Ewolucja historyczna pojęcia ..lichwa“ i ..procent“ a ich wzajemny stosunek

Józef Majka


The author starts from the statement that the terms we use, especially in a practical science, are subject to historical evolution. He gives two causes for this evolution: a) a shift or extension in the meaning of the concepts, b) changes in the social and economic institutions to which these terms, refer.

In the historical evolution of the meaning of ..usury“ the author distinguishes three periods: the first (till XIIth century), during which this terms was not strictly defined, but was understood as exploitation of every kind, in which advantage is taken of the forced situation of one of the contracting parties. In the second period the meaning of „usury“ was identified with that of ,,interest“ and later with unjust or too high interest. Finally in the third period (from the second half of XIXth century) people came back to the former, proper meaning of usury as economic xp’oitation.

Concluding his analysis the author formulates the proper (in his opinion) definition: usury is every kind of economic gain, won by taking advantage of the constrained economic situation of one of the partner to an economic contract. Thus credit usury is only one of the particular examples and kinds of usury.

Later the author traces the historical evolution of the meaning of the word „interest“. Here he discerns two stages: In the first of them”interest“ is understood as a legal term, in the second as an economic one. Economists have taken pains to distinguish the notion of „interest“ from that of „profit“ and also it from primary (implicit) interest. The author gives his own definition: interest is the value of the gain, which the capital brings to the person who saved it, expressed as a percentage of the value of the capital.

Comparing these two notions the author states that they are taken from two different languages (the first from ethics and the other from economics), and the mixing of these notions causes misunderstandings especially in ethical considerations. As to the extension of these notions, the notion of usury is wider than that of interest. But whether all designates of the notion „interest“ are also „usury“ designates, is a moral problem, and a continuous subject of dispute.

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