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The moral ecology of markets: on the failure of the amoral defense of markets

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  • Daniel Finn

Abstract

Many economists have defended capitalism; most have tried to do so within the self-imposed methodological constraint that economists should employ only empirical arguments, not normative ones. This essay examines three classic amoral defenses of capitalism—by Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, and Friedrich Hayek—and argues that each fails on its own terms, since each implicitly incorporates moral presumptions essential to the author's argument. Constructively, the essay proposes that no one can adequately endorse (or critique) markets without making a moral evaluation of their context—their “moral ecology.” Four issues are identified as necessarily addressed in every adequate evaluation of markets. The essay does not endorse any one position on these elements, but argues instead that seemingly incommensurable standpoints on markets—ranging from Marxist to libertarian—actually represent positions on the these four basic issues.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Finn, 2003. "The moral ecology of markets: on the failure of the amoral defense of markets," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 61(2), pages 135-162.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:61:y:2003:i:2:p:135-162
    DOI: 10.1080/0034676032000098192
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Brennan, Geoffrey & Buchanan, James, 1981. "The normative purpose of economic "science": Rediscovery of an eighteenth century method," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 155-166, December.
    2. repec:mes:jeciss:v:9:y:1975:i:1:p:15-38 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Robert Prasch & Falguni Sheth, 1999. "The Economics and Ethics of Minimum Wage Legislation," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 57(4), pages 466-487.
    4. Bruce Caldwell, 1997. "Hayek and Socialism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(4), pages 1856-1890, December.
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