No Harm: Ethical Principles for a Free Market

By T. Patrick Burke | Go to book overview

6
The Individual and the Community

To many people complete market freedom means a deficient sense of community, an extreme individualism which isolates human beings from one another, reduces their concern for others, and leaves them lonely victims of alienation. The market, in this view, stands for narrow self- interest, and the dominance of "economic man," who is not swayed by any considerations of the public good but aims only at his own benefit. Defenders of the free market frequently find themselves assailed as if they had been defending mere selfishness and greed. For similar reasons the market system is sometimes described as being opposed to democracy, on the grounds that democracy means involvement in the life of the community, a sense of participation and communal responsibility.

Government, on the other hand, is typically held in high esteem by those who have this view, as the embodiment of unselfish and impartial concern for the welfare of society as a whole, and the savior from the ruthlessness of the marketplace. Although the Founding Fathers were suspicious of governmental power and were much concerned to restrain it, an attitude which characterized the majority of Americans until well into the twentieth century, the Great Depression wrought a vast change. John Kenneth Galbraith writes, with evident approval "In the United States, as in the parliamentary democracies in general, the great majority of the people have come to regard the government as essentially benevolent. To the extent that the New Deal in the United States had revolutionary significance the revolution was in attitudes of the great masses of the people toward the federal government. Within the span of a few years a comparatively detached and impersonal mechanism, hitherto identified

-151-

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No Harm: Ethical Principles for a Free Market
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Liberal Society 15
  • 2 - The Principle of Mutual Benefit 39
  • 3 - Is the Market Imperfect? 75
  • 4 - Economic Value 109
  • 5 - Causing Harm 121
  • 6 - The Individual and the Community 151
  • 7 - Justice and the Principle of No Harm 177
  • 8 - The Principle of No Harm II 207
  • 9 - The Principle of No Harm III 227
  • Notes 251
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 283
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