Economic Morality and Jewish Law

Economic Morality and Jewish Law

Economic Morality and Jewish Law

Economic Morality and Jewish Law

Synopsis

Economic Morality and Jewish Law compares the way in which welfare economics and Jewish law determine the propriety of an economic action, whether by a private citizen or the government. Espousing what philosophers would call a consequentialist ethical system, welfare economics evaluates theworthiness of an economic action based on whether the action would increase the wealth of society in the long run. In sharp contrast, Jewish law espouses a deontological system of ethics. Within this ethical system, the determination of the propriety of an action is entirely a matter of discoveringthe applicable rule in Judaism's code of ethics.This volume explores a variety of issues implicating morality for both individual commercial activity and economic public policy. Issues examined include price controls, the living wage, the lemons problem, short selling, and Ronald Coase's seminal theories on negative externalities. To provide ananalytic framework for the study of these issues, the work first delineates the normative theories behind the concept of economic morality for welfare economics and Jewish law, and presents a case study illustrating the deontological nature of Jewish law. The book introduces what for many readerswill be a new perspective on familiar economic issues. Despite the very different approaches of welfare economics and Jewish law in evaluating the worthiness of an economic action, the author reveals a remarkable symmetry between the two systems in their ultimate prescriptions for certain economicissues.

Excerpt

The central theme of Economic Morality and Jewish Law is a consideration of the criterion used to evaluate the worthiness of an economic action or initiative, whether by a private citizen or the government. In this regard, we compare the relevant criterion for standard welfare economics and Jewish law.

Espousing what philosophers would call a consequentialist ethical system, welfare economics evaluates the worthiness of an economic action based on whether the action would increase the wealth of society in the long run. This criterion is also called the Kaldor-Hicks criterion. Provided the law does not prohibit the action, consideration of the ethics of the action never enters the picture. What counts are outcomes, not means or intentions. Moreover, the criterion for deciding whether the law should prohibit a particular action in the first place is whether the prohibition would increase society’s wealth in the long run.

Consideration of the worthiness of an action based on Kaldor-Hicks holds even if the matter at issue is enacting a law that would save human lives. This is so because proponents of Kaldor-Hicks are quite willing to assign an economic value to human life. Once a value for human life is set, cost–benefit analysis takes over to decide whether the economic benefits of saving human lives outweigh the economic benefits society would be required to forgo if the legislation were enacted.

In sharp contrast to the consequentialist philosophy of standard welfare economics, Jewish law espouses a deontological system of ethics. Within this ethical system, the worthiness of an action is evaluated based not only on its impact on one’s opposite number and third parties, but also on the character of the initiator of the action. Specifically, if an action is deemed to debilitate the character of the initiator, the action might be prohibited, despite its neutral effect on others. For Jewish law, the determination of the worthiness of an action is all a matter of discovering the applicable rule in Judaism’s code of ethics.

The concept of economic morality as used in welfare economics and in Jewish law serves as the analytic framework for introducing the various chapters of this book.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.