Articles & Blogs on the Ethics of Markets / Economics / Business

Business Advice from Aristotle; The Philosopher’s Teachings Were Not an Absolute Condemnation of the Pursuit of Profit.

“Aristotle’s writings include ample fodder against today’s corporations; he emphasized the value in virtue and simplicity, and prioritized the betterment of society over the advancement of the individual. And yet, the philosopher’s teachings were not an absolute condemnation of the pursuit of profit. Denis Collins argues in the Journal of Business Ethics, ‘that it would be improper to use Aristotle’s thought as a blanket disapproval of business and profits’.”

Wealth Inequality Is Literally Killing Us. The Economy Should Work for Everyone

Short video with Alissa Quart, author of Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America (2018). Summary: “Economic hardship is linked to physical and psychological illness, resulting in added healthcare expenses people can’t afford. The gig economy – think Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Handy – is marketed as a ‘be your own boss’ revolution, but it can be dehumanizing and dangerous; every worker is disposable. The cooperative business model can help reverse wealth inequality.”

The State of Socially Responsible Investing

“investors are increasingly conscious of the social and environmental consequences of the decisions that governments and companies make. They can be quick to punish companies for child labor practices, human rights abuses, negative environmental impact, poor governance, and a lack of gender equality. Pair this with an increase in regulatory drivers post-2008 crisis, and a deepening understanding of the impacts of climate change and associated risk to performance, and we begin to see more clearly the need for investment models that will better address investors’ concerns.”

Toward ‘Humanomics’: Deirdre McCloskey on Honoring the World of Human Creation

“In her transformative Bourgeois Era trilogy, economist Deirdre McCloskey challenged our popular theories about the causes of our newfound economic prosperity, arguing that it sprung not from new systems, tools, or materials, but rather the ideas, virtues, and rhetoric behind them. […] Now, in a new paper, “How Growth Happens”, McCloskey aims to summarize and distill ‘the core economics and economic history’ from that same trilogy, while adding some new ideas and rhetorical upgrades along the way.”

Sugar Daddy Capitalism: Even the World’s Oldest Profession Is Being Uberised

“The sleazy ‘sugar baby’ scandal involving Australian politician Andrew Broad, exposed for his reported cringy attempts to hook up with a woman almost half his age, might look like just another case of a politician caught in flagrante delicto. […] What gives this story greater social import is how the pair met – through a dating platform designed specifically to match wealthy men with young attractive women. Such sites, as I argue in a recently published book, symbolise the rise of what I call sugar daddy capitalism – a deformalisation movement at the centre of Western capitalism that is erasing already blurred lines between commercial and non-commercial worlds.

Why a Market Model Is Destroying the Safeguards of the Professions

“We are all customers now; we are all supposed to be kings. But what if ‘being a customer’ is the wrong model for healthcare, education, and even highly specialised crafts and trades? What the market-based model overlooks is hyperspecialisation […]. We depend on other people’s knowledge and expertise, because we can learn and study only so many things in our lifetimes. Whenever specialist knowledge is at stake, we are the opposite of a well-informed customer. […] But it can be hard to trust professionals forced to work in neoliberal regimes.”

The Downside of Doing Good with a Market Mindset

“In his provocative new book “Winners Take All” [which “grew from a controversial talk he made in 2015″] Giridharadas contends that the wealthy philanthropists and other prominent social change leaders co-exist in a parallel universe he calls ‘MarketWorld,’ where the best solutions to society’s problems require the same knowhow used in corporate boardrooms. That is because MarketWorld, as he sees it, ignores the underlying causes for problems like poverty and hunger.”

The Economics of ‘Cash for Cane Toads’ – A Textbook Example of Perverse Incentives

“Hanson’s proposal involves paying welfare recipients 10 cents for each toad they collect (alive) and hand over to their local council. The council would then kill the toads humanely in large freezers. […] That’s the crux of why this payment scheme wouldn’t work. Setting a high price perverts the incentives, while setting a low price crowds out intrinsic motivations. In either case, taxpayer money is wasted and the toad problem is potentially made worse.”

Adam Smith on Externalities

“A friend recently inquired about Adam Smith’s view on externalities. A much longer post is needed to break apart several important ideas. First, one would need to disentangle the invisible hand concept from market “efficiency.” […] Second, while Smith does not discuss (to my awareness) externalities arising from environmental pollution, he did write that private market transactions could pollute or corrupt one’s mind. Here are two examples, one negative and one positive.”

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