The concept of capital rediscovered

As we have seen regarding Olivi and his followers (pages 80 84), the concept of capital sprang from the debate on usury and interest. The idea that interest was legitimate took a long time to develop, from the late Middle Ages through to the sixteenth century. The concept of capital evolved in the sixteenth century. Barbieri shows that, for the ecclesiastical thinking of that period, usurers' credit met with disapproval only when it financed consumption, not if it served for investment.9 In...

Chrysohedonism or fear of goods

The fact that the early mercantilists kept talking about 'treasure' when they already meant 'capital' led their successors to be over-critical of them. To understand the mercantilists' 'hunger for goods', we must first evaluate the accusations levelled at them by the Enlightenment thinkers, starting from Hume on the balance of trade see below, page 214 , to Mirabeau,26 and to Adam Smith. Smith's were the most organic criticisms, and they had a devastating effect. It was these criticisms that...

Capitalist takeoff beggars and the birth of mercantilism

Europe in the 1500s was a strange world. It was teeming with adventurous merchants, crossing from one country to another and sailing the high seas with merchant-entrepreneurs transforming workshops into manufactories with landowners becoming entrepreneurs with clever artisan-inventors, much sought after by a number of countries and finally with religious reformers and daring intellectuals, seeking new directions for their thought. But it was also populated by apocalyptic friars and scholastic...

Aristotle fear of change

While Plato wants to limit wealth through political power, Aristotle relies on the far more coercive power of reason. In Aristotle's universe, wealth and consumption must also be under control nothing can be left to chance or, worse still, to the desire for change. Aristotle's supreme ideal is self-sufficiency, understood as the lack of needs 'the final good is thought to be self-sufficient'. Self-sufficiency is 'that which when isolated makes life desirable and lacking in nothing and such we...