Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Marshall on economic freedom

Here is a nice post by Tim Taylor quoting Alfred Marshall at length on competition and economic freedom. Marshall expresses some views on "backward people" using language that we would not choose today, but his observations about the traits of deliberation and trustworthiness exhibited and reinforced in modern market societies are nuanced. I was reminded of this famous paper measuring prosocial behavior across cultures, which finds that "the higher the degree of market integration and the higher the payoffs to cooperation in everyday life, the greater the level of prosociality expressed in experimental games."

This felicitous view of economic freedom is not shared by all... e.g., Marx and Engels:
The bourgeoisie... has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade.

No comments:

Post a Comment