Sunday, March 28, 2010

Usury and anti-semitism

From Ira Stoll's review of Capitalism and the Jews, by Jerry Z. Muller, Princeton University Press:

"The book by Mr. Muller, a professor of history at Catholic University, consists of a short introduction and four chapters. It's the first chapter, "The Long Shadow of Usury," that's the most enlightening.
"Usury was an important concept with a long shadow. It was significant because the condemnation of lending money at interest was based on the presumptive illegitimacy of all economic gain not derived from physical labor. That way of conceiving of economic activity led to a failure to recognize the role of knowledge and the evaluation of risk in economic life," he writes. "So closely was the reviled practice of usury identified with the Jews that St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the leader of the Cistercian Order, in the middle of the twelfth century referred to the taking of usury as 'Jewing'" says Mr. Muller."

1 comment:

dWj said...

For a certain level of market efficiency, it seems to me the greater error isn't conflating work with physical effort (or even conflating work with something deserving of economic gain) but viewing interest as economic gain, as though dollars five years from now and dollars today were fungible.