The Spring 2017 Philosophy Colloquium Series presents our own Guido Pincione and Fernando Tesón (Florida State University). The title of their talk is "Markets And Motives." (Abstract below.)
Friday, Apr 21, 3-5pm, Maloney Seminar Room, Social Sciences 224.
"Markets And Motives"
Many people complain that markets rest on egoism. Adam Smith's famous invisible-hand argument for the free market exposes, ironically, why the market may be thought to be vulnerable to such critique. An economic system that rewards egoism cannot possibly promote virtue, because morality requires us to be attentive to the desires, needs, and suffering of others, over and above viewing those desires, needs, and suffering as opportunites for trade. Call this the ethical critique of the market.
We reject the ethical critique on three counts. First, the market treats virtue seriously precisely because it economizes on virtue. It induces individuals to benefit others at no personal cost, and so it frees motivational resources-moral energy, as it were-for virtuous activity. Second, the ethical critique does not reach the common case of those who consume or invest knowing that this creates jobs and improves in other ways the lives of others. Those individuals are animated by motives that are relevantly analogous to the motives that G. A. Cohen and other ethical critics of the market attribute to members of the ideal society that they advocate. And third, the behavior needed to sustain well-functioning markets requires a specific kind of virtue: the strength to resist temptations of opportunistic defection from the rules of property and contract that define a free market. We will argue that this virtue is part and parcel of the "bourgeois virtues" that Deirdre McCloskey describes in her recent work, and for this reason it can be practiced at low personal cost.