Montesquieu

Money is the sign of values. It is clear that whoe­ver needs this sign must hire it, as he does all the things he may need. The whole dif­fe­rence is that other things can be either hired or pur­cha­sed, whe­reas money, which is the price of things, can be hired but not pur­cha­sed.1

It is, to be sure, a wor­thy deed to lend one’s money to someone else without inte­rest, but clearly it can only be a coun­sel of reli­gion and not a civil law.

For com­merce to work well, money must have a price, but that price must be mode­rate. If it is too high, the dea­ler, who sees that it would cost him more in inte­rest than he could gain in his tra­ding, under­ta­kes nothing ; if money has no price, no one lends any, and again the dea­ler under­ta­kes nothing.

I am wrong to say that no one lends any. The busi­ness of society must in any case go for­ward ; usury comes into play, but with the disor­ders that peo­ple have expe­rien­ced in all times.

Mohammed’s law confla­tes usury with len­ding at inte­rest. In Mohammedan coun­tries, usury increa­ses in pro­por­tion to the seve­rity of the pro­hi­bi­tion ; the len­der indem­ni­fies him­self for the risk of the infrac­tion.

In eas­tern coun­tries, most men have nothing secu­red ; there is almost no rela­tion bet­ween the pre­sent pos­ses­sion of a sum and the expec­ta­tion of get­ting it back once it has been loa­ned : usury thus increa­ses in pro­por­tion to the risk of insol­vency.

We are not speaking of cases where gold and silver are considered as merchandise.