Economic Thought of the Philosophers

Economic Thought of the Philosophers

While the jurist said, thou shalt, the philosopher was saying, thou shouldst. Though the genius of the Romans was certainly far less ethical than that of the more speculative Athenians, yet Roman philos­ophers generally let ethical notions take the place of scientific principles; as, for example, Cicero said that the universal opinion ought to be "brought over to the hope that men may learn to expect the attainment of what they desire by right purposes and honest deeds, not by fraud and roguery," and again, "Let it be settled then, that what is wrong is never expedient."

The chief writers of this class were Cicero, Seneca, and Pliny the Elder; and the younger Pliny, Marcus Aurelius, and Epic-tetus may be mentioned. Of all, it can be said that they decried the luxury and vices of their time, contemning the thirst for riches — especially money — and preaching moderation. Look­ing back at the good old days, they praised a simpler agricultural economy. 0 temporal 0 mores! Such was Rome's state that her philosophers dreamed of the simple life and called, "back to nature!"

While there is more insistence on a competency of worldly goods than among the idealistic Greeks and the religious He­brews, there is not one of these philosophers but would have echoed the words, "The love of money is the root of evil." The Greek philosophers' view of interest also prevailed. Cicero tells us that Cato thought usury, i.e., interest, as bad as mur­der, saying, "Would you take interest? would you kill a man?" Seneca condemned interest-taking on the same ground as Aristotle. Indeed it must be said of these writers, as of the Greeks, that they did not fully appreciate the nature and func­tions of money, not to mention capital as a whole.