Moral Markets: The Critical Role Of Values In The Economy

Introduction(Via Neuroeconomics Studies)

Just as nature is “red in tooth and claw,” so is market exchange. All market participants—from business owners and managers to their employees to the grandmother shopping at her local grocery story—must eke out every possible efficiency or be crushed by the capitalist machine . . . or perhaps not. This book hopes to convince readers that both Alfred Tennyson’s characterization of competition in nature, quoted above, and an uncritical reading about selfish competition in markets in Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature andCauses of the Wealth of Nations are not so much wrong as incomplete and, inthe view of the contributors to this volume, woefully so.

The intertwining of biology and behavior is the leitmotif of this book. A biologically based approach both constrains and informs the analysis. The constraint restricts analyses that connect morals and markets to be consistent with evolution and behaviors in closely related species such as apes. Conclusions violating this constraint are fundamentally suspect. The biological approach is novel, as it elucidates variation along the continuum of behaviors, permitting one to extract that which is both relevant and amenable to policy. The rationale for this approach is to provide convergent evidence that modern market exchange is inconceivable without moral values. Although this idea is not new—scholars from Aristotle to Adam Smith have made related arguments—the revival of this idea and the modern evidence for it is controversial.

Excerpts(Via Neuroeconomics Studies)

Understanding the basis for moral behavior is a topic of heightened academic and popular interest based on the spate of recent scientific articles and trade books on the topic. Why do we care what makes others behave in good or evil ways? At one level, we cannot help it. We are hypersocial apes. We live and work among those to whom we are not closely related, strangers constantly in our midst. We are inveterate consumers and producers of gossip about others. We simply need to know the whats and whys.

Aristotle, Plato, Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed all recognized that values are the foundation for happiness, and their wisdom has stood the test of time. The modern tools of psychology and neuroscience are providing new, often compelling insights into moral values. In the dawn of the twenty-first century, every field of inquiry seems to have a “neuro” attached to it, and neuroethics has recently blossomed. Although the classical philosophers provided logical answers to ethical dilemmas, the question of why something was moral seemed forever in dispute, depending on the exquisite (or excruciating) philosophical reasoning. By examining people’s brains, an understanding of why we are moral (or not) is emerging.

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About Miguel Barbosa

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31. October 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Behavioral Economics, Curated Readings | Leave a comment

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