The Common Estimation of the Market: Domingo Bañez on the Just Price

This paper was written by 2015-16 V&C Young Scholar Award recipient Jack Shannon, a '16 graduate of Hillsdale College.

Since the University of Chicago removed courses in the history of economic thought from the list of courses required for their doctoral program in economics, the study has fallen into the shadows. Graduate and undergraduate students alike learn the standard textbook theories with no more of the historical background than what is provided by pop-out boxes in the text, if even that. The focus of economic study becomes mathematical modeling and quantitative analysis, with little room for an appreciation of how even the familiar supply and demand graph developed over time. The solutions to recurrent economic problems often remain obscured, hidden in the shadow of the methods of the natural sciences. But even within the study of the history of economic thought, the subject matter of real interest often begins in the year 1776 with the publication of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. A cursory treatment may be given to Aristotle, the medieval scholastics, and the physiocrats, but they are seldom developed beyond a kind of inchoate primordial soup from which the autochthonous Adam Smith springs fully-formed. The scholastics especially are typically dismissed as mere moralists, not worthy to be counted among the ranks of positive scientists. A commentary tradition, spanning more than five hundred years and developing valuable positive insights within a robust normative framework, vanishes in the shadow cast by the invisible hand.

Retreating even further into the recesses of academic neglect, one finds that many scholastic commentaries on economic matters remain even to be read, much less translated. This literature lies in the shadow of a shadow of a shadow. Odd Langholm, one of the relatively few scholars with significant contributions to the study of scholastic economics, outlines the nature of the problem:

The interpretation and analysis of [scholastic] printed sources, as well as of a large body of sources still available only in manuscript, are the subjects of a modern critical literature which has been growing steadily in volume for some time. Unfortunately, professional economists are not among the major contributors to the literature. Very few of the works of the medieval theologians are available in translations, and the percentage of economists who can read Latin is dwindling. Most of the contributions to scholastic economics appear as small segments of text in voluminous works of a general nature, or in particular treatises on topics whose relation to economics is not immediately apparent. The majority of those who are led to the study of such works are medievalists to whom economics is a foreign subject of secondary importance. They therefore normally lack both the expertise required to evaluate what there might be of relevance to economics, and the inclination to communicate such finds to economists.

A large body of scholarly thought is inaccessible to modern economics because economists cannot read Latin and Latinists do not care about economics. This paper takes a small step towards closing the gap between economics and Latin by bringing into the light of scholarly discussion a previously untranslated work: Domingo Bañez’s Decisiones de Iure et Iustitia.

Read the full paper at this link: the-common-estimation-of-the-market-final

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