This volume, edited by Professor Dennis O’Keeffe and with a foreword by David Willetts, explores the relationship between virtue, morality and alternative forms of economic organisation. It should be read by anybody who is interested in the relationship between morality and economic order.
Despite the obvious success of the market economy in generating wealth, many commentators accept this success only grudgingly, and unthinkingly criticise the moral underpinnings of capitalist societies.
Economy and Virtue takes such critics on and finds their criticisms wanting. It analyses how a free society both relies on and promotes virtue. Unless people can choose between good and evil in conditions of freedom, there is no morality in performing an action that helps another person. A market economy promotes cooperation and restrains selfishness because it relies on contracting by consenting parties, and because its legal system protects the property rights of the vulnerable just as it does the property rights of the powerful. The authors argue that we cannot judge the market economy by observing the obvious process of ‘getting and spending’, because this process alone tells us nothing about the motives and character of those involved. There is much more to the market economy than material acquisition: the eminent authors in this volume discuss lucidly and convincingly the moral justification of the market order.