“Students of free enterprise usually trace the origins of pro-market thinking to Scottish professor Adam Smith (1723-90). This tendency to see Smith as the fountainhead of economics is reinforced among Americans because his famed book An Inquiry into the Nature and the Causes of the Wealth of Nation was published the year of American independence from Britain.
There is much that this view of intellectual history overlooks. The real founders of economic science actually wrote hundreds of years before Smith. They were not economists as such, but moral theologians, trained in the tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas, and they came to be known collectively as the Late Scholastics. These men, most of whom taught in Spain, were at least as pro-free market as the Scottish tradition came to be much later. Plus, their theoretical foundation was even more solid: they anticipated the theories of value and price of the “marginalists” of late-nineteenth-century Austria.1″