Adam Smith insisted that the free market could not prosper without shared virtues within a society. Can societies have virtues? Adam Smith’s virtues are below. Explore Smith’s social virtues, but also look around the “index of corruption” of transparency.org. Then also consider the review of further research as discussed in the New York Times article, “Would you return this lost wallet?” By Pam Belluck. It is attached above the discussion forum if you have trouble with the link below.
What are some of the patterns you see? Are there commonalities or outliers at the top or bottom of the index? Where is the US located? In 1995, we were 15th.
If this is true, it might explain why some “undeveloped” countries have become first world economically, and others have continued to stagnate or decline. You may be interested in looking at Iraq and Afghanistan. If this reasoning is true, are we likely to be able to develop a stable free-market democracy in either of these two countries?
Finally, looking at Adam Smith’s virtues for society, what are some of the strengths in the US, what are some of the weaknesses, and if Smith is correct, should we be optimistic or have reason to be concerned? Does ethics in society affect overall prosperity and the proper functioning of a free market?
In every discussion forum, two substantive interactions with other students are due before the forum close date and time.
Below is the chart from the original research described in the NYT.
Rationality: they know their own interests and avoid emotional outbursts that interfere with clear planning
Prudence: postponed gratification for long-term profit
Industriousness: hard-working, not lazy
Temperance: moderate in their demands, not greedy
Thriftiness: disposed to save money
Skillfulness: some saleable skill to make a living
Responsibility: keep commitments, safe (do no harm) and effective products, commitment to community
While not everyone would agree to this, virtues are the bedrock to any society. Virtues give people the ability and efforts to put their values into action leading to a sustainable, resilient, and vibrant society. By definition, a free market seems moral because it is free from coercion. However, from an economic point of view, these markets are highly unethical because of the intimidation involved, especially from the established corporations against the small ones.