Posts tagged with: ethics

Brooks-2x1500We continue to see the expansion of freedom and the economic prosperity around the world. And yet, despite having enjoyed such freedom and its fruits for centuries, the West is stuck in a crisis of moral imagination.

For all of its blessings, modernity has led many of us to pair our comfort and prosperity with a secular, naturalistic ethos, relishing in our own strength and designs and trusting in the power of reason to drive our ethics.

The result is a uniquely moralistic moral vacuum, a “liberal paradox,” as Gaylen Byker calls it — “a hunger for meaning and values in an age of freedom and plenty.”

In the past, American prosperity has been buoyed by the strength of its institutions: religious, civil, political, economic, and otherwise. But as writers such as Yuval Levin and Charles Murray have aptly outlined, the religious and institutional vibrancy that Alexis de Tocqueville once hailed appears to be dwindling, making the space between individual and state increasingly thin.

The revival and restoration of religious and civic life is essential if we hope to cultivate a free and virtuous society, occurring across spheres and sectors, from the family to business, from the church to political institutions.

Given the increasing attacks on religious liberty, Christian colleges and universities are standing particularly tall, even as they endure some of the highest heat. In a recent talk for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, David Brooks demonstrates the cultural importance of retaining that liberty, explaining how his recent experiences with Christian educational institutions have affirmed their role in weaving (or re-weaving) the fabric of American life. (Read his full remarks here.) (more…)

JMM_19 1Our most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, vol. 19, no. 1, has now been published online and print issues are in the mail.

In addition to our regular slate of articles examining the intersections between faith, freedom, markets, and morality, this issue contains a new entry in our Scholia special feature section: “Advice to a Desolate France” by Sebastian Castellio. Writing in 1562, Castellio was one of the first early modern defenders of freedom of religion on the basis of freedom of conscience, in the midst of a turbulent time of conflict between Roman Catholics and Protestants in sixteenth-century France. His insights should still be valuable today, both to scholars and others who value that same freedom.

As is our usual custom, this issue’s editorial, “Self-Interest and Moral Contexts,” is open access. In it, I examine the necessity of context for determining the morality of the choices of market actors:

The economic idea of self-interest as the driving motivator of economic (and other) behavior is as widely accepted by economists as it is criticized by others. The critics, generally, object to the assumption that “widespread and/or persistent human behavior can be explained by a generalized calculus of utility-maximizing behavior,” to quote George Stigler and Gary Becker. Is not that selfishness? And is not selfishness immoral? And do not people, at least sometimes, act morally? Furthermore, should not they be encouraged to act altruistically instead of only thinking of their own interests?

In reality, context complicates such moralisms.

The full editorial can be read and downloaded here.

Read the entire issue here.

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LessiusCover-01In his famous work, History of Economic Analysis, economist Joseph A. Schumpeter gives a favorable nod to the works of Leonardus Lessius (1554–1623), sparking a fair amount of interest in the 16th-century Jesuit moral theologian.

CLP Academic has now published On Sale, Securities, and Insurance, a selection from Lessius’ most influential contribution to early modern economics, ethics, and law. The book offers the first full English translation of key sections of the second book (On Justice) of Lessius’ treatise On Justice and Right (De iustitia et iure), specifically chapters 21 (On Sale-purchase) and 28 (On Suretyship, Insurance, Pledge, and Mortgage).

Based at the Jesuit College in Louvain, Lessius earned the reputation as “Oracle of the Netherlands” for the advice and analysis he offered to local merchants, jurists, and political rulers regarding matters of conscience, duty, and justice.

As translator Wim Decock writes in the introduction: “Though dwelling on the virtues of prudence, fortitude, and temperance too, the better part of the treatise includes a systematic treatment of the virtue of justice and, particularly, of property, torts, and contract law.” (more…)

walter_williams2On this day in 1936, Walter E. Williams was born in the city of Philadelphia. The George Mason University economist is famous for his classical liberal views, often arguing that free market capitalism is not only the most moral economic system known to mankind, but it allows for the creation of the most wealth and prosperity. He has discussed many diverse themes, including: race in the United States, politics, liberty, education, and more. A prolific writer, Williams has written ten books, dozens of essays for scholarly journals, and hundreds of newspaper articles.

