A Conversation with Leland B. Yeager
, by Leland B. Yeager
, Austrian Economics Newsletter
Topics discussed include utilitarianism, rights theory, ethics and economics, mathematics and economics, methodological taboos, hermeneutics, Austrian economics, socialism and Eastern Europe
"AEN: Do you wish more economists were interested in ethics?
YEAGER: We can't expect all economists to be interested in the same things. But the tradition of economists interested in ethics goes way back and carries up to the present. Smith, Hume, Mill, Keynes, Mises, Hayek all were. And ethics does indeed seem to be becoming more important to economics discussion these days. The typical economic journal does not deal with the subject, since it is supposed to be on the frontiers and cannot be concerned with the great bulk of accepted doctrine."
Anti-Life Ethics in Iraq
, by Jacob Hornberger
, 15 Dec 2006
"One wonders whether ... [Weigel's] opinion on the war would be different if the number of American deaths matched the number of Iraqi deaths. ... Under what moral or ethical authority does one nation impose involuntary regime change on another nation, especially when it will entail innocent people's deaths in the process?"
Aristotle (382-322 BC)
, by Fred Miller, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism
, 15 Aug 2008
"Aristotle's practical treatise, the Nicomachean Ethics, argues that the human good consists of happiness, understood as rational and virtuous activity; that moral virtue involves achieving a mean (or intermediate condition) between extremes (e.g., courage is a mean between cowardice and foolhardiness); and that this mean is attained through practical wisdom, a deliberative excellence cognizant of the human end. Although concerned with individual excellence, the Ethics describes itself as a work of 'political science.' ... Because the city-state is necessary for individual human perfection, ethics is a part of political philosophy."
Ethics Study Guide: Aristotle
, by Roderick T. Long
Part of study guide to Prof. Long's introductory ethics course; includes biographical details, comments on Aristotle's ethical and political writings, short introductions to Rethoric
and Nichomachean Ethics
and study questions
"The central concept in Aristotle's ethics is eudaimonia, usually translated as 'happiness.' Literally it means 'being well-favoured by the gods.' For Aristotle it is not a subjective psychological state, but a condition of overall well-being; we might think of it as 'living a good life' or 'flourishing as a human being.' ... Aristotle thinks that being a virtuous person involves a kind of moral insight developed through experience but not statable in words."
Hazlitt, Henry (1894-1993)
, by Bettina Bien Greaves
, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism
, 15 Aug 2008
"... The Foundations of Morality, elaborated on Mises's statement that 'Everything that serves to preserve the social order is moral; everything that is detrimental to it is immoral.' Hazlitt wrote, 'Morality is older than any living religion and probably older than all religion.' He noted a common denominator in law, ethics, and manners: They all rest on the same principles: sympathy, kindness, and consideration of others. The moral philosophy Hazlitt presents is 'utilitarian ... [i]n the sense that all rules of conduct must be judged by their tendency to lead to desirable rather than undesirable social results.'"
Herbert Spencer's Theory of Causation
[PDF], by George H. Smith
, The Journal of Libertarian Studies
Discusses Spencer's epistemology, his views on causation and how it affects social interactions, concluding with his ethical theory and concept of justice
"Acts are ethically good, generally speaking, if they are 'conducive to life' and ethically bad if they 'directly or indirectly tend towards death.' In order to label life-sustaining acts as 'good,' we must make 'an assumption of extreme significance ... an assumption underlying all moral estimates.' We must assume, according to Spencer, that life is worth living-and this brings us to the 'primary meanings of the words good and bad.'"
How a 19th century French pamphleteer preempted two centuries of economic fallacies
, by Christopher Todd Meredith, 18 Oct 2016
Examines some of the main themes in Bastiat's writings, such as ethics and economics, the seen and the unseen and the State
"Those who have an interest in what are often called 'economic issues' tend to analyze public policy as though the ends ... justify the means. In fact, since Bastiat's day, it is not uncommon for economists to favor a utilitarian approach to ethics. ... For Bastiat, however, ethics and economics were interrelated, and the two ways of looking at morality were ultimately harmonious. In an essay entitled 'Two Systems of Ethics,' he referred to the utilitarian, ends-based ethics popular with economists as 'economic ethics' and the deontological, means-oriented ethics as 'philosophical or religious ethics.'"
, by Lew Rockwell
, Mises Daily
, 31 Jul 2006
Argues that the lawlessness and violence in occupied Iraq is due to the immorality of modern day warfare
"In any society, the problem with crime extends beyond the immediate victims. Pervasive violence whittles away the cultural and moral foundations of society itself. ... modern wars are far more violent and blood-soaked than medieval ones, and they are far more likely to impact the whole of culture, dragging society's moral sense into the gutter, so that the sense of right and wrong, good and evil, dissolve and are replaced by a pervasive nihilism."
