St. Thomas Aquinas contribution to economic theory
Thomas Aquinas’s economic thinking followed Aristotle’s economic thought. The basis was the idea of justice and wages, and prices. Economics was about fairness and justice to both philosophers. However, there was one idea that I liked was unique to the economic thinking of Aquinas. That is, Thomas Aquinas took Aristotelian thought one step further. This step was arguably the beginning of the economic theory.
It was connected with Aquinas’ view of private property. Much of modern economics is based on the definition of property rights. John Locke and the enlightenment philosophers were all about this. This was free-market economics and the basis of our legal system. It even reaches us today when it comes to intellectual property rights and software and movies, for example. Why we can watch Netflix in the US but not in Europe, let’s look at why Aquinas thought this was important.
Why private property was essential to Aquinas
Aquinas believed that since all of creation came from God, nothing we have here is ours. All of creation is to be shared. For me, this makes perfect sense. Many egotistical people have a sense of entitlement and privilege. I remember one lawyer tell me everything he accomplished in his life was because of him, and he deserves his wealth. There is some truth to that, but it is very arrogant to say that.
Why everything we have his a gift. He was born in preppy Connecticut and raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. Proper childhood nutrition, stimulation parents that cared, etc. I said, OK, what if you were born in Africa, and then when you were five years old someone hit you over the head with a rock, and then your life was over. Don’t you see everything you have is a gift from God? More that is given to you in this life means you will be held accountable for more.
Why was Aquinas different? However, Aquinas added one more aspect to this idea that everything is to be shared and is a gift. That is, man needed incentives to work. Private property, although not belonging to anyone, created an incentive for people to work.
Therefore, private ownership could be just and fair if the work was fair and honorable. It motivated man on this earth to till the land. I am slightly greedy and always want to improve my economic condition. Although if I were a billionaire, which I am not, I would not say that my fortune and money was from anything else but from above. Therefore, I believe you need to work like everything in life is in your hands, but know that everything in life is in God’s hands. This was the basis of the economic theory of Aquinas.
The take away from this post is not only an exciting history of economics trivia about the origin of modern economic theory but to make you aware of the reality of money and work and why we are here. Again I am slightly greedy and strive to create more investing in stocks and entrepreneurial activities. But I go back to the idea that everything we have on this earth is not ours. If you can not share money, share your mental talents, and ideas with others. I do not believe in hoarding ideas. I try to share all my money, making ideas online, for example. Some are good, and some are less than perfect. But all the talent and property we have is on loan to us from God. Nothing great we achieve in life has any real meaning. Anything we accomplish means nothing. It is a gift synonymous with responsibility.