Free Market and Market Character

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Free Market and Market Character

The main difficulty in tackling this question is squaring moral means with moral ends, (Wilkinson, 2008). Moral character, or virtue, is a means to achieving moral ends. As the socioeconomic structure changes so do the means of achieving moral ends. Free markets flourishes along fast socioeconomic change, and therefore market cultures are most likely to see a mismatch between the traits of moral character valued by the culture and the traits of character actually effective as means within the existing structure for achieving moral ends.

Due to the indifference of each individual, perspectives vary according to the superannuated standards of our lagging moral culture while the system simultaneously delivers moral goods more effectively than at any time in human history. So, the correct answer to the question is: Yes, market societies corrode traditional moral norms, although this corrosion is an integral part of moral progress. John gray in his view of the effect of free market on market character suggests comparison of realistic alternatives and understanding how different systems promote divergent types of human character.

His definition of a free market sidelines the view that free markets emerge spontaneously when state interference in the economy is removed, or simply free markets the ‘absence of government’. Instead markets in his view depend on systems of law to decide what can be traded as a commodity and what cannot. Therefore, free markets not only contain some moral restraints which are policed by the government, but also rely on property rights mostly created and enforced by the government.

The free market as in the past mid-Victorian England came about not because the state withdrew from the economy, but rather because state power was used to privatize land that had been under various forms of common ownership, or not owned at all. Historically, it is evident that economic systems are living things, and rarely do free markets operate according to the established economic models; except in economics textbooks where markets are self-regulating.

On the contrary, the relation between economics and ethics can be seen more clearly in the light that traits of character most rewarded by free markets are entrepreneurial boldness, the willingness to speculate and gamble, and the ability to seize new opportunities. In order to survive and prosper in free market economies one has to embrace such skills and risk-taking actions as retooling one’s skills, relocating and switching careers.

According to Adam Smith, one of the originators of free-market economics, markets cannot be confined to the marketplace because free markets demand a high degree of mobility and an ingrained readiness to exit from relationships that are no longer profitable; a direct reflection of the humanity in our lives. Adam’s fear and Gray’s perception matter the least when it has been proved that though free markets reward some moral traits, they also undermine others. The moral hazards of free markets do not mean that other economic systems are any better.

Therefore, no economic system can fully attend to every aspect of moral character; instead all rely on motives that are morally questionable. A sensible combination cannot be achieved by applying an ideal model of how the economy should work. Different mixes will be best in different historical contexts. But one thing is clear: a modern market economy cannot do without a measure of moral corrosion. Tyler (2008) is of the opinion that free markets operate like amplifiers; the abundance placed in our disposal tends to boost and accentuate whatever character tendencies we already possess.

He believes that other features of the free market also encourage the better angels of our nature and discourage our destructive impulses; thus allowing people to realize a range of good intentions. Market-friendly societies are attractive to immigrants. Transparency International annually issues an index of the most corrupt places in the world to do business. The countries topping last year’s list were Iraq, Myanmar, and Somalia, while the least corrupt countries were Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand, all of which have active market economies.

In relation to such a report, it is obvious that the rise of markets and the decline of corruption are part of a common and consistent thread of progress. Markets purpose to create a consensus around certain moral expectations: that agreements should be binding, that honesty is expected in transactions, and that economic actors are held accountable for broken promises. However not all markets are ‘free’ because ‘corrupt’ markets do not meet the above standards, as a similarly in a variety of other human imperfections.

By making more social activity of every kind possible, the market creates greater scope for these vices. As observers of economic life, many of us focus too often on these sorts of negative examples. But we need to take a wider view of human progress. In the midst of our own long era of economic growth and expansion, it is obvious that the positive features of markets decisively outweigh their negative features. This is true not only because of the practical and material benefits of wealth creation but because of its beneficial effect on personal morality as well.

Irrespective of the side taken by each market analyst, a common ground runs through in the aspects of moral and social issues. In his judgment, Globalization, leads not only to the creation and spread of wealth but to ethical outcomes and to better moral character among its participants. In contrast Hymowitz believes that market economies weaken the cultural conspiracy in three powerful ways. First, they introduce novelty, which tests established cultural habits and moral verities. Second, they provoke individual desire in ways that can easily weaken the self-discipline and moral obligations that make free markets flourish.

And lastly, as they advance, market economies become more likely to treat the yet-to-be-socialized child as an autonomous, adult-like actor rather than as an undeveloped dependent. On the hand, subscribes to the liberal school of thought as pioneered by Adam Smith or Milton Friedman. According to this school of thought, freedom of the individual is the highest aim, and the ultimate test of a one’s character is his ability to pursue his own chosen goals in life without infringing upon the freedom of others pursuit of their own goals.

From this perspective, free economic activity among individuals, corporations, and nations boosts such desirable qualities as trust, honesty, and hard work. Other panelists on the same big question, has each faithfully attested to his or her view but at one point came to the conclusion that the answer to this question depends on how one conceives the good life; prescribing that at all times we should ensure to take a wider view of human progress. ? References Jagdish, Bhagwati.

Does the Free Market Corrode Moral Character? London. 2008 December 3, 2008. 3 March 2009 < http://www. templeton. org/market/PDF/Cowen. pdf> Tyler, Cowen. Does the Free Market Corrode Moral Character? London. 2008 December 3, 2008. 3 March 2009 < http://www. templeton. org/market/PDF/ Bhagwati. pdf> Will, Wilkinson. Does the Free Market Corrode Moral Character, London. 2008 October 6, 2008. 3 March 2009 < http://www. willwilkinson. net/flybottle/2008/10/06/does-the-free- market-corrode-moral-character/>

John, Templeton Foundation. “Supporting Science-Investing in the Big Questions: An interview with leading scientists, scholars, and public figures,” Does the Free Market Corrode Moral Character. 3 December 2008. 3 March 2009 < http://www. templeton. org/market/> Lockwood, Anne Turnbaugh. “Community Collaboration and Social Capital: An Interview with Gary G. Wehlage. ” Leaders for Tomorrow’s Schools. 2 May 2001. 19 July 2001 http://www. ncrel. org/cscd/pubs/lead21/2-1m. htm>.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

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