Volume 35, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2015
Mary L. Hirschfeld
Reflection on the Financial Crisis
Aquinas on the Proper Role of Finance
Aquinas's teachings on usury are difficult to apply directly to the modern economy given the tremendous transformations in economic institutions and sensibilities since his day. However, his treatment of the relationship between the abstraction of money and the problem of disordered concupiscent desire proves to be helpful in understanding modern financial instability. Money invites a disordered understanding of the infinite good that is the object of human desire, channeling that desire into the fruitless quest for indefinite accumulation, which is both destabilizing to the economic system and ultimately frustrates the pursuit of real goods. Aquinas's thought offers clarity about the proper role of economic goods in a life well lived that is necessary for thinking about the role finance should play in a humane economy.