Thanks to Tom Hering for this quotation from Martin Luther, On Trading and Usury, 1524:
via Comments ‹ Cranach: The Blog of Veith — WordPress.
Of the companies I ought to say much, but that whole subject is such a bottomless abyss of avarice and wrong that there is nothing in it that can be discussed with a clear conscience. For what man is so stupid as not to see that companies are nothing else than mere monopolies? Even the temporal law of the heathen forbids them as openly injurious, to say nothing of the divine law and Christian statutes. They have all commodities under their control and practice without concealment all the tricks that have been mentioned; they raise and lower prices as they please and oppress and ruin all the small merchants, as the pike the little fish in the water, just as though they were lords over God’s creatures and free from all the laws of faith and love …
… How could it ever be right and according to God’s will that a man should in a short time grow so rich that he could buy out kings and emperors? But they have brought things to such a pass that the whole world must do business at a risk and at a loss, winning this year and losing next year, while they always win, making up their losses by increased profits, and so it is no wonder that they quickly seize upon the wealth of all the world, for a pfennig that is permanent and sure is better than a gulden that is temporary and uncertain. But these companies trade with permanent and sure gulden, and we with temporary and uncertain pfennigs. No wonder they become kings and we beggars!
Now I don’t think this means Luther would Occupy Wall Street if he were here today, but there is quite a bit here: He opposes monopolies, which are always anti-free-market. (The paradox that the free market will create businesses that try to prevent the free market from working against them by establishing monopolies was noted by Marx, but I believe conservatives agree with this problem.) He also seems to want “strong money,” as opposed to inflationary and easily-manipulated soft currency.
Luther speaks as a theologian, not as an economist, as if that field existed then as it does today, but doesn’t this strike a chord?