Knight, Frank H. (1885-1972)
, by Richard Boyd, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism
, 15 Aug 2008
"Knight also is remembered for two influential collections of articles and papers, The Ethics of Competition (1935) and Freedom and Reform (1947) ... The majority of the essays in the first volume were written during the 1920s while Knight was a professor of economics at the University of Iowa. In essays like 'The Ethics of Competition' and 'Ethics and the Economic Interpretation,' Knight was highly critical of the 'apologetic economics' of his day. Because the free-market system of prices rests only on the factual coincidence of supply and demand, which are products of the economic system, it can never be defended as ethical."
Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution
, by Murray Rothbard
, Cato Journal
Examines the principles of tort law, how to determine what is just property and how to deal with invasions of property such as air pollution
"If ethics is a normative discipline that identifies and classifies certain sets of actions as good or evil, right or wrong, then tort or criminal law is a subset of ethics identifying certain actions as appropriate for using violence against them. The law says that action X should be illegal, and therefore should be combated by the violence of the law."
Morals and the Welfare State
, by F. A. Harper
Examines five moral principles by which the idea of the Welfare State (described in more detail in an appendix) can be judged; extension of talk given 13 June 1951; later published as "Morals and Liberty" (see The Freeman
, Sep 1971)
"The unbending rule of a moral principle can be illustrated by some simple applications. According to one Commandment, it is wholly wrong to steal all your neighbor's cow; it is also wholly wrong to steal half your neighbor's cow, not half wrong to steal half your neighbor's cow. Robbing a bank is wrong in principle, whether the thief makes off with a million dollars or a hundred dollars or one cent. A person can rob a bank of half its money, but in the sense of moral principle there is no way to half rob a bank; you either rob it or you do not rob it."
, by Nathaniel Branden
, Karen Reedstrom, Full Context
, Sep 1996
In two parts; topics range from David Kelley, objectivisim, Ayn Rand, his memoir Judgment Day
, Barbara Branden, Leonard Peikoff, homosexuality, self-esteem and more
"If a client wants to tell me that, in retrospect, he now perceives something he or she once did as immoral, I do not challenge that, assuming it makes sense to me. But if the person describes himself or herself as immoral, I certainly do challenge it. I encourage people to see themselves as results of the choices they make ... Moral judgments have to have a purpose, something we wish to accomplish. They rarely accomplish anything valuable when working on one's own development. At best, they might be applicable to actions we've taken and now regret. Even then, however, people generally know when they've done something wrong."
Related Topics: Barbara Branden
, David Kelley
, Romantic Love
, Personal Responsibility
, Ayn Rand
, Chris Matthew Sciabarra
, Sexual Pleasure
Personal 'Freedom': Review of Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World
[PDF], by Roy Childs
, The Libertarian Forum
, Apr 1973
While admitting that the book has many valuable insights, Childs chastises Browne on his definition of freedom and his views on morality and natural rights
"What is a 'universal morality'? A code based on man's nature, which applies to all men. Browne maintains that there can be no such thing. Why? He isn't clear, but it has something to do with the fact that people are different. Unfortiinately, however, no one has ever denied this, and no one advocating a 'universal morality' has ever told people to ignore differences. The principles of a
'"universal morality' do not specify concretes, and are not intended to. The principles constitute a code of action, which is applied to widely varying concretes."
Playboy Interview: Ayn Rand
, by Ayn Rand
, Alvin Toffler, Playboy
, Mar 1964
Topics discussed include objectivism ethics, guilt, having a productive or creative purpose, emotions, women and family, romantic love, sex, marriage, religion, compassion, other writers, government, various politicians and altruism
"The ethic derived from the metaphysical base of Objectivism holds that, since reason is man’s basic tool of survival, rationality is his highest virtue. ... The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics is: man’s life—man's survival qua man—or that which the nature of a rational being requires for his proper survival. The Objectivist ethics, in essence, hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself."
, by Sheldon Richman
, 18 May 2007
Reviews Frank Van Dun's 1986 paper titled "Economics and the Limits of Value-Free Science" and its implications for making an objective case for ethics, freedom and private property
"We ought to be reasonable. That proposition is deceptively simple because it's so powerful. How can one deny it or argue for the contrary proposition? Thought, language, and argument are tools of reason. ... Therefore, ... 'there can be a science of ethics and therefore also an ethics of science that is quite objective if it conforms to the normative fact as discussed by the science of ethics.' ... Such an outlook suggests an ethics of dialogue, a set of dialogical rights, that a truth seeker is logically committed to by virtue of her search for knowledge."
Should We Force Others to Shape Up?
