Have you ever wondered about how much your life is worth? Economists have always tried to give monetary value to people’s lives. Nowadays, this issue gets even hotter, since policymakers have to take into account all costs and benefits deriving from shutting down the world economy: when will the benefits of saving lives by ‘flattening the curve’ of infected individuals be outweighed by its costs?
In this series of articles Marco Senatore offers an analysis of the current state of economics and the proposal to establish a market for moral, organizational and cultural values. This instrument would reconcile surplus extraction and individual autonomy and therefore economics and ethics, with significant social and political implications.
The COVID-19 outbreak has undoubtedly been the greatest global challenge of the last years. The responses provided so far have been criticized or praised for their level of timeliness. However, the measures adopted are either coercive or monetary. Administrative power and money, already identified by Jürgen Habermas as the two dominant media for the systemic integration of society, confirm this role in our approach to such problems – a role that relieves social actors from the demand of strongly communicative actions.
In the last few years, an increasing concern has developed with regard to the externalities of firms. An externality is the cost or benefit implied by an economic activity that affects a third party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit and without this being reflected in market prices. They are one of the main justifications for public intervention in the economic sphere. On one hand, governments should reduce negative externalities through mindful regulation. On the other, they should incentivize positive externalities, which usually are not the firms’ most pressing priorities, since they do not directly result in any monetary advantage.
The profitability of a company stays unaltered both if the air of our neighborhood becomes unbreathable due to industrial waste and if we enjoy the benefits of gentrification brought about by a successful commercial activity. Can businesses, in principle, be ethical? If so, how to apply analytical tools to ethics and to subsume what is qualitative par excellence under the scope of the queen of social sciences, namely economics? The former is a philosophical interrogation, the latter a methodological one. The consequence is that they are respectively dealt with by two different research approaches, which urge us to find a common synthesis in order to successfully coordinate and inspire our practical response. [Read More]
With very few exceptions, international traders do not care for the political situation of a particular country when dealing with their business. Whether they are selling to Canada or to Sudan, their most prominent interest is profit making. It is indeed true that in a state-centric view of international political economy, where nation states assume the role of traders, protectionist policies and embargoes are widespread, yet seldom do they take moral considerations into account. Even the recent European economic sanctions against Russia are politically founded rather than appealing to issues of ethics. A question thus arises: are there reasons to believe morally founded appeals in international trade should be justified?