and a dominant focus on the unchanging long-run "natural price" equilibrium, a world where entrepreneurship was assumed out of existence. Under Ricardo, this unfortunate shift in focus was intensified and systematized.

(...) It turns out that, rather than someone who should be venerated as creator of modern economics or of laissez faire, Smith was closer to the picture portrayed by Paul Douglas in the 1926 Chicago commemoration of the Wealth of Nations: a necessary precursor of Karl Marx.

(...) Also fascinating if more speculative was Kauder's estimate of the essential cause of a curious asymmetry in the course of economic thought in different countries.

Why is it, for example, that the subjective utility tradition flourished on the Continent, especially in France and Italy, and then revived particularly in Austria, whereas the labor and cost-of-production theories developed especially in Great Britain?

Kauder attributed the difference to the profound influence of religion: the Scholastics, and then France, Italy, and Austria were Catholic countries, and Catholicism emphasized consumption as the goal of production and consumer utility and enjoyment as, at least in moderation, valuable activities and goals.

The British tradition, on the contrary, beginning with Smith himself, was Calvinist, and reflected the Calvinist emphasis on hard work and labor toil as not only good but a great good in itself, whereas consumer enjoyment is at best a necessary evil, a mere requisite to continuing labor and production.

(...) Even though Smith was a "moderate" Calvinist, he was a staunch one nevertheless, and I came to the conclusion that the Calvinist emphasis could account, for example, for Smith's otherwise puzzling championing of usury laws, as well as his shift in emphasis from the capricious, luxury-loving consumer as the determinant of value, to the virtuous laborer embedding his hours of toil into the value of his material product.

But if Smith could be accounted for by Calvinism, what of the Spanish-Portuguese Jew-turned-Quaker, David Ricardo, surely no Calvinist? Here it seems to me that recent research into the dominant role of James Mill as mentor of Ricardo and major founder of the "Ricardian system" comes strongly into play. For Mill was a Scotsman ordained as a Presbyterian minister and steeped in Calvinism; the fact that, later in life, Mill moved to London and became an agnostic had no effect on the Calvinist nature of Mill's basic attitudes toward life and the world. Mill's enormous evangelical energy, his crusading for social betterment, and his devotion to labor toil (as well as the cognate Calvinist virtue of thrift) reflected his lifelong Calvinist world-outlook.

John Stuart Mill's resurrection of Ricardianism may be interpreted as his filiopietist devotion to the memory of his dominant father, and Alfred Marshall's trivialization of Austrian insights into his own neo-Ricardian schema also came from a highly moralistic and evangelical neo-Calvinist.

Conversely, it is no accident that the Austrian School, the major challenge to the Smith-Ricardo vision, arose in a country that was not only solidly Catholic, but whose values and attitudes were still heavily influenced by Aristotelian and Thomist thought. The German precursors of the Austrian School flourished, not in Protestant and anti-Catholic Prussia, but in those German states that were either Catholic or were politically allied to Austria rather than Prussia.

The result of these researches was my growing conviction that leaving out religious outlook, as well as social and political philosophy, would disastrously skew any picture of the history of economic thought. This is fairly obvious for the centuries before the nineteenth, but it is true for that century as well, even as the technical apparatus takes on more of a life of its own.

In consequence of these insights, these volumes are very different from the norm, and not just in presenting an Austrian rather than a neoclassical or institutionalist perspective."

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