, by David Gordon, Mises Daily
, 20 Oct 2006
"If I steal from you, I may justifiably be compelled to return your property; but if I wish to drink myself to death, the state cannot stop me. People are free to persuade me to modify my conduct, or shun me if I will not; but they cannot use force against me. Many people find this sharp separation implausible, but Otteson suggests that most people implicitly accept it."
Smith, Adam (1723-1790)
, by Ronald Hamowy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism
, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay focusing on Adam Smith's two major works
"In A Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith addresses the following question: From whence springs our ability to condemn certain intentions and actions as immoral and approve others as morally worthy? This problem is especially vexing inasmuch as we are able to judge our own behavior as either moral or immoral despite the fact that we are strongly motivated to act in our own self-interest. Smith maintained that our ability to form moral judgments is a function of our being possessed of a basic moral faculty that motivates us to act as an impartial spectator of our own and others' actions."
The Consequences of Liberty
, by Sheldon Richman
, 30 Jan 2015
Compares consequentialism to deontological ethics, also mentioning virtue ethics, and reviews Roderick Long's essay "Why Does Justice Have Good Consequences?"
"As I say, this discussion is hypothetical. Freedom (or justice) can be counted on to produce good outcomes, in a eudaimonistic way, for everyone. But is this just a lucky break? Or is there a more solid explanation? ... [Long] finds that the prima facie content of justice ... is represented by libertarianism, that is, the principle that each person is an end in himself and therefore is equal in authority to everyone else."
The Kirznerian Way: An Interview with Israel M. Kirzner
, by Israel Kirzner
, Austrian Economics Newsletter
Topics include: Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian School, equilibrium, entrepreneurship, capital, business cycle theory, time preference, Hayek, Lachmann and Rothbard
"If someone buys something for $10, and sells it for $17, why does he get to keep the $7? It seems to many people that it's pure luck that you can sell it for a higher price, and the products of luck should probably belong to all mankind. Or it might seem to be a fraud or a con job. Those are the obvious ethical problems. But those problems appear only insofar as we assume that everyone begins with potentially full and equal knowledge. In that case, this $7 profit might represent an attempt to deceive. But if people lack knowledge that someone else has, does taking advantage of that constitute fraud?"
Related Topics: Capital Goods
, Austrian Economics
, Friedrich Hayek
, Ludwig Lachmann
, Ludwig von Mises
, Murray Rothbard
, Joseph Schumpeter
The Moral Case for Freedom Is the Practical Case for Freedom
, by Sheldon Richman
, 27 Dec 2013
Considers whether it is reasonable to make distinctions between ethical and practical arguments for freedom
"The concern of ethics, according to Aristotle, is to learn how such a being must think and act in order to flourish individually and as a member of society; the objective is 'the practical life of man as possessing reason.' That's why prudence (or practical wisdom) finds a place on his list of virtues."
Truman, A-Bombs, and the Killing of Innocents
, by Sheldon Richman
, 9 Aug 2013
Written on the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki, discusses whether the bombing and that of Hiroshima were really necessary and whether they can be considered war crimes
"The moral distinction between killing noncombatants deliberately and killing them in 'collateral damage' is overstated. As Caplan says, 'But we greatly exaggerate the moral difference when foreigners are the ones who suffer the "unavoidable side effects." If the police firebombed a domestic apartment complex to pursue the legitimate goal of killing Charles Manson, few people would consider the doctrine of Double Effect a strong defense. Would you?' ... The Truman administration revealed that it knew the atomic bombing was immoral by attempting to keep the full truth from the American people."
Would a Return to Conscription Substantially Reduce the Probability of War?
, by David R. Henderson, 7 Sep 2015
Analyzes the question of whether reintroducing military conscription would incentivize the rich and powerful to object to "military adventurism" and thus prevent war; also includes a moral argument against the draft
"Most of us think that it's wrong to use innocent people as human shields in war. The immorality is due to two factors: (1) those innocent people's lives are put at risk, and (2) they do not get to choose whether to risk their lives. We don't make our moral judgment conditional on the consequences. ... Those who advocate conscription as a way to avoid war are advocating that innocent people become 'human shields.' Even if it can be shown that reintroducing conscription would reduce the chance of a war breaking out, it still is wrong to force people to put their lives at risk."
Would You "Support the Troops" in Bolivia?
, by Jacob Hornberger
, 27 Dec 2006
Discusses U.S. military contracts and the hypothetical case of a soldier objecting to being deployed for an invasion of Bolivia on orders from the President, contrasting it to the real scenario of the 2003 invasion of Iraq
"But what about the morality of the entire operation? Where is the morality of killing people who have never attacked the United States and who have done nothing worse than try to defend their country from a wrongful invader? Where is the morality in killing in 'self-defense' when you don't have a right to be there killing people in the first place? Does a burglar who has entered someone's home in the middle of the night have the moral (or legal) right to claim self-defense ...?"