Morality and the Market


The John Templeton Foundation is hosting a very interesting online debate centered on the question, "Does the free market corrode moral character?" There are a number of major league contributors, including economist Tyler Cowen and political theorist John Gray (who notes that "actual life in Soviet societies was more like an extreme caricature of laissez-faire capitalism, a chaotic and wasteful environment in which each person struggled to stay afloat"). Here's Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati arguing in defense of globalization:

There is now plenty of evidence that India and China, two countries with gigantic poverty problems, have been able to grow so fast by taking advantage of trade and foreign investment, and that by doing so, they have reduced poverty dramatically. They still have a long way to go, but globalization has allowed them to improve material conditions for hundreds of millions of their people. Some critics have denounced the idea of attacking poverty through economic growth as a conservative "trickle-down" strategy. They evoke images of overfed, gluttonous nobles and bourgeoisie eating legs of mutton while the serfs and dogs under the table feed on scraps and crumbs. In truth, focusing on growth is better described as an activist "pull-up" strategy. Growing economies pull the poor up into gainful employment and reduce poverty.

Read the whole debate here.