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Über dieses Buch

This volume scrutinizes the functionality of a capitalist market society, which is usually praised for the efficiency and dynamism, rather than for its morality. It addresses the dualism behind capitalism's encouragement of greed, which is usually considered to be a moral failing, while also being a driver behind economic growth.




The theme of the symposium was about what happens to the morality of a society in which money rules the roost — that is, a society in which exchanges between people increasingly take the form of buying and selling goods and services for money. This is the society in which we live.

Session 1. Restraining Insatiability

My interest in insatiability was triggered off by Keynes’s prediction in 1930 that 100 years hence people in rich countries would have enough, and therefore work less. This was based on an assumption about productivity growth. That prediction turned out to be partly wrong. Although average incomes have risen, much in line with Keynes’s prediction, average hours of work have fallen much less. This suggested that he underestimated human insatiability. My son Edward and I wrote a book called How Much Is Enough?, which was an inquiry into the meaning and causes of insatiability. This is a further exploration of that topic, which suggests one or two modifications of the view we took in the book.

Session 2. Equality and Corruption

The question I have in mind relates to the general title we have been given of ‘Markets and Morals’. The question is: what exactly are the harms that markets do? By ‘markets’ I mean buying and selling goods and services.

Session 3. The Moral Limits of Markets

This is going to be a continuation of the discussion before lunch. In that discussion we heard about two different arguments, or kinds of argument, for calling a market ‘noxious’: an argument from equality and an argument from corruption. A market can be called noxious because it undermines human equality, either because some of its participants are vulnerable to exploitation or because it inflicts serious harms on some section of the population. Alternatively, a market can be called noxious because it corrupts the good it traffics in, by imposing on it a meaning that is not properly its own. Modern liberals are generally uncomfortable with this latter argument, because it implies, unpalatably from their point of view, that a voluntary, victim-free transaction can nonetheless be vicious. I want to defend the corruption argument, both because I think it is a valid argument and also because I think it is primarily a worry about corruption, and not equality, that underlies our fear of creeping marketisation. Here, as elsewhere, modern liberalism imposes a kind of hypocrisy on us. It forces us to voice our moral intuitions in a language alien to them.

Session 4. The Meaning of Money

Actually, I hesitate to start on this topic of the meaning of money, because not only am I here with all of you, who are real experts, much more expert than I am and proper scholars, and I am basically just a bit of a yahoo, a practitioner in the world of money — I run a bond fund — but also because I am aware that in no other field than money is there a greater risk of being dismissed as a complete crank when you claim to have discovered the meaning of it. I am sure many of you will know Paul Samuelson, the great Nobel Prize-winning American economist. He used to say, ‘not one man in 10,000 understands the monetary question, and you meet him every day’. So here am I, and you have just met me.


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