The institucional evolution of property and subjective rights in XVI and XVII centuries in Spain.

Author:Alvarez, Angel Manuel Fernandez
Position:Articulo en ingles
  1. Introduction

    The discovery of America in year 1492 meant that intellectuals had to analyze new issues that concerned the meeting of two worlds, as a result of the new flow of people, goods and services, which was a type of first globalization.

    The readings of the books written by the late Spanish scholastics, who were the professors who taught in the XVI and XVII centuries in the Spanish universities (like Salamanca, Alcala de Henares, Toledo, Valencia and others), show that many authors handled with ease issues that are relevant in today's society. Some of these issues are, property rights, international law, the principle of consent of the citizens, the role of government, taxes, the public budget, the public deficit, the indebtedness of the State, the relationship between prices and costs, the market price, the interest rates, the alteration of the value of the currency or the international trade.

    The main objective of this working paper is to analyze the institutional evolution of property rights and subjective rights in the XVI and XVII centuries in Spain, by comparing ideas and arguments of the principal authors of the School of Salamanca with other late Spanish scholastics.

    The study aims to answer two important questions. First, is there a classification of the late Spanish scholastics which allows the analysis of the institutional evolution with their arguments on important economic concepts? Secondly, how was the evolution of the defense of the property rights and the subjective rights in the XVI and XVII centuries in Spain?

    In order to answer the first question, we will have to refer to the second point of this study, where we indicate two possible classifications of the late scholastics during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Spain, carried out around the Salamanca School of Economics. According to the research done in the last years, it has been extended with more scholastics authors, allowing a more extended classification which could be known as the Spanish School of Economics. We believe that these are proper classifications for the study of the institutional evolution of economic concepts, which consist of an open and multidisciplinary approach to the authors of the XVI and XVII centuries in Spain.

    In the third point of the study, we analyze the Spanish scholastic ideas around the origin of society with private properties, the way of justifying ownership, the legal hierarchy of possessions, the theory of property and the limits to the private property rights from the State, not only in authors of the School of Salamanca but also in other independent scholastic writers, who inherited and refined some ideas with unique contributions to the development of political economy.

    In the last section, we will draw conclusions about the commonalities between the late Spanish scholastics that can be used to support their classification into the Salamanca School of Economics, as the source of a research movement based on the natural law, applied to the analysis of economic issues in the Spain of the XVI and XVII centuries.

    We will also draw conclusions about these commonalities with a wider group of Spanish scholastics, which can contribute to a bigger classification into the Spanish School of Economics, including authors of the Salamanca School and other late Spanish scholastics, which can be grouped due to their important contributions, as a collective of authors who identified many essential concepts in the political economy.

    It must be taken into account, during the reading of this study, that the natural Law can be studied not only from a religious approach, as did the late Spanish scholastics during the XVI and XVII centuries, but also from an agnostic (1) point of view, or even with an atheist approach, just because of the importance of the individual rights which are inherent and immanent to the nature of a free man; and which are directly related, through the property rights and subjective rights, firstly, with the principles of the economic growth (valid at any time and any region) and, secondly, with the rule of Law proper of an open society.

  2. Classification of the late Spanish scholastics

    In recent decades, the name School of Salamanca has been accepted by a majority of economic historians by the dissemination of the scholar work of the professor Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson. The British author proposed the name School of Salamanca, initiated by Jose Larraz (1943) (2). But she widespread the use of this name in economic affairs, as in other disciplines, and also defended the use of the more generic term "Spanish scholasticism" (3).

    In any case, we must point out that the research of professor Grice-Hutchinson (1952) (4) demonstrated how the thought of the late Spanish scholastics was essential in the establishment and spread of the first notions of market and its operation to the rest of Europe.

    Also professor Joseph Schumpeter introduced the late Spanish scholastics in his History of Economic Analysis (1954) as "founders of Economics" (5) and, again, professor Murray Rothbard noted the great work of the Spanish scholastics in his History of Economic Thought (1999) (6), just to name a few examples that confirm the importance that have gradually been acquiring the ideas of the late Spanish scholastics, due to the latest research in the history of economic thought.

