14. The character qualities of merchants are inferior to
those of leading personalities and remote
In 71 the preceding section, we stated that a merchant must concern himself with buying and selling, earning money and making a profit. This requires cunning, willingness to enter into disputes, cleverness, constant quarreling, and great persistence. These are things that belong to commerce. They are qualities detrimental to and destructive of virtuousness and manliness, because it is unavoidable that actions influence the soul. Good actions influence it toward goodness and virtue. Evil and deceitful actions influence it in the opposite sense. If (evil and deceitful actions) come first 72 and good qualities later, the former become firmly and deeply rooted and detract from the good qualities, since the blameworthy influence (of the evil actions) has left its imprint upon the soul, as is the case with all habits that originate from actions.
These influences differ according to the different types of merchants. Those who are of a very low type and associated closely with bad traders who cheat and defraud and perjure themselves, asserting and denying statements concerning transactions and prices, are much more strongly affected by these bad character qualities. Deceitfulness becomes their main characteristic. Manliness is completely- alien to them, beyond their power to acquire. At any rate, it is unavoidable that their cunning and their willingness to enter into disputes affects their manliness (adversely). The complete absence of (any adverse effect) is very rare among them.
There exists a second kind of merchant, which we mentioned in the preceding section, namely, those who have the protection of rank and are thus spared (the onus) of having anything to do personally with such (business manipulations).73 They are most uncommon. For they are people who have all of a sudden come into the possession of a good deal of money in some unusual way, or have inherited money from a member of their family. Thus, they have obtained the wealth that helps them to associate with the people of the dynasty and to gain prominence and renown among their contemporaries. Therefore, they are too proud to have anything personally to do with such (business manipulations), and they leave them to the care of their agents and servants. It is easy for them to have the magistrates confirm their rights, because (the magistrates) are familiar with their beneficence and gifts. (These merchants) will thus be remote from such (bad) character qualities, since they have nothing to do with the actions that bring them about, as has just been mentioned. Their manliness, therefore, will be very firmly rooted and very remote from these destructive qualities, save for the influences of such evil actions as may slip in behind the scenes.74 For they are compelled to supervise their agents and to concur with or oppose the things they do and do not do. However, these (activities) are limited, and their influence is scarcely perceptible.
"God created you and whatever you do." 75
14. The character qualities of merchants are inferior to those of noblemen and rulers.
This is because merchants are mostly occupied with buying and selling. This necessarily requires cunning. If a merchant always practices cunning, it becomes his dominant character quality. The quality of cunning is remote from that of manliness which is the characteristic quality of rulers and noblemen.
If the character of (the merchant) then adopts the bad qualities that follow from (cunning) in low-class merchants, such as quarrelsomeness, cheating, defrauding, as well as (the inclination to) commit perjury in rejecting and accepting statements concerning prices, his character can be expected to be one of the lowest sort, for well-known reasons76 It is because of the character that one acquires through the practice of commerce that political leaders avoid engaging in it. There are some merchants who are not affected by those character qualities and who are able to avoid them, because they have noble souls and are magnanimous, but they are very rare in this world.
"God guides whomever He wants to guide" 77 with His bounty and generosity. He is the Lord of the first ones and the last ones.