In honor of turning eighty, here are ten excellent quotes from Williams:

At the beginning of each semester, I tell students that my economic theory course will deal with positive, non-normative economic theory. I also tell them that if they hear me making a normative statement without first saying, “In my opinion,” they are to raise their hands and say, “Professor Williams, we didn’t take this class to be indoctrinated with your personal opinions passed off as economic theory; that’s academic dishonesty.” I also tell them that as soon as they hear me say, “In my opinion,” they can stop taking notes because my opinion is irrelevant to the subject of the class — economic theory. Another part of this particular lecture to my students is that by no means do I suggest that they purge their vocabulary of normative or subjective statements. Such statements are useful tools for tricking people into doing what you want them to do. You tell your father that you need a cell phone and he should buy you one. There’s no evidence whatsoever that you need a cell phone. After all, George Washington managed to lead our nation to defeat Great Britain, the mightiest nation on Earth at the time, without owning a cell phone.

Democracy and liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual.

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JMM_18.2Our most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, vol. 18, no. 2, has now been published online and print issues are in the mail.

In addition to our regular slate of articles examining the intersections between faith, freedom, markets, and morality, this issue contains the text of the Theology of Work Consultation symposium at the 2014 conference of the Evangelical Theological Society. The subject was “The Economics of the Theological Vocation.” The entire symposium, as well as executive editor Jordan J. Ballor’s editorial on the subject, is open access.

In addition, associate editor Hunter Baker’s review essay on Kevin M. Kruse’s One Nation Under God and Timothy E. W. Gloege’s Guaranteed Pure is also open access. In it, Baker seeks to answer the question, “Is Christian America Invented? And Why Does It Matter?”

One last highlight: We are pleased to include a republication of a rare 1941 essay by German economist Wilhelm Röpke, “A Value Judgment on Value Judgments.” Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute and a scholar of Röpke’s work, authored the introduction, “A Value Judgment on ‘A Value Judgment on Value Judgments.'”

Read the entire issue here.

Subscription instructions to access all of our content can be found here.

JMMIt’s a new year, and I’ve had occasion to do some retrospection on various things, including the Journal of Markets & Morality. The Fall 2015 issue is at the printers, and that marks the completion of 18 years of articles, reviews, essays, translations, and controversies. (Subscribe today to get your copy!)

Here are the top 5 most downloaded articles from the JMM website (which went live in 2012):

1) Svetozar Pejovich, “The Effects of the Interaction of Formal and Informal Institutions on Social Stability and Economic Development,” Journal of Markets & Morality 2, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 164-181.

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to develop a testable theory—the interaction thesis—capable of explaining why there are differences in economic stability and growth rates between various countries; or, stated negatively, why less efficient countries do not duplicate the economic policies of more successful ones. The interaction thesis identifies the interplay of formal and informal rules as a principal factor affecting economic stability and growth rates. Furthermore, the thesis also sheds light on how the method of choosing formal rules is a major circumstance upon which the interplay of formal and informal rules depends.
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industrial-revolution-1024x665Economist Deirdre McCloskey is set to release the long-anticipated conclusion of the Bourgeois Era trilogy sometime next spring.

The book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, will build on her thesis that our newfound prosperity is not primarily due to systems, tools, or materials, but the ideas and rhetoric behind them.

“The Great Enrichment, in short, came out of a novel, pro-bourgeois, and anti-statist rhetoric that enriched the world,” she writes, in a lengthy teaser for National Review. “It is, as Adam Smith said, ‘allowing every man [and woman, dear] to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice.’”

In an age where the Left continues to make age-old Marxian arguments about the destructive ju-ju of accumulated wealth, and where the Right is increasingly prone to react on those same grounds, McCloskey reminds us that the premises are entirely different. (more…)