quarta-feira, 22 de novembro de 2006

Escolásticos II

(Reposição de um "post" de Janeiro.)

Murray N. Rothbard: "New Light on the Prehistory of the Austrian School":

(...) Far from mystical dunderheads who should be skipped over to get to the mercantilists, the Scholastic philosophers were seen as remarkable and prescient economists, developing a system very close to the Austrian and subjective-utility approach. This was particularly true of the previously neglected Spanish and Italian Scholastics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Virtually the only missing ingredient in their value theory was the marginal concept.

(...) One of the most important, and probably the most neglected, was The School of Salamanca by Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson, who suffered in the economics profession from being a professor of Spanish literature. Moreover, the book bore the burden of a misleadingly narrow subtitle: Readings in Spanish Monetary Theory.*58

In fact, the book was a brilliant discovery of the pre-Austrian subjective-value-and-utility views of the late sixteenth-century Spanish Scholastics. But first Grice-Hutchinson showed that the works of even earlier Scholastics as far back as Aristotle contained a subjective-value analysis based on consumer wants alongside the competing objective conception of the just price based on labor and costs. In the early Middle Ages, Saint Augustine (354-430) developed the concept of the subjective-value scales of each individual. By the High Middle Ages, the Scholastic philosophers had largely abandoned the cost-of-production theory to adopt the view that the market's reflection of consumer demand really sets the just price. This was particularly true of Jean Buridan (1300-58), Henry of Ghent (1217-93), and Richard of Middleton (1249-1306). As Grice-Hutchinson observed:

Medieval writers viewed the poor man as consumer rather than producer. A cost-of-production theory would have given merchants an excuse for over-charging on the pretext of covering their expenses, and it was thought fairer to rely on the impersonal forces of the market which reflected the judgment of the whole community, or, to use the medieval phrase, the "common estimation." At any rate, it would seem that the phenomena of exchange came increasingly to be explained in psychological terms.*59

Even Henry of Langenstein (1325-83), who of all the Scholastics was the most hostile to the free market and advocated government fixing of the just price on the basis of status and cost, developed the subjective factor of utility as well as scarcity in his analysis of price. But it was the sixteenth-century Spanish Scholastics who developed the purely subjective and profree-market theory of value.

Thus, Luis Saravia de la Calle (c. 1544) denied any role to cost in the determination of price; instead the market price, which is the just price, is determined by the forces of supply and demand, which in turn are the result of the common estimation of consumers on the market. Saravia wrote that, "excluding all deceit and malice, the just price of a thing is the price which it commonly fetches at the time and place of the deal." He went on to point out that the price of a thing will change in accordance with its abundance or scarcity. He proceeded to attack the cost-of-production theory of just price:

Those who measure the just price by the labour, costs, and risk incurred by the person who deals in the merchandise or produces it, or by the cost of transport or the expense of travelling...or by what he has to pay the factors for their industry, risk, and labour, are greatly in error, and still more so are those who allow a certain profit of a fifth or a tenth. For the just price arises from the abundance or scarcity of goods, merchants, and money...and not from costs, labour, and risk. (...) Prices are not commonly fixed on the basis of costs. Why should a bale of linen brought overland from Brittany at great expense be worth more than one which is transported cheaply by sea?...Why should a book written out by hand be worth more than one which is printed, when the latter is better though it costs less to produce?...The just price is found not by counting the cost but by the common estimation.*60

Similarly the Spanish Scholastic Diego de Covarrubias y Leiva (1512-77) a distinguished expert on Roman law and a theologian at the University of Salamanca, wrote that the "value of an article" depends "on the estimation of men, even if that estimation be foolish." (...)

The Spanish Scholastic Francisco Garcia (d. 1659) engaged in a remarkably sophisticated analysis of the determinants of value and utility. The valuation of goods, Garcia pointed out, depends on several factors. One is the abundance or scarcity of the supply of goods, the former causing a lower estimation and the latter an increase. A second is whether buyers or sellers are few or many. Another is whether "money is scarce or plentiful," the former causing a lower estimation of goods and the latter a higher. Another is whether "vendors are eager to sell their goods." (...)

