Economics And Values

Mainstream economics is largely built on theories that assume that people are best understood as highly competitive and individualistic maximizing agents. In fact, capitalism is said to be the most desirable economic system ever constructed precisely because its laws of motion are in sync with these traits.  Capitalism’s desirability is easily called into question, however, if people highly value fairness, cooperation, and relations of solidarity.  After all, capitalist imperatives tend to work against the development of social conditions and institutions that promote these values.

Many supporters of capitalism draw upon studies of non-human animal behavior to defend their assumptions about human nature.  But, as the Ted Talk by Frans de Waal found here (and below) demonstrates, non-human animals also greatly value fairness, cooperation, and relations of solidarity.

After watching the video take a few moments to imagine an economic system that builds upon these attractive values, then compare the policies that would be helpful to create it with the policies we currently promote to strengthen our existing economic system.  For example, how would this foundational shift influence our thinking about how best to organize production, relate production decisions to social and community needs, structure the ownership of society’s productive assets, and so on.





One thought on “Economics And Values

  1. Marty – Your question is one that spins me off in many directions, which at the moment I’m entirely inadequate to lay out. I can only submit an unhelpful “button” response: “Capitalism is the LaBrea tarpit of human effort.”


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