In a Free Enterprise System, Do Justice and Virtue Win or Lose?

4-5 January 2014
Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India
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Paper Abstract
Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World

The Great Enrichment in the west, 1800 to the present, and now in China and India and the world, was not caused by accumulation of capital, whether physical or human, virtuously saved or perfidiously stolen. It was caused by innovation, that is, human creativity released first in North-Western Europe by a new dignity and liberty for ordinary people. The society accepted for the first time the Bourgeois Deal: let commoners innovate and they will make everybody rich. There was nothing deeply European about the event, as its rapid spread beyond Europe shows. The prospects are good for raising up the poor of the world through market-tested innovation and supply.

The World Is Too Much With Us? On The Expanding Reach of the Market

‘The market’—buying, selling and investing—is increasingly present in people’s lives as more and more goods and services become ‘marketised.’ How should we view these developments? Do they constitute an expansion of freedom or a growing subjection? Or better, when should we speak of the former and when the latter? To what extent is this an empirical question, to be decided by evidence, and to what extent, a duck-rabbit question?

Free Market Fairness

Can libertarians care about social justice? In Free Market Fairness, John Tomasi argues that they can and should. Drawing simultaneously on moral insights from defenders of economic liberty such as F.A. Hayek and advocates of social justice such as John Rawls, Tomasi presents a new theory of liberal justice. This theory, free market fairness, is committed to both limited government and the material betterment of the poor.

Unlike traditional libertarians, Tomasi argues that property rights are best defended not in terms of self-ownership or economic efficiency but as requirements of democratic legitimacy.  At the same time, he encourages egalitarians concerned about social justice to listen more sympathetically to the claims ordinary citizens make about the importance of private economic liberty in their daily lives.  In place of the familiar social democratic interpretations of social justice, Tomasi offers a “market democratic” conception of social justice: free market fairness.  Tomasi argues that free market fairness, with its twin commitment to economic liberty and a fair distribution of goods and opportunities, is a morally superior account of liberal justice.  Free market fairness is also a distinctively American ideal. It extends the notion, prominent in America’s founding period, that protection of property and promotion of real opportunity are indivisible goals. Indeed, according to Tomasi, free market fairness is social justice, American style.

Good and Bad Contracts: How Consequentialism Helps Define Moral Theory

The purpose of this paper is to examine the moral foundations of contracts from two perspectives that should be, but often are not, part and parcel of moral discourse of this topic. The first point of this paper is to make it clear that consequentialist arguments, rightly understood, are part and parcel of the moral apparatus that are used to evaluate the desirability of capitalism. Indeed, I will go further and assert, in a way that is certain to cause umbrage among many moralists (both pro and anti capitalism) that the only way in which to understand capitalism is in terms of its overall social utility, measured not in the aggregate, but by the standard Pareto and Kaldor Hicks standards. I shall then show how these map into the conventional account of Kantian universalism.

Within this framework, I shall then address the morality of capitalism by looking both at the contracts that are enforced, and those which are regarded as illegal and unenforceable, in order to show how the overall system is put together in a way that identifies both those voluntary arrangements that should and should not be enforced. This more granular investigation of contractual arrangements works to show how the system of voluntary exchange, suitably understood and enforced, creates the desirable outcomes measured under the criterion set out above.

Catching up with the West (and Western Liberalism): Chinese, Indian and Japanese Responses to Liberalism in the Early Twentieth Century

I plan to compare and examine some Chinese, Indian and Japanese responses to liberalism in the early twentieth century. Some of the most prominent thinkers and activists in India, China and Japan including Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo Ghosh, Yan Fu, and Yoshino Sakuzo­engaged will be compared with the moral, political and philosophical ideas of John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. I hope to show that they interpreted enlightened self-interest, individual liberty and democracy though their particular and very urgent imperatives of creating a modern nation-state, and protecting ostensibly menaced civilizations and cultures. By translating Western texts and prescriptions against the context of imperialism and economic crises originating in the West, these thinkers offered a fresh, less normative reading of liberalism, as well as an original understanding of its contribution to Western political and economic breakthroughs in the 19th century.

Religion and Economy in Enlightenment Political Thought

The following paper surveys Enlightenment thinking on the relationship between religion and economics, focusing especially on the writings of Montesquieu. While there is a vast literature concerning the effects of economic development on religion, much less is known about the causal relationship going the other way. How do religious belief, religious affiliation, and participation in religious rituals affect basic economic outcomes? How does religion shape individual attitudes toward work, saving, generosity, and other determinants of social and economic prosperity? How do religious values enhance or inhibit growth, trade, and development at the national level? The empirical study of these questions is relatively new. What we do know is that there appears to be a positive relationship between religious values and economic growth. Yet there is still no consensus on the precise causal mechanisms, and the study of the apparent linkage between economics and religion continues to attract criticism. Are the initial results of recent findings constant over time and across countries? Is the relationship linear, or is there a point at which religiosity becomes a drag on growth? Are some religions superior to others in terms of their economic performance? This paper looks to key figures in Enlightenment political thought for clarification and insight. Using Montesquieu as an illustrative example, we will see: 1) why the standard account of Enlightenment thinking on this subject is incomplete; 2) how and in what ways religious morality was connected to economics in the writings of Locke, Montesquieu, Hume and Smith; 3) how current research confirms the theories of Enlightenment thinkers and 4) ways in which current research contradicts or disproves those theories. In the concluding section I will offer some thoughts on where the field of economics and religion may go from here, and how it may benefit from further consideration of early modern political philosophy.

Centre for Civil Society FNF MSU