    In order to analyze and answer the questions posed in the introduction, we will try to find a proper classification of the late Spanish scholastics, which should facilitate the identification and the study of the evolution of institutions responsible for the economic growth (7).

    2.1. Previous classifications of the late Spanish scholastics

    The School of Salamanca has been classified as a school of theology by Barrientos (8), as well as a school of law by Schwartz (9). However, Perena (10) and Gomez Camacho (11), and other professors think that it is not logical to do a separation of the school of Spanish scholastics in different disciplines.

    The late Spanish scholastics argued legal concepts, but also theological, philosophical, economic and political ideas, which belong to the broad range of subjects covering the social sciences. Over time, universities have fragmented the study of the social sciences to be more specialized making the research more difficult, with multidisciplinary approaches (12).

    2.2. The Salamanca School of Economics

    However, even taking into account the different interpretations in the past, we understand that in the field of history of economic thought, the classification of the late Spanish scholastics, which was proposed recently by the professors Luis Perdices and Julio Lopez Revuelta (13), used the name of Salamanca School of Economics because, as we shall see later, it helps address the analysis of the evolution of institutions responsible for economic growth:

  3. It features the founder, Francisco de Vitoria, who's a central figure in the School of Salamanca. He promoted the study of human struggles by applying the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas and introducing the civil rights of the people and the international Law, and spread his knowledge from his professorship at the University of Salamanca.

  4. It distinguishes a first circle of disciples, who learned the concepts of the natural law directly from Francisco de Vitoria at the University of Salamanca and, among others it contains the following scholastics authors: Domingo de Soto, Diego de Covarrubias, Melchor Cano, Martin Azpilcueta, Diego Chaves, Juan Gil de la Nava, Mancio of Corpus Christi, Vincent Barron and Martin Ledesma.

  5. It is considered a second circle, where we find authors who received ideas about the natural institutions from the first circle and not directly from Francisco de Vitoria, and it consists of authors such as: Juan de Atienzo, Manuel Acosta, Pinelo Arias, Juan Orozco, Antonio Padilla, Francisco Sarmiento de Mendoza, Diego Perez de Salamanca, Bartolome de Albornoz, Domingo Banez (14), Pedro de Pravia, Tomas de Mercado, Bartolome de Medina, Juan de Ribera y Luis de Leon. And, additionally, it also includes other authors, such as: Pedro de Sotomayor, Juan de la Pena, Francisco Suarez, Leonard Lessius and Gregorio de Valencia, among others.

  6. The third circle consists of authors who have studied or taught at Salamanca but they did not receive direct lessons from Francisco de Vitoria and the first circle. Among others, it consists of the following authors: Fernando Vazquez de Menchaca, Cristobal de Villalon, Luis de Molina, Pedro de Aragon, Juan de Salas, Pedro de Valencia, Alonso de Veracruz, Fernan Perez de Oliva, and Francisco Cervantes de Salazar.

  7. And finally, it is considered an outer circle of authors, who are not associated with the School of Salamanca. However, they received credit for the influence, to a greater or lesser extent, even without having a direct relationship with the University of Salamanca or receiving education from the central figure and his disciples. This group included the Jesuit Juan de Mariana and, among others, the following authors: Juan de Lugo, Juan de Medina, Bartolome de Carranza, Bartolome de las Casas, Luis de Alcala, Luis Sarabia de la Calle, Pedro de Fonseca, Miguel Salon, Juan Blas Navarro, Cristobal de Fonseca, Gabriel del Toro, Francisco Garcia, Pedro de Onate, Domingo Muriel, Pedro de Ortigosa, Jose de Herrera, Pedro de Arguto, Luis Lopez, Domingo de Santo Tomas, Esteban de Avila, Juan Perez Menacho, Miguel de Agia, Antonio de Hervias, Sebastian de Santa Maria, Juan de Lorenzana, Juan Ramirez, Juan Contreras, Domingo de Salazar, and Andres de Tordehumos.

    These are the authors cited in the research work (Perdices de Blas & Revuelta Lopez, 2011). In our modest opinion and following the broad and comprehensive approach of their classification, other scholastics with written works can be added with the results of further investigations. For instance, some additional...

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