The Spanish Scholastics also anticipated the Austrian school in applying value theory to money, thus beginning the integration of money into general value theory. It is generally believed, for example, that in 1568 Jean Bodin inaugurated what is unfortunately called "the quantity theory of money" but which would more accurately be called the application of supply-and-demand analysis to money.

Yet he was anticipated twelve years earlier by the Salamanca theologian the Dominican Martin de Azpilcueta Navarro (1493-1587), who was inspired to explain the inflation brought about by the importation of gold and silver by the Spaniards from the New World. Citing previous Scholastics, Azpilcueta declared that "money is worth more where it is scarce than where it is abundant." Why? Because "all merchandise becomes dearer when it is in great demand and short supply, and that money, in so far as it may be sold, bartered, or exchanged by some other form of contract, is merchandise and therefore also becomes dearer when it is in great demand and short supply." (...)

Furthermore, the Spanish Scholastics went on to anticipate the classical-Mises-Cassel purchasing-power parity theory of exchange rates by proceeding logically to apply the supply-and-demand theory to foreign exchanges, an institution that was highly developed by the early modern period.

The influx of specie into Spain depreciated the Spanish escudo in foreign exchange, as well as raised prices within Spain, and the Scholastics had to deal with this startling phenomenon. It was the eminent Salamanca theologian the Dominican Domingo de Soto (1495-1560) who in 1553 first fully applied the supply-and-demand analysis to foreign exchange rates. De Soto noted that "the more plentiful money is in Medina the more unfavourable are the terms of exchange, and the higher the price that must be paid by whoever wishes to send money from Spain to Flanders, since the demand for money is smaller in Spain than in Flanders. And the scarcer money is in Medina the less he need pay there, because more people want money in Medina than are sending it to Flanders."*64 (...)

The de Soto-Azpilcueta analysis was spread to the merchants of Spain by the Dominican friar Tomás de Mercado (d. 1585), who in 1569 wrote a handbook of commercial morality in Spanish, in contrast to the Scholastic theologians, who invariably wrote in Latin. It was followed by García and endorsed at the end of the sixteenth century by the Salamanca theologian the Dominican Domingo de Bañez (1527-1604) and by the great Portuguese Jesuit Luís de Molina (1535-1600). Writing near the turn of the century, Molina set forth the theory in an elegant and comprehensive manner:

There is another way in which money may be worth more in one place than in another; namely, because it is scarcer there than elsewhere. Other things being equal, wherever money is most abundant, there will it be least valuable for the purpose of buying goods and comparing things other than money.

Just as an abundance of goods causes prices to fall (the quantity of money and number of merchants being equal), so does an abundance of money cause them to rise (the quantity of goods and number of merchants being equal). The reason is that the money itself becomes less valuable for the purpose of buying and comparing goods. Thus we see that in Spain the purchasing-power of money is far lower, on account of its abundance, than it was eighty years ago. A thing that could be bought for two ducats at that time is nowadays worth 5, 6, or even more. Wages have risen in the same proportion, and so have dowries, the price of estates, the income from benefices, and other things.

We likewise see that money is far less valuable in the New World (especially in Peru, where it is most plentiful), than it is in Spain. But in places where it is scarcer than in Spain, there will it be more valuable. Nor will the value of money be the same in all other places, but will vary: and this will be because of variations in its quantity, other things being equal.... Even in Spain itself, the value of money varies: it is usually lowest of all in Seville, where the ships come in from the New World and where for that reason money is most abundant.

Wherever the demand for money is greatest, whether for buying or carrying goods,...or for any other reason, there its value will be highest. It is these things, too, which cause the value of money to vary in course of time in one and the same place.*652.3.9

The outstanding revisionist work on the economic thought of the medieval and later Scholastics is that of Raymond de Roover. Basing his work in part on the Grice-Hutchinson volume, de Roover published his first comprehensive discussion in 1955.*66 For the medieval period, de Roover particularly pointed to the early fourteenth-century French Ockhamite Scholastic Jean Buridan and to the famous early fifteenth-century Italian preacher San Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444). (...)

