Comparison Chart: Early Canonists – Saint Augustine and Late Canonists – Thomas Aquinas

  Early canonists – Saint Augustine Late Canonists – Thomas Aquinas
Division of labor Mental and physical types of work are equivalent and should not affect the position of a person in society The division of people by profession and class is due to the divine providence and inclinations of people
Wealth Human labor creates wealth in the form of material goods, including gold and silver. The unearned accumulation of the latter (“artificial wealth”) is a sin Gold and silver are seen as a source of private property and “moderate” wealth
Exchange The exchange is carried out according to the principle of proportionality and is an act of free expression of the will of people Exchange as a subjective process does not always ensure the equality of the benefits obtained, since as a result of this act it happens that the thing “benefits one person and to the detriment of the other.”
fair price The value of a product should be established in accordance with labor and material costs in the process of its production according to the principle of “fair price”. The cost-effective principle of establishing a “fair price” is considered imprecise, since it may not deliver the seller an amount of money corresponding to his position in society and cause damage.
Trading profit and usurious interest Trade profit and usurious interest derived from trade and lending operations become an end in itself and therefore should be regarded as disagreeable sinful phenomena. Large incomes of merchants and usurers are then permissible when they are obtained by labor, are associated with transport and other costs, as well as the risk that takes place in decent activities.

The economic ideas of the Middle Ages were mainly based on religion, which condemned commercial profit and usurious interest, considering them the result of incorrect exchange and appropriation of someone else’s labor, i.e. like a sin.


Remember: The process of learning a person lasts a lifetime. The value of the same knowledge for different people may be different, it is determined by their individual characteristics and needs. Therefore, knowledge is always needed at any age and position.