By Payam Sharifi
The subject and discussion of Ethics for economists is a recent but welcome phenomenon. The creation of the documentary “Inside Job” highlighted the ethical issues facing economists. Various outlets, consisting of many from outside the economics profession as well as some inside, have been demanding that economists and economics itself adopt a code of ethics. Many articles, blogs, and academic papers since that time have been beating the drum for a code to be adopted, as a simple Google search will show. The recent Reinhart and Rogoff flub has also reinvigorated this debate. The objective of this exposition is to show why economics (as it exists currently) cannot, and will not, ever be able to adopt that code of ethics. Well, why not…as I’m sure some of you are asking. Many other professions have a code of ethics that they adhere to…why is it that economics cannot do the same? There are in fact many reasons why this is so. I also advance another approach to economics that has existed for decades, if not longer, in the search to answer the question that forms this essay. Another, but seemingly unrelated topic that is sometimes debated among mainstream economists is the need for economic theory itself to change. As we seek to answer the question of whether Modern economics can be an Ethical science, we will find that the question of economic theory is in fact related. Continue reading
By Michael Hoexter
In a previous post, I outlined how leaders in positions of political power, especially at the national level, are chosen to fulfill a unique ethical role, that differs from that which is appropriate for private individuals and business leaders. Because of the power that accrues to political leaders and the hopes attached to them by their constituents, politicians’ actions in office have much greater repercussions than, for the most part, the actions of individuals and individual businesses in the private sector. Once elected or appointed, political leaders have choices to make, often with room for their own discretion, which draw upon values they hold, values that are in part conditioned by, though not entirely reducible to their political and political-economic ideology. These decisions most often are concerned with policymaking, budgeting, and legislation that impact an entire nation or the international system of nations. Continue reading
By Michael Hoexter
There is no unified theory in our popular understanding of value: there are the market values of goods and then there are our “values” which we consider to be some of the most personal and even sacred aspects of ourselves. Once people emerge from the realm of necessity or being driven by what seems to them to be compulsions of various kinds, they may feel that they are then making decisions which draw to some degree on their ethical or personal values. People often have the impression that most of their financial dealings have little to do with their personal ethics; the realm of market interaction is viewed for the most part as an area of life controlled by forces outside the self or motivated by our insistent drives for self-preservation and pleasure. There are exceptions: people of often modest means give money to religious organizations, as a way to express something of their ethical values or at least the ethical values that are expected of them by their religious community of reference. And wealthy people will tend to use some of their substantial discretionary income to make an ethical statement directed by some combination of personal commitments and the desire to make a public statement about themselves. Alternatively, if someone controls a business or a portion of a business, they may express personal values by the way they conduct themselves in that business or by strategic decisions they may make, with the important proviso that the business must maintain its solvency.