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Moral Order


Regarding the notion of a Market, which is A kind of Decision Forum,   one that produces a Price, which in a Market-only framing is Value,  we need to keep in mind that it rests heavily in a set of values and beliefs largely characterized by what we might call the Moral Order, all of which are mainly  about accommodating the Ego based Self-interest, following Hayek (1948):


  • Access by every individual to the Market, such that everyone can have an influence on the Price  

  • Impossibility of knowing what is best for individuals ex ante (i.e., the limited reasoning and capacity of individuals) so planning has minimal use, because what is correct individual action cannot be known with much accuracy due to the complexity relative to human ability,

  • Spontaneous ordering of the economic (producing and marketing) system, as well as the underlying institutional arrangements, especially law, albeit recognizing the need for actively engaging in conversation about the Moral Order,

  • Institutions behind this spontaneous order arise primarily in the common law, and are mainly aided and not primarily motivated through legislative law,

  • Government functions under the common law,

  • Need for private individual property held in perpetuity to ensure investment, and to ensure free expression of individual values and beliefs, something akin to “full and  liberal ownership” (see Bromley, 1978, who draws upon Honore),

  • Protection of the domain of the individual with private property, to ensure a satisfactory, maximum amount of independence among individuals,

  • Mutually beneficial interactions, or mutual gain, which contributes to the stability of the social order,

  • All coercive institutions are equally applied to all

  • Seek ways to  bring information (values and beliefs, knowledge) from every individual into the process, albeit the Market is the favored Forum

  • Values evolve in process (as beliefs change) through time,

  • Each individual has a moral obligation to accept what the valuing process... the Market Forum... suggests,

  • When results go bad, a minimum security of income is ensured

  • Well-educated and well-informed population 


Moral Community

The Moral Community, on the other hand, goes beyond just the Market Forum to recognize the legitimacy of Other Forums arising out of Government, as in the Forums operating within and among the Administrative, Legislative and Judicial branches of the US Government.  These Other Forums also reveal Value, which in turn will generally work to influence Price in the Market. And, while it includes many of the features of a Moral Order, it goes beyond it, to recognize a kind of Social Order at work, a higher order, representing the Moral Dimension... the Value on a higher plane... of an economy. The Social Order needs attention in evolving the Moral Community that gives context to the Market. As Commons (1934)  said, there is a need to  “save capitalism in order to make it good, ” which requires active involvement by large numbers of people in evolving the Moral Community, the shared Other-interest, which then works to temper the Self-interest. Etzioni (1993) has called for “megalogues” for this purpose. In effect, we need to make the invisible hand visible, through Empathy, by continually evolving and updating the moral dimension implicit in said “invisible hand.”

Income and wealth potentially become substantive issues in the Value being expressed, as one cannot express Value in a Market Forum without money.  Arguably, money plays less of a role in Other Forums, especially in a truly liberal democracy, in which everyone, no matter one's wealth, can at least theoretically participate.  It follows that those with more wealth also have more ability to express their Values in a Market... Prices can be driven up or down in the Market as the demand curves are shifted up with more wealth/income and down with less... albeit those with more wealth are often also better able to influence Government, too.  The recent surge of Dark Money, and the current lack of transparency in political donations,  is a case in point.   


Comparing Moral Order and Moral Community


Proactive and visible...not the invisible hand of the Market Forum, but the visible hand of individuals active in Other Forums... involvement in evolving values/ the moral dimension stands in stark contrast to the strict version of the Moral Order (represented most precisely in writings by Hayek), which supposedly is a kind of natural order (see James Buchanan).  To form a Moral Community, rather,  there is the need to actively engage the evolution of such  order, especially to override the influence of the Status Quo, which then goes beyond the Moral Order to Moral Community. 

Bromley, D. W. 1978. "Property Rules, Liability Rules, and Environmental Economics." Journal of  Economic Issues 12 (March):43 – 60.

Etzioni, A. 1993. The Spirit of Community:  Rights, Responsibilities and the Communitarian Agenda. New York: Crown Publishing Group.

Hayek, F. A. 1948 (paperback edition 1980). Individualism and Economic Order. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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