Roberto Finzi

The «evil of usury» without Jews. An interpretation of Petty, Cantillon, Turgot and Smith

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The essay investigates the presence, or absence, of anti-Jewish stereotypes in the works of William Petty, Richard Cantillon, Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, and Adam Smith. The result of this initial survey is that as early as the late seventeenth century, anti- Jewish prejudice is almost absent for the authors, who place it in a perspective of concrete, real investigation of economic phenomena. So, in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, the «evil of usury» is «evil in itself», without the slightest allusion to Jews or their presumed nature. And for his part, Turgot states: «La loi divine n'a certainement pas pu permettre expressément aux juifs de pratiquer avec les étrangers ce qui aurait été défendu par le droit naturel. Dieu ne peut autoriser l'injustice». Why this road is lost afterwards in a part of the economic culture is another problem.

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