De Roover then discussed the sixteenth-century Spanish Scholastics, centered at the University of Salamanca, the queen of the Spanish universities of the period. From Salamanca the influence of this school of Scholastics spread to Portugal, Italy, and the Low Countries. In addition to summarizing Grice-Hutchinson's contribution and adding to her bibliography, de Roover noted that both de Soto and Molina denounced as "fallacious" the notion of the late thirteenth-century Scholastic John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) that the just price is the cost of production plus a reasonable profit; instead that price is the common estimation, the interaction of supply and demand, on the market. Molina further introduced the concept of competition by stating that competition among buyers will drive prices up, while a scarcity of purchasers will pull them down.*69

(...) de Roover demonstrated that Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) and his great pupil Thomas Aquinas (1226-74) held the just price to be the market price. In fact, Aquinas considered the case of a merchant who brings wheat to a country where there is a great scarcity; the merchant happens to know that more wheat is on the way. May he sell his wheat at the existing price, or must he announce to everyone the imminent arrival of new supplies and suffer a fall in price? Aquinas unequivocally answered that he may justly sell the wheat at the current market price, even though he added as an afterthought that it would be more virtuous of him to inform the buyers. Furthermore, de Roover pointed to the summary of Aquinas's position by his most distinguished commentator, the late fifteenth-century Scholastic Thomas de Vio, Cardinal Cajetan (1468-1534). Cajetan concluded that for Aquinas the just price is "the one, which at a given time, can be gotten from the buyers, assuming common knowledge and in the absence of all fraud and coercion."*70

The cost-of-production theory of just price held by the Scotists was trenchantly attacked by the later Scholastics. San Bernardino of Siena, de Roover pointed out, declared that the market price is fair regardless of whether the producer gains or loses, or whether it is above or below cost. The great early sixteenth-century jurist Francisco de Victoria (c. 1480-1546), founder of the school of Salamanca, as well as his followers insisted that the just price is set by supply and demand regardless of labor costs or expenses; inefficient producers or inept speculators must bear the consequences of their incompetence and poor forecasting. Furthermore, de Roover made clear that the general Scholastic emphasis on the justice of "common estimation" (communis aestimatio) is identical to "market valuation" (aestimatio fori), since the Scholastics used these two Latin expressions interchangeably.*71 (...)

In a comment on de Roover's paper, David Herlihy noted that, in the northern Italian city-states of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the birthplace of modern commercial capitalism, the market price was generally considered just because it was "true" and "real," if it was "established or utilized without deceit or fraud." As Herlihy summed it up, the just price of an object is its "true value as determined by one of two ways: for objects that were unique, by honest negotiation between seller and purchaser; for staple commodities by the consensus of the market place established in the absence of fraud or conspiracy."*73 (...)

Several years later, de Roover turned to the views of the Scholastics on the broader issue of trade and exchange.*75

He conceded the partial validity of the older view that the medieval Church frowned on trade as endangering personal salvation; or rather that, while trade can be honest, it presents great temptation for sin. However, he pointed out that, as trade and commerce grew after the tenth century, the Church began to adapt to the idea of the merits of trade and exchange.

Thus, while it is true that the twelfth-century Scholastic Peter the Lombard (c. 1100-60) denounced trade and soldiering as sinful occupations per se, a far more benevolent view of trade was set forth during the thirteenth century by Albertus Magnus and his student Thomas Aquinas, as well as by Saint Bonaventure (1221-74) and Pope Innocent V (1225-76). While trade presents occasions for sin, it is not sinful per se; on the contrary, exchange and the division of labor are beneficent in satisfying the wants of the citizens. Moreover, the early fourteenth-century Scholastic Richard of Middleton developed the idea that both the buyer and the seller gain by exchange, since each demonstrates that he prefers what he receives in exchange to what he gives up. Middleton also applied this idea to international trade, pointing out that both countries benefit by exchanging their surplus products. Since the merchants and citizens of each country benefit, neither party is exploiting the other.(...)"

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