Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Is God giving or trading? Super Isaïam, 55, 1: Thomas Aquinas’s first use of the ‘just price’

Januard Pierre, PHARE Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

The term ‘just price’ appears in Thomas Aquinas’s writings as soon as his early works. The very first occurrence was in Super Isaiam (1252). This first occurrence might seem anecdotal and has not received much attention in economic literature, since it is used to describe God’s gift or sale of His wisdom to people. Yet, Aquinas introduced the concept of price by saying that the sale is made “less than the just price”. He therefore placed the transaction between God and human being in the context of an exchange and not a gift. On the basis of manuscripts as well as of printed sources, I intend to show both the innovative character of this introduction of the price as a key to the reading of the verse (Isaiah 55:1), which seems to be a discovery of Aquinas, and the founding character for Aquinas’s later work with an economic scope through the characterisation of new kinds of exchange ratios.

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Keywords: Aquinas, price, exchange ratio, exchange

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