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By Murray N. Rothbard

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The rest of the ancient world, and even Greece before and after these centuries, was essentially a desert of economic thought. Nothing of substance came out of the great ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia and India, and very little except political thought in the many centuries-long civilization of China. Remarkably, little or no economic thought emerged out of those civilizations, even though the economic institutions: trade, credit, mining, crafts, etc. were often far advanced, and even more so than in Greece.

3 The Carolingians and canon law 'Canon law' was the law governing the Church, and during the early Christian era and the Middle Ages the intertwining of Church and state often meant that canon law and state law were one and the same. Early canon law consisted of papal decretals, decrees of church councils, and the writings of the Church Fathers. We have seen that later canon law also incorporated much of the Roman law. But canon law also included something else basically pernicious: the decrees and regulations ('capitularies') of the Carolingian Empire in the latter eighth and ninth centuries.

Ambivalent attitudes in the early Christian tradition also proved highly important. Economic matters were of course scarcely central to either the Old or New Testament, and scattered economic pronouncements are contradictory or subject to ambivalent interpretation. Fulminations against excessive love of money do not necessarily imply hostility to commerce or wealth. One remarkable aspect of the Old Testament, however, is its repeated, almost pre-Calvinist, extolling of work for its own sake. In contrast to the contemptuous attitude toward labour of the Greek philosophers, the Old Testament is filled with exhortations in favour of work: from the 'be fruitful and multiply' of Genesis to 'Enjoy life in your toil at which you toil under the sun' of Ecclesiastes.

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An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought: Volume I: Economic Thought Before Adam Smith by Murray N. Rothbard

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