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Money and Morals
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Please try again later. You are already subscribed to this email. News World U. The work may be for pay, but in this view, honest work done well offers compensation beyond money. Indeed, an alternative philosophical tradition about the relationship between economic life and moral virtue, with roots in the work of John Locke and explicitly opposed to the Aristotelian tradition, views work and economic activity not as the grim and amoral drudgery of wage slavery and money making, but as a way individual humans relate to the world around them and shape themselves.
Thus, labor, which is at the basis of economic life, far from enslaving those who engage in it, is the prime expression of human creativity, a true production of new reality governed by human intellect and imagination, in which we can recognize and shape ourselves in accordance with our own will.
In a similar spirit, modern economist-philosophers have compiled a list of virtues that can be intrinsic within market behavior. Deirdre McCloskey wrote of seven virtues of middle-class economic life: love benevolence and friendship , faith integrity , hope entrepreneurship , courage endurance and perseverance , temperance restraint and humility , prudence know-how and foresight , and justice social balance and honesty.
Similarly, Luigino Bruni and Robert Sugden have suggested that participation in work and commerce is congruent with such virtues as self-help, enterprise and alertness, trust and trustworthiness, respect for the wishes of others, and perceiving others as potential partners in a mutually beneficial transaction. But economists who know the history of the wisecrack wear it as a badge of honor.
Mill pointed out that the rich often oppressed the poor and that when the actions and attitudes of the poor seemed uncooperative or dysfunctional, it stemmed from the negative incentives caused by oppression rather than any defect of character. Rather than focusing on philosophical abstractions about the moral content of work, consider a prototypical family: parents working, raising some children, friendly with coworkers and neighbors, interacting with extended family, involved with personal interests and their community. It seems haughty and elitist, or perhaps betraying unworldly detachment, to assert that people who work are condemned to live without virtue—unless they can squeeze in a bit of virtuous activity in their spare time.
On the other hand, it seems bizarrely and unrealistically high minded to assert that daily work surrounds people every day with transformational opportunities for virtue. Even if economic life is not necessarily antithetical to morality and virtue, a related concern is whether the values of economic life may creep outside their appropriate zone.
For example, economic values may be useful when growing wheat, making smartphones, shopping for a refrigerator, or saving for retirement. At some level, the concern that economics may overstep its bounds is well founded. Even economists agree that it would be immoral to sell a child or enslave a human being. Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel has been at the forefront of a movement to raise difficult questions about the expansion of economics into other areas. He wrote:. Should sex be up for sale? What about surrogate motherhood, or pregnancy for pay?
Poverty Erodes Away Morality Essay
Is there anything wrong with mercenary armies, and if so, how should military service be allocated? Should universities sell some seats in the freshman class in order to raise money for worthy purposes, such as a new library or scholarships for well-qualified students from poor families? Should the United States sell the right to immigrate? What about allowing existing U. Should we allow a free market in babies up for adoption? Should people be allowed to sell their votes?
Sandel is a model of philosophical caution. He asks questions, rather than asserting that he has answers, and leaves open the possibility that even if certain moral and civic goals are eroded, in some cases an expanded use of monetary prices may be acceptable. Here are some examples from the U. In 19th century America, buying life insurance was considered a morally unacceptable practice of gambling against God, until it was transformed—by a promotional campaign directed at churches—to become viewed as a prudent way of showing love for family.
In early 20th century America, the sale of alcohol was morally unacceptable for 14 years, until the repeal of Prohibition in Refbacks are On. Forum Rules. Disclaimer: All messages made available as part of this discussion group including any bulletin boards and chat rooms and any opinions, advice, statements or other information contained in any messages posted or transmitted by any third party are the responsibility of the author of that message and not of CSSForum.
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