When I argued for treating GW as economics not morality, I didn’t trouble myself to say “and I think it is easier to agree on economics than on morality”, because it hadn’t occurred to me that people might disagree. But of course, this is the internet, so people do disagree. CIP says so, for example. To start off, consider the usual pieties about the intertwining of economics and morality to have been uttered.
This post won’t be as brilliantly convincing as most of mine, because I haven’t really thought it through; it being so obvious to me, as I said above. It’s almost a layers / category type thing: morality is more personal, economics is more public. We have large elements of shared morality, of course, otherwise society would not function, but those shared elements largely cover items we have experience of. Whenever new things arise, we are much less likely to agree. And conversely, there are any number of economic things we disagree about; a good example is the perennial popularity of protectionism on both right and left, despite economists telling us it is a bad idea.
Um. In a sense, that exhausts my coherent thinking on the subject. Doubtless I’ll develope my ideas further in reaction to your wise comments.
I come across a quote, via CafeHayek:
Economics can appraise policies as means toward particular ends, but economics alone cannot lay down the ends that policy “ought” to aim at. For this reason, a supporter of any economic policy must rest his case not only on economic analysis but also on his idea of what is “desirable” – on his conception of the “good society” – on his so-called “value judgments.” Fortunately, intelligent discussion will often reveal a broadly-based agreement on fundamental values.
There’s more, but the rest is about Free Trade, not the focus here. So arguably this is saying the exact reverse of what I am: that we have a fundamental shared broad morality. And, indeed I agree.
I think the only way to rescue myself is to lean on that word “broad”. I think if you look through the lens of Economics, then the aspects of Morality that you see should be common and broad. Whereas if you start from Morality, you’ll get bogged down in specifics. I’m not sure my thinking on this is at all clear, though, and I suspect my writing of being even less clear.
* Quotation of the Day… from CH
* ATTP doesn’t understand
* Paul Heyne‘s 1993 article “Economics, Ethics, and Ecology,” as this article is reprinted in the 2008 collection of Heyne’s writings, “Are Economists Basically Immoral?” and Other Essays on Economics, Ethics, and Religion – from CH