Thomas Aquinas (A.K.A. the Medieval Church, Canonists, Scholastics, and Schoolmen) and J M Keynes on the Necessity of Excluding Smith’s Projectors, Imprudent Risk Takers, and Prodigals From Receiving Any Bank Loans
18 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 20, 2018
J. M. Keynes had already recognized in his 1930 A Treatise on Money that the major cause of deflation and inflation problems at the macro level was the ability of Smith’s Projectors, Imprudent risk takers, and Prodigals, whom Keynes categorized as Wall Street connected speculators and rentiers (modern day hedge funds, private equity firms, and investment banks) in his General Theory in 1936, were the fundamental problem in a capitalist society because they diverted bank loans from investment in durable capital formation into the financial manipulation of paper claims in various stock and money markets. The General Theory makes it even clearer because it reiterates what he had said in both the A Treatise on Money and in the 1932 Symposium on Usury in the Economic Journal in response to Keynes’s decision to publish a 1931 article by Henry Somerville. Keynes heavily supported Somerville’s major point about the dangers of using bank loans to finance speculative debt leverage practices versus loans to finance the purchase of durable capital equipment. This is the same point made by Smith with respect to loans made to his three categories of upper-income class citizens that Smith labeled as Projectors, Imprudent risk takers, and Prodigals. Both Smith and Keynes were influenced by Aristotle.
Keynes admitted that he felt that the arguments of the “ancients”, “Medieval Church”, and “Schoolmen” were also influential in his general conclusions, although he differed from them in some specifics. Smith also used the term “Scholastics” and “Schoolmen” several times in his The Theory of Moral Sentiments. By far the most prominent member of the Medieval Church, Canonists, Scholastics, and Schoolmen was Thomas Aquinas. Somerville, in his June 1936 article in The Commonweal, titled, Usury as a New Issue, argued for a connection between the views of Keynes and Aquinas specifically. He had originally pointed out in the December 1931 issue of the Economic Journal Keynes’s connection with the “canonists” in his A Treatise on Money. In March 1932, the Savings and Usury Symposium was held in the Economic Journal. Keynes essentially states what he latter restated in the General Theory in chapter 23 in 1936.
Keynes’s view on the dangers to the macroeconomy of making loans to speculators and rentiers did not change from 1930 until the end of his life.
Aquinas’s work on decision making under conditions of ignorance, risk, uncertainty, imperfect information, asymmetric information and imprecise/indeterminate, interval-valued probabilities puts him heads and shoulders above any contemporary thinker until Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was published in 1776. Aquinas’s contribution has not been correctly appreciated because of his realization that precise, mathematical, point estimates of both prices and probabilities are generally impossible. This thus greatly constrains the use of the mathematical laws of the probability calculus upon which both neoclassical and modern economics is built on.
Keywords: Aquinas, Keynes, Smith, Interval Valued Probability
JEL Classification: B10, B12, B14, B16, B20, B22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation