By Christoph Lütge
The concept of competition is frequently regarded with ambivalence. While its champions wholeheartedly endorse it for reasons of efficiency, critics believe competition undermines ethics. They denounce competitive thinking, call for modesty in profit-making, and rail against economisation.
Countering the claims that competition contradicts and undermines ethical thought processes and actions, in The Ethics of Competition Christoph Lütge successfully argues that competition and ethics do not necessarily have to oppose one another. He highlights how intensified competition can in fact work in favour of ethical goals, and that many criticisms of competition stem from an outdated understanding of how modern societies and economies function.
Illustrating this view with examples from ecology, healthcare and education, the author calls for a more entrepreneurial spirit in analysing the relationship between competition and ethics. The Ethics of Competition delivers important arguments for the ethics of innovation, using a combination of theoretical and practical evidence to support it.
Researchers and scholars of economics, business, philosophy and politics will greatly benefit from the fresh interdisciplinary perspectives and thorough exploration of the complex relationship between modern competition and ethics
Table of Contents of The Ethics of Competition
- Competition: Terminology and Concepts
- The Ethical Role of Competition - This chapter explains why competition is useful from an ethical standpoint and for ethical goals. It refers, first, to classical philosophers such as Hume and Kant as well as to Bertrand Russell and John Rawls. Second, the ethical side of arguments from prominent economists such as Friedrich August von Hayek and William Baumol is explored, and examples from real-world economies are given. Finally, two literary authors’ views on competition and ethics are explored: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Thomas Mann.
- Is Life a See-Saw? Zero-Sum Thinking and Moderation - This chapter identifies zero-sum thinking as the primary thought behind the rejection of competition. It traces this thinking throughout the Bible, history, and philosophy, from Martin Luther to Kant, Fichte, and Hegel. It contrasts these views with Adam Smith’s conception of bourgeois virtues. The chapter also addresses cultural differences in attitudes towards competition and cites experimental findings.
- Competition and Ecology - This chapter focuses on how increased competition in ecology does not in fact harm the environment, but can bring about ethical improvements. Zero growth or degrowth are not necessarily ethically and ecologically positive. Examples from China and other contexts are given.
- Competition and Education - This chapter deals with the effects of competition in the education sector. Not every form of competition is ethically valuable. It depends on the actors we allow to compete and in what way. Particular reference is made to changes in the German system of education.
- Competition in Health and Nursing Care - This chapter is dedicated to the question whether increased competition in the fields of healthcare and nursing can lead to ethical improvements. I argue that it is complicated but feasible to set adequate rules for competition to work in an ethical way. Reference is made to the comparison of health sector reforms in different countries. Several seemingly ethical arguments why competition should not enter the health sector are rebutted.
- Competition, Politics, and Media - This chapter discusses the application of the book’s core ideas on competition to the political sphere. Election thresholds and online elections are discussed, as well as ethical standards for competition in the political arena.
- Competition in our Daily Lives - This chapter looks at the way in which we deal with ideas of competition in the private sphere. My concern here is with the mechanisms anchored in our everyday thinking that leads us to repeatedly reject competition and other economic processes. The chapter ends with a call for more entrepreneurship on all levels of society.
- Conclusion - The conclusion recalls the major themes of the book about ethics and competition. It highlights that a major future area of application will be the ethics of digital technologies.
About Christoph Lütge
Christoph Lütge conducts research in the field of business and corporate ethics. He explores regulatory ethics – ethical behavior in the socio-economic framework of the globalized world. The role of competition and the incentives created by frameworks are also examined, as is the adequacy of ethical categories. After studying business informatics and philosophy (doctorate 1999), Prof. Lütge became a research associate at the Chair of Philosophy and Economics at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University. He also completed his lecturer qualification (2005) at the same institution. He has worked as a researcher in Pittsburgh, San Diego and Venice. From 2007 to 2010, he served as acting professor at the Universities of Witten/Herdecke and Braunschweig. Since 2010, he has held the position of Peter Löscher Professor of Business Ethics at TUM.