glyph 28: Islam . Spain, Spanish scholastics . Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Minaret of Freedom ... Murray N. Rothbard . subjective value theory . market price . origin of free market thought . economics, austrian school, freedom, scholastic philosophy ... a devlopmental path: ancient Greek economics > Muslim economics > Spanish Scholastic economics > Austrian School economics


Islam and the Medieval Progenitors of Austrian Economics", by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

some of the origins of Austrian School market theory?

A Paper for the Durell Institute Fall 1995 Conference
by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
Minaret of Freedom Institute
4323 Rosedale Avenue Bethesda, MD 20814
Bethesda, MD 20814

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad writes:


In his posthumously published survey of the history of economics, Murray Rothbard traced the origins of free market thought as understood by the "Austrian" school back to the thirteenth century scholastics and sixteenth century Spanish economists. We find interesting parallels to these views in the contemporaneous and preceding Islamic tradition. We call for an extension of Rothbard's work to the Islamic contemporaries and predecessors of the Christian scholars that he studied.


Murray Rothbard reveled in challenging conventional wisdom. In his posthumously published book on the history of economic thought, Rothbard (1995) challenged the popular notion that Adam Smith was the first great hero of free market thought. In particular, he was determined to explode the myth that the scholastics should be dismissed "as moralistic medieval ignoramuses who kept warning that the 'just' price must cover a merchant's cost of production plus a reasonable profit" (Rothbard, p. x). With undisguised delight, Rothbard (pp. x-xi) identifies the scholastics as "'proto-Austrians', with a sophisticated subjective utility theory of value and price." With his characteristic rhetorical relish, Rothbard asserts that Smith "took the sound, and almost fully developed, proto-Austrian subjective value tradition, and typically shunted economics onto a false path, a dead end from which the Austrians had to rescue economics a century later" (Rothbard, p. xi).

Rothbard (p. xii) properly emphasizes that to omit the religious outlook of the economists about which he writes would skew our picture of the history of economics. Yet, this observation is ironic since Rothbard makes no mention whatever in his history of the Muslim economists whose tradition fills the gap between the "Greeks" and the scholastic and Spanish scholars in whose works Rothbard finds so many "proto-Austrian" ideas.

I would like to see Rothbard's work extended to include the Muslim economists of the classical era. I believe that it would prove as enlightening as the studies into Islamic development of the modern scientific method in the natural sciences has been (Ahmad 1992). The "revolution" of modern science in Europe was a continuation of a tradition picked up from the Islamic civilization and advanced to new heights in modern times. As a preliminary move in the direction of such a study in the area of economic theory, I would like to place some of the early "proto-Austrian" achievements which Rothbard uncovered alongside the work of the classical era Muslims. First we shall look at some of the characteristics of the 13th century scholastics in the light of the Islamic economics up to that time, and then we shall consider the work of the fourteenth century scholar, Ibn Khaldun in the light of the subsequent work of the sixteenth century Spaniards of the Salamanca school.

The dual mission of the Minaret of Freedom Institute is to educate Muslims on the importance of liberty and free markets to a good society, while educating non-Muslims about the beliefs and contributions of Islam and the political realities of conflict between the two cultures.

The complete article is at

Minaret of Freedom

"The Spanish Roots of Austrian Economics"
glyph 456 The Spanish Roots of the Austrian School - an interview with Jesús Huerta de Soto
entered before July 9, 2006; edited/updated November 26, 2015

a list of all glyphs