“Are Markets Moral?: In a free enterprise system, do justice and virtue, win or lose?”

Centre for Civil Society organises a two day conference on “Are Markets Moral?: In a free enterprise system, do justice and virtue, win or lose?”

Senior academic luminaries from across the globe share original research with their peers

Centre for Civil Society and the LeFrak Forum and the Symposium on Science, Reason and Modern Democracy, a privately funded research centre in the political science department at Michigan State University, in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation organised a two day conference on “Are Markets Moral?: In a free enterprise system, do justice and virtue win or lose?”. The conference sought to explore the complex relation between moral values and free market economics.

Through a series of paper presentations from leading global academic luminaries, the conference sought to deliberate on how capitalism affects morality, the values it elevates and empowers and those it violates or undermines, and most importantly the values capitalism requires in order to arise and flourish and where they come from. These are complex questions that have been asked repeatedly at different points in time but never been settled due to continuous shifts in thought and of moral/economic circumstances and by the inescapable importance that they have for our lives.

Speakers presenting at the conference included Andrew Bibby, Visiting Professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University; Deirdre McCloskey, Author of Bourgeois Dignity and Professor of Economics, History, English and Communication at the University of Illinois, Chicago; John Tomasi, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Brown University, Pankaj Mishra,  Author and Essayist, Richard Epstein, Lawrence A. Tisch Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law,Steven Lukes, Political and Social Theorist and Professor of Politics and Sociology at New York University. Other panelists included Gurcharan Das, renowned author, commentator  and former CEO of Procter and Gamble India, and Parth J Shah, Founder President of CCS and a former Professor of  Economics at University of Michigan, amongst others.

Papers covered a wide spectrum of ideas, covering Indian, Western, liberal, conservative  and libertarian viewpoints. Topics included the role of human innovation and creativity in the Great Enrichment in the west and how market-tested innovation and supply play a role in raising up the world’s poor, the pervasiveness of markets in our lives and the implications thereof, theories of social justice, good and bad contracts, Chinese, Indian and Japanese responses to liberalism in the 20th Century and how religious beliefs, affiliations and participation in religious rituals affect basic economic outcomes.

“This very powerful group of academic luminaries discussed and deliberated  politics, ethics and economics of markets. Unlike the common perception, markets are based on sound moral principles of honesty, promise-keeping and trust and also promote the same. The conference brought into focus the acceptance of efficiency of the market in improving quality of life, particularly of the poor, and juxtaposed it with the rejection of the morality of markets.”, says Parth J Shah, Founder President of Centre for Civil Society.

The conference was held in New Delhi on 4 and 5 January  2014.

The abstracts of the various papers discussed is as follows:

Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World: Speaker: Deirdre McCloskey
The Great Enrichment in the west, 1800 to the present, and now in China and India and the world, was not caused by accumulation of capital, whether physical or human, virtuously saved or perfidiously stolen. It was caused by innovation, that is, human creativity released first in North-Western Europe by a new dignity and liberty for ordinary people. The society accepted for the first time the Bourgeois Deal: let commoners innovate and they will make everybody rich. There was nothing deeply European about the event, as its rapid spread beyond Europe shows. The prospects are good for raising up the poor of the world through market-tested innovation and supply.

The World Is Too Much With Us? On The Expanding Reach of the Market: Speaker: Steven Lukes Discussant: Neera Badhwar
‘The market’—buying, selling and investing—is increasingly present in people’s lives as more and more goods and services become ‘marketised.’ How should we view these developments? Do they constitute an expansion of freedom or a growing subjection? Or better, when should we speak of the former and when the latter? To what extent is this an empirical question, to be decided by evidence, and to what extent, a duck-rabbit question?

Free Market Fairness: Speaker: John Tomasi Discussant: Gurpreet Mahajan
Can libertarians care about social justice? In Free Market Fairness, John Tomasi argues that they can and should. Drawing simultaneously on moral insights from defenders of economic liberty such as F.A. Hayek and advocates of social justice such as John Rawls, Tomasi presents a new theory of liberal justice. This theory, free market fairness, is committed to both limited government and the material betterment of the poor.

Unlike traditional libertarians, Tomasi argues that property rights are best defended not in terms of self-ownership or economic efficiency but as requirements of democratic legitimacy.  At the same time, he encourages egalitarians concerned about social justice to listen more sympathetically to the claims ordinary citizens make about the importance of private economic liberty in their daily lives.  In place of the familiar social democratic interpretations of social justice, Tomasi offers a “market democratic” conception of social justice: free market fairness.  Tomasi argues that free market fairness, with its twin commitment to economic liberty and a fair distribution of goods and opportunities, is a morally superior account of liberal justice.  Free market fairness is also a distinctively American ideal. It extends the notion, prominent in America’s founding period, that protection of property and promotion of real opportunity are indivisible goals.  Indeed, according to Tomasi, free market fairness is social justice, American style.

