quarta-feira, 22 de novembro de 2006

Escolásticos III (versus Adam Smith), Católicos versus ...

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

"...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 naive 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.

It seems to be no accident that this dramatic revision of our knowledge of the Scholastics was brought to American economists, not generally esteemed for their depth of knowledge of Latin, by European-trained economists steeped in Latin, the language in which the Scholastics wrote. (...) One reason why continental economic thought has often exerted minimal, or at least delayed, influence in England and the United States is simply because these works had not been translated into English.[7]

For me, the impact of Scholastic revisionism was complemented and strengthened by the work, during the same decades, of the German-born "Austrian" historian, Emil Kauder. Kauder revealed that the dominant economic thought in France and Italy during the seventeenth and especially the eighteenth centuries was also "proto-Austrian," emphasizing subjective utility and relative scarcity as the determinants of value.

From this groundwork, Kauder proceeded to a startling insight into the role of Adam Smith that, however, follows directly from his own work and that of the Scholastic revisionists: that Smith, far from being the founder of economics, was virtually the reverse. On the contrary, Smith actually took the sound, and almost fully developed, proto-Austrian subjective value tradition, and tragically shunted economics on to a false path, a dead end from which the Austrians had to rescue economics a century later.

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.

If Smith was not the creator of economic theory, neither was he the founder of laissez faire in political economy. Not only were the Scholastics analysts of, and believers in, the free market and critics of government intervention, but the French and Italian economists of the eighteenth century were even more laissez-faire-oriented than Smith, who introduced numerous waffles and qualifications into what had been, in the hands of Turgot and others, an almost pure championing of laissez faire.
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.

On reading Kauder, I considered this view a challenging insight, but essentially an unproven speculation. However, as I continued studying economic thought and embarked on writing these volumes, I concluded that Kauder was being confirmed many times over. 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."

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