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Ethics and Economics

Today, increasing numbers of people live in free market economies. Yet despite its great success in diminishing poverty and growing wealth in countries such as the United States, many remain very unsure of the market economy’s social benefits. Others question its moral foundations. Defenses of the free market which extend beyond appeals to utility continue to be hard to find.

This course examines the moral and economic case for market economies by examining key texts that articulate moral and economic defenses of free market economies, including Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Michael Novak’s The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, and Wilhelm Röpke’s A Humane Economy. As these texts are examined, some of the questions posed for discussion will be: What is meant by self-interest? How does it differ from greed? What is the historical record of the market economy vis-à-vis wealth and poverty? Is there something distinctive about American capitalism? What are the justifications for state intervention into the market economy?

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