Good and Bad Contracts: How Consequentialism Helps Define Moral Theory, Speaker: Richard Epstein Discussant:Rajshree Chandra
The purpose of this paper is to examine the moral foundations of contracts from two perspectives that should be, but often are not, part and parcel of moral discourse of this topic. The first point of this paper is to make it clear that consequentialist arguments, rightly understood, are part and parcel of the moral apparatus that are used to evaluate the desirability of capitalism. Indeed, The only way in which to understand capitalism is in terms of its overall social utility, measured not in the aggregate, but by the standard Pareto and Kaldor Hicks standards. These can be mapped into the conventional account of Kantian universalism.

Within this framework, the morality of capitalism by looking both at the contracts that are enforced, and those which are regarded as illegal and unenforceable, in order to show how the overall system is put together in a way that identifies both those voluntary arrangements that should and should not be enforced. This more granular investigation of contractual arrangements works to show how the system of voluntary exchange, suitably understood and enforced, creates the desirable outcomes measured under the criterion set out above.

Catching up with the West (and Western Liberalism): Chinese, Indian and Japanese Responses to Liberalism in the Early Twentieth Century, Speaker: Pankaj Mishra Discussant: Tom Palmer
Comparison and examination of some Chinese, Indian and Japanese responses to liberalism in the early twentieth century is undertaken. Some of the most prominent thinkers and activists in India, China and Japan including Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo Ghosh, Yan Fu, and Yoshino Sakuzo­engaged will be compared with the moral, political and philosophical ideas of John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. It will be seen hoiw they interpreted enlightened self-interest, individual liberty and democracy though their particular and very urgent imperatives of creating a modern nation-state, and protecting ostensibly menaced civilizations and cultures. By translating Western texts and prescriptions against the context of imperialism and economic crises originating in the West, these thinkers offered a fresh, less normative reading of liberalism, as well as an original understanding of its contribution to Western political and economic breakthroughs in the 19th century.

Religion and Economy in Enlightenment Political Thought, Speaker: Andrew Bibby Discussant: Peter McNamara Chair:Gurcharan Das
The following paper surveys Enlightenment thinking on the relationship between religion and economics, focusing especially on the writings of Montesquieu. While there is a vast literature concerning the effects of economic development on religion, much less is known about the causal relationship going the other way. How do religious belief, religious affiliation, and participation in religious rituals affect basic economic outcomes? How does religion shape individual attitudes toward work, saving, generosity, and other determinants of social and economic prosperity? How do religious values enhance or inhibit growth, trade, and development at the national level? The empirical study of these questions is relatively new. What we do know is that there appears to be a positive relationship between religious values and economic growth. Yet there is still no consensus on the precise causal mechanisms, and the study of the apparent linkage between economics and religion continues to attract criticism. Are the initial results of recent findings constant over time and across countries? Is the relationship linear, or is there a point at which religiosity becomes a drag on growth? Are some religions superior to others in terms of their economic performance? This paper looks to key figures in Enlightenment political thought for clarification and insight. Using Montesquieu as an illustrative example, we will see: 1) why the standard account of Enlightenment thinking on this subject is incomplete; 2) how and in what ways religious morality was connected to economics in the writings of Locke, Montesquieu, Hume and Smith; 3) how current research confirms the theories of Enlightenment thinkers and 4) ways in which current research contradicts or disproves those theories. In the concluding section some thoughts on where the field of economics and religion may go from here, and how it may benefit from further consideration of early modern political philosophy.

About Centre for Civil Society (CCS)
Centre for Civil Society (CCS) is a public policy think tank advancing personal, social, economic and political freedoms. CCS aims to usher in an intellectual revolution that encourages people to look beyond the obvious, think beyond good intentions and act beyond activism.

CCS believes in the individuality and dignity of all persons and their right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. CCS is driven by the dream of a free society, where political, social, and economic freedom reign.

CCS' activities include research, advocacy and outreach in the areas of Law, Liberty & Livelihood; Communities, Markets & the Environment; Good Governance and Education for All. Through evidence-based research, stakeholder engagement and outreach to current and future leaders, CCS advocates for effective public policy reforms.

CCS initiatives in the above areas include publishing their views and research findings in the form of citizen handbooks, viewpoints, policy reviews, legislative analyses and summaries of lectures given at seminars by expert faculty; creating discussion platforms and hosting conferences to facilitate peer interaction amongst researchers and key stakeholders in the policy space.

The 2012 Global Go To Think Tanks Rankings based on a study conducted by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania ranks CCS 51st amongst Worldwide (US and non-US) think tanks, the only Indian think tank to feature in the top 100 on the list. CCS also ranks 15th among the top 45 Think Tanks in China, India, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania annually ranks think tanks around the world through an intensive process of nominations, and expert and peer institution feedback on the output, impact and influence of global think tanks. Centre for Civil Society (CCS) for a fourth year in a row continues to feature among the top think tanks in the world according to this comprehensive study of 6,603 think tanks from every region.  To know more about Centre for Civil Society, please visit: www.ccs.in