Shiller’s Etymological Rigor

I love this paragraph from Robert Shiller. In his argument that critics of finance are mistaken, because finance is really just a tool that helps us meet our goals, he says:

It is a curious and generally overlooked fact that the word finance actually derives from a classical Latin term for “goal.” The dictionary tells us that the word derives from the classical Latin word finis, which is usually translated as end or completion. One dictionary notes that finis developed into the word finance since one aspect of finance is the completion, or repayment, of debts. But it is convenient for our purposes to recall that finis, even in ancient times, was also used to mean “goal,” as with the modern English word end. – Finance and the Good Society, p. 7.

Translation: I like to think of finance as the “completion of goals” rather than “the satisfaction of debts.” And so, even though I can’t prove it was ever used this way, and actually the evidence I do have contradicts my interpretation thereby making this piece of evidence worthless, it is convenient for my purposes to set aside the etymology and believe that finance has always been about the fulfilling of goals.

I think I know why people “generally overlook” this fact.

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