The Socratic Society’s Philosophy Discussion Group meets again on Tuesday, June 3rd in Morven Brown 372 from midday until 2pm. Anyone with an interest in the topic is welcome, and you can come and go at any time; you don’t need to be there for the whole two hours.
The topic is “The Ethics of Economics”.
Does economics have an underlying ethical nature or should it be detached from ethical considerations altogether?
Ethics is the study of essentially what is right and wrong in respect to our character and actions. ‘Ethics’ is taken from the Greek word ethos which means the “tone of the community or its habits and customs”. Economics is the study of the management of concerns and resources of a community and the theory of the production and distribution of wealth. The original translation of ‘economics’ referred to managing one’s house.
Adam Smith, a Scottish moral philosopher and political economist, wrote one of the most influential pieces for market based economics. In ‘The Wealth of Nations’ (1776), he held that the ‘invisible hand’ of the market, along with free trade in a laissez-faire system, was the most desired method of organising and structuring an economy and is still taught in economics. However, Smith included certain moral restraints within this piece which have largely been forgotten today.
Economics has also taken some of its most important theoretical material from Utilitarianism, created by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, which is the idea that the moral value of an action is determined solely by its contribution to the overall utility in maximizing happiness or pleasure of the greatest number. There is clearly a link between the two disciplines both in their origins and in their intended purposes. But in today’s consumerist society is this link still visible or has the increasing desire for economics to be seen as a scientific subject created a gap that is now too wide to recover from and is there a need for ethical considerations in the area or economics or should we leave the market alone?
See you on Tuesday…..