Today I received an alert about a live Webcast scheduled for tomorrow, December 3rd, that relates to our ongoing exploration of the moral and ethical aspects of the current economic downturn. The John Templeton Foundation (full disclosure: a funder of Speaking of Faith programs on religion and science) is sponsoring a live conversation from London with three contributors to its latest “Big Questions” series, titled “Does the free market corrode moral character?” BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders will moderate a discussion between economist Jagdish Bhagwati and philosophers John Gray and Bernard-Henri Lévy. Follow this link if you’re interested in listening to the Webcast or hearing the perspectives of other contributors to the series.


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Can't corrode what doesn't exist...

It does not corrode the moral character; to the contrary, stimulates, evokes, provokes ethics.

In other words, the free market does not corrode moral character, but corroborate it.

I answered the question without reading other people's comments first. After I red the comments in London, let me give an explanation of my first impression about the question: DOES THE FREE MARKET CORRODE MORAL CHARACTER?

The correlation between free market and moral character makes too much ado about nothing. Statistically, we may find an evident relationship according to the degree of freedom of people’ choices. But everyone knows about the uncertain human being. Subjective probability then through individual judgment or opinion will be based on a combination of an individual’s past experience, personal point of view, and analysis of a particular situation. How good is your evidence? What other knowledge do you have, another kind of additional information? All are assumptions. It needs numbers. There is no consistency in the answers. We can not conclude, judge; and to lead us to think that the free market corrodes moral character, there is not validity in the question because ethics is not to be measured by inches or numbers or personal opinions.

We are in the middle of a collision science.

To appreciate the humanness of the market, expectancy theory is useful because we know we can have many reactions about the subject. What is our real motivation to participate in a free market? Utility, free will, efforts will result in successful rewards and outcomes however how individual behavior is energized, directed, motivated, and stopped. Prediction with the theory creates awareness that influences the process in a manner that facilitates the attachment of positive outcomes. Evaluation for rewards makes value about what we get.

Outdated attitudes are the crux of the discussion. We are easily diluted thinking whether on not free market corrode moral character. The free market is simply an element or part of a larger system, the environment. The key to a free market’s success is the institution or availability of the ethical value of our human resources and talents. The role of spirituality is tacit in the free market. It has nothing to say with the free market. It has to be spoken with each one of us, how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and what sprees around our heads, as we people are all talking today. All responses are an adaptive response related with our lifestyle. It could be excruciating if we all agree the free market corrodes moral character. The never-ending struggle of some people - who believe in other world that does not exist today - is expecting a different outcome that the traditional development of personal, social, and spiritual structures.

There is nothing that can corrode moral character in me but myself.

It takes a great deal of inner security and courage to be able to risk one’s self in understanding others. Blaming the survival system sub-optimize our dignity. It is going to break the natural law in a destructive testing.

I actually worked in a large NYC real estate consulting firm where people believed that the invisible hand of the market would only reward virtue. I remember hearing my CEO say, "I didn't think that kind of activity was respectable but _____ is making money at it, so it must be okay." There was no sense that morality ought to restrain actions, only that bad conduct would be penalized by the market.

I do not feel that Free Markets corrode moral character. I do think that Free Markets reflect the moral character of a culture. Money is a limited resourse so what we spend our money on is a reflection of what we value.

I'd like to think that a better reflection of our values is how we spend our time, rather than what I spend my money on.