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Institutional Usury and the Banks

Betsy Jane Clary

Review of Social Economy, 2011, vol. 69, issue 4, 419-438

Abstract: Although usury is no longer widely discussed in economic discourse, the concept of usury is useful in explaining financial upheavals such as the recent and on-going crisis. The Scholastics began the study of interest with their teachings on usury, and Keynes brought the usury debate back into the discussions during the period around the Great Depression. Bernard Dempsey, a Jesuit economist, wrote a definitive assessment of scholastic theory in the early 1940s under the direction of Schumpeter. Dempsey developed his own theory of financial crises which he attributed to the presence of what he termed “institutional usury.” The recently implemented policy by the Federal Reserve of paying banks interest on reserves is examined in light of Dempsey's concept of institutional usury. The scholastic concept of the just price is used to analyze market power wielded by large financial institutions in the modern economy.

Date: 2011
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DOI: 10.1080/00346764.2011.622906

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