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Markets and Morality

Editor’s note: In the winter of 1988, Peter J. Hill, a PERC senior fellow and a professor of economics at Wheaton College of Wheaton, Illinois, wrote the following article on markets and morality. It was originally published in PERC Viewpoints, a series of papers on policy alternatives. It offers some valuable insights that are as worthwhile today as they were then.

By P.J. Hill

In terms of sheer ability to provide goals and services, most people would agree that capitalism wins hands won when compared with alternative economic systems such as socialism. Evern so, many critics of private property and markets prefer a more socialistic system or at least one that places more power int he hands of the government. They argue that although capitalism delivers the goods in a material sense, it doesen’t deliver them morally. That is, capitalism doesn’t satisfy certain basic standards of justice.

This PERC Viewpoints challenges that position by examining several areas where moral issues weigh in on the side of the market place. This is not an argument that a society based on free markets is the same as a moral society; people can behave morally or immorally in a free market system just as they can inother systems. However, capitalism does have a number of moral strengths that are lacking in other economic systems.

Read the complete paper in PDF.

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