Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Moral Actions in the Economies

Ethics is based on character (ethos); morality is based on action. The ethical person aims at the beautiful/good; the actions one takes to achieve those actions are moral actions.

I have written a series of posts on the different kinds of economies, and the actions one takes to participate in those economies. I previously suggested that "it seems to me that when we confuse these orders and the actions appropriate to them, we may in fact be acting unethically." Given my distinctions above, I would now reword it to state that one would be acting immorally. This would make sense if morality is based on action.

The different economies each have different actions associated with them.

Consider the following scenarios.

If you apply market action (mutual exchange) to:

the political economy, you are bribing

the gift economy, you are buying the scientific or artistic outcome you want, regardless of its truth, goodness, or beauty

the divine economy, you are scamming people

If you apply political action (master-slave) to:

the market economy, you are stealing

the gift economy, you are censoring to prevent the discovery of truth, goodness, or beauty

the divine economy, you are imposing your morals/values

If you apply gift action (love of others) to:

the market economy, you actually place your business in danger of losing profit and, thus, of shutting down and losing people their jobs (this is the situation Milton Friedman famously described when asked if corporations should behave altruistically, and he argued that if they did so, they would be acting unethically)

the political economy, you get the welfare state or socialism

the divine economy, you get outright destruction of the divine economy, or nihilism

If you apply divine action (sacrifice) to:

the market economy, you undermine the profits necessary for your business to survive (similarly to if you try to apply the gift economy to the market economy)

the political economy, you get theocracy

the gift economy, you get self-censorship (of science, one's art, etc.) to avoid offense

This list is a first approximation of the moral issues at play in confusing one's actions and one's economies. Note that it is really the misapplication of the gift economy to the others that creates the problems we see today. This is a surprising outcome, unless one realized the gift economy is the latest one to emerge. It may be that, in its birthing process, a new economy gets overapplied in its actions and values to the other economies.

As I said, this is a first approximation. I am certainly open to suggestions, modifications, etc. This is an idea I am thinking through, and revisions are expected and necessary. So please, critique, comment, suggest!
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