5 The nature of the money--changer's profession.
244. We should begin our exposition of money changing by following the development of book 1 of the Politics. (1)
We must know, therefore, that of itself a thing has two uses, namely its proper use and a common use, or a primary use and a secondary use. The proper use of each thing, whether it is natural or artificial, is the use of the thing that it is primarily aimed at of its own nature, such as clothing to clothe, bread to eat, wine to drink, and so forth. The common or secondary use is that by which the thing, inasmuch as it is such, is applied to another end other than its first end, like exchanging in the case of a shoe or wheat, and other such things. The shoe, when it is sold, inasmuch as it is considered a shoe is not sold as simple leather. It is not, however, a shoe because of its sale, but because of its "shoeness." Such is also true of other things.
245. As is the case with the rest of things, so also a coin has two uses, as is stated in the same place. The first is in exchange for items for sale that are necessary, namely for life: That is, wheat, cloth, spices, and so forth. It is clear that coins were invented for such exchanges. What is lacking in one country is not available elsewhere without paying its worth, and it is very inconvenient always to have to transport equivalents. Therefore, gold, silver, bronze, and things of that sort are easily conveyable and useful and they determined that they would be equitable to exchange for things. Consequently, coins are said to be the measure of things that are for sale. This is in reference to natural things that are necessary to use, as a measure to things measured. Consequently, it is imprinted with a mark as a witness of its quality and weight just as it is customary to imprint a mark on other public measures that attests to the probity of these things.
246. The second use of a coin is as an exchange for another coin, like a golden ducat for a carleni. The coin was not made for this purpose, yet, as constant experience teaches us, it is used for this exchange, not inasmuch as it is just gold or bronze, but inasmuch as it is a coin.
247. This exchange seems to have arisen from the inequality of coins. Either to make up for the equality of the natural thing smaller coins were added to a larger coin, or the smaller coins were more convenient for someone who had a larger coin, or vice versa.
248. As the philosopher says in the same place,2 at first, profit seems to have come from the exchange of coins accidentally when an incident occurred, for example, a gold coin was valued at a higher price somewhere; and so more gold was given in that place for the coin than was given at the source of the coin. Then man's industry skillfully contrived ways to profit from exchanging coins. Thus, the money-changing profession was devised. Therefore, money changing is nothing else than the business of the exchange of coins. It is obvious, of course, that its matter and act and purpose are sufficiently explained by this statement.
249. The philosopher, however, censures money changing both because of its matter: it merely deals with coins and ignores the proper use of coins, and because of its purpose: It exists for profit and profit has no end or purpose. He censures simultaneously for both reasons: because money should be possessed and sought as an instrument of economy and politics and not for its own sake just as no other instrument is sought for its own sake. If, however, the money-changer's purpose may justify it, for example when he aims at the fitting support of his family and position, it is permitted just as is true of other businesses. For, it is possible for something that seems unsuitable in isolation to be made respectable because of an added purpose, as is clear in the killing of a man, which is absolutely to be rejected, but, if it is enjoined for justice's sake and so forth, it is to be prescribed. So also, on the other hand, a profession that has of itself a most honorable end, as medicine aims at health, can be made worthy of censure from the purpose of the physician when he heals for the sake of gain.
250. Since, then, it is clear from experience that very many cities would be in need of many necessities if there were no merchants, and these merchants could not conveniently practice their business without money changing, it is necessary and honorable for money changing to exist in cities not so much as pure money changing, but, as is obvious from our statements, as serving the economy and politics. Thus, money changers can not only keep themselves free from loss but can also engage in profit and have to do with industry when they apply it to legitimate business and the public welfare.
1 Chapter 3, no. 11; lect. S. Th. VII,
Let us begin [exordium] our discussion of this money matter (the ancient version that Saint Thomas commented on had the word principium; hence the word of the Author) from this source: Every contrived and owned thing has two uses. Both of them, however, exist of themselves, but do not of themselves exist similarly: One is proper to the thing, the other is not proper, for example, to put on a shoe and to exchange a shoe. For it is permissible to make use of a shoe in either way. For even the person who exchanges a shoe for a coin or food with someone who needs a shoe certainly uses the shoe inasmuch as it is a shoe; but it is not the proper use of a shoe, for, a shoe was not made for the sake of exchanging. The same must be true of other contrived and owned things. For, the possibility of exchanging is found in all things and it derives its primary beginning from what is consistent with nature because human beings used to have more of one thing and less than enough of others.
2 Chapter 3, no. 15; lect. St. Th. VII,
Therefore, from a coin that was prepared and provided from a necessary transaction another type of skill for seeking money arose, the commerce of shopkeeping, that perhaps at the beginning was practiced in a simple way (Aristotle says [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Saint Thomas comments: simpliciter et quasi a casu [simply and as it were by chance]); afterwards through use and skill it was practiced surely more shrewdly and more skillfully as he sought whence and how he could make more profit by exchanging.
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|Title Annotation:||On Exchanging Money (1499)|
|Author:||Brannan, Patrick T.|
|Publication:||Journal of Markets & Morality|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2007|
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