ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Three Cheers for Merchants!

Reilly_3I was just reading with great interest the spiffy new Commercial Law Blog when I came across a fascinating post on The Morality of Trade by Marie T. Reilly (pictured) that included this:

If merchants "were [ever] considered" no better than thieves, I say, consider who's doing the considering. The possibility of gains from trade in the hands of "merchants" was and is the key driver for social and economic mobility and the political instability that comes with it. Feudal lords had much to fear and loathe at the possibility that by trading among themselves serfs might drag themselves out of hunger and ignorance. And so too the Church. Trade is possible only when people assert property rights. Assertion and exploitation of property rights by political subordinates is the beginning of the end of a social order based on birthright and violence.

Stirring stuff.  But why does it seem so familiar?  Ah, yes, here's what it reminds me of:

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left no other nexus between people than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom -- Free Trade. . . .

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigor in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man's activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former exoduses of nations and crusades.

What great 19th-century thinker is Mary T. Reilly channeling (find out below the break)?

Karl_marx_2 Yup, that's right.  Karl Marx!  It's from The Communist Manifesto.

Now I'm not saying that we here at the Contracts Profs Blog don't enjoy a little competition from our friends and colleagues over at the Commercial Law Blog.  I'm just saying they're a bunch of godless commies.

[Jeremy Telman]

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Jealousy doesn't look good on Karl-- and neither does that beard. I'll take the single unconscionable freedom than a whole pack of state-sponsored "numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms" any day of the week.

Posted by: Marie T. Reilly | Mar 3, 2008 4:44:39 AM

You read it here first. Marie neither denounces nor rejects Karl Marx's endorsement. Remember this in November.

P.S. Marie objects to Karl's beard. Well, it's just a strike beard, you know. . . . It was a long strike, I guess. Apparently the big Hollywood studios really played hardball in the nineteenth century.

Posted by: Jeremy Telman | Mar 3, 2008 5:04:38 AM

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