You know, sometimes that awful joke in Borat was true. Which means, ahem, that it isn’t funny any more.
The remains of 17 bodies found at the bottom of a medieval well in England could have been victims of persecution, new evidence has suggested.
The most likely explanation is that those down the well were Jewish and were probably murdered or forced to commit suicide, according to scientists who used a combination of DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies in their investigation.
The skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th Centuries at a time when Jewish people were facing persecution throughout Europe.
A little detail included at the end of the piece is most telling, and sums up in a nutshell why natural law is utterly pernicious nonsense, and why I won’t have a bar of it (even in its cute and cuddly manifestations, like the European Convention on Human Rights):
Sophie Cabot, an archaeologist and expert on Norwich’s Jewish history, said the Jewish people had been invited to England by the King to lend money because at the time, the Christian interpretation of the bible did not allow Christians to lend money and charge interest. It was regarded as a sin.
So cash finance for big projects came from the Jewish community and some became very wealthy – which in turn, caused friction.
“There is a resentment of the fact that Jews are making money… and they are doing it in a way that doesn’t involve physical labour, things that are necessarily recognised as work… like people feel about bankers now,” said Ms Cabot.
Natural law didn’t just hold that women were unfit to manage their own lives and that gays ought to be exterminated. It also held that things had intrinsic value, not a value agreed upon by the parties to a contract. Lending at interest was therefore valueless, because it involved making ‘something from nothing’, a concept developed by both Aristotle and the Church Fathers. It held back development in medieval Europe to a grievous extent… and lead to many, many dead Jews. Later, it returned like a bad penny in the form of the labour theory of value, which hoodwinked everyone from Locke to Smith to Marx. Only the two Davids, Ricardo and Hume, were not taken in by it, and we moderns are greatly in their debt. A strong case can be made that it was even more destructive than natural law’s misogyny, homophobia and anti-semitism, particularly when it joined hands with the latter during Hitler’s ascendency.
One of the main reasons I’ve always admired the Romans more than the Greeks is because they never fell for notions of intrinsic value; it is unfortunate for humanity that the works of Aristotle were rediscovered before those of the Roman jurists. I’ll leave you with Servius Sulpicius Rufus, writing in the first century BC:
All buying and selling has its origin in exchange or barter; there was once a time when money did not exist and terms like ‘merchandise’ or ‘price’ were unknown. Rather, each person bartered what was useless to him for that which was useful, according to the exigencies of his current needs; it often happens that what one man has in plenty another lacks. However, since it did not always and easily happen that when you had something that I wanted, I, for my part, had something that you were willing to accept, a material was selected which, being given a stable value by the state, avoided the problems of barter by providing a consistent medium of exchange. This material, struck in due form by the mint, demonstrates its utility and title not by its substance but by its quantity, so that no longer are the things exchanged both examples of wares, but rather one of them is termed the ‘price’ [Praetorian Edict: D.18.1.1pr].
That could be out of Hume or Ricardo. It’s also something to bear in mind before engaging in a bit of friendly banker-bashing.