Is economics an amoral science? No, though sometimes it seems so. Look at what is taught at most business schools and economics departments and you might certainly get this impression. Indeed, the focus on the rational decision maker – a rather selfish sociopath – in most curricula in business, law and economics may be a cause for the rather unscrupulous behavior that can be observed in the current business world: Greed is good.
The world is not amoral. Even markets are not. Successful economic exchange without trust, reciprocity, honesty and some sense of fairness seems hardly possible. At least if you listen to the diverse team of authors of Moral Markets. And I tend to agree.
Moral Markets is the result of several years of collaborative research and discussion (the list of contributors is rather impressive). It reviews the critical role of social norms in the economy from a diverse set of fields and points of view. The discussion ranges from biology, the animal world and evolutionary arguments to philosophical questions (and answers) and an analysis of our current perception of the economy to the interdependence of social norms and law and of course (economic) behavior. The main message is clear. Without a social conscience we would not be as successful as we were so far. And it is unlikely that we will keep up the pace if we forget the importance of social norms, values and virtues.