What conclusions, then, can we draw from this analysis?
This chapter summarizes what has been learned about the economic defense of self-interest and argues against its unwarranted use to justify lobbying. It briefly touches on options for individuals faced with living within an existing moral ecology of markets that they judge inadequate. It ends with a reaffirmation of the need for dialogue between widely divergent points of view.
Understanding the Economic Defense of Self-Interest and Markets
The defense of self-interest and markets entails a moral argument. We saw in Chapter 2 the unsuccessful attempts by the economists Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, and Friedrich Hayek to defend markets without recourse to moral argumentation. In the end, each required the inclusion of moral presumptions in order to complete his argument.
As we have also seen, that there is indeed a careful moral argument in defense of self-interested activity within markets – the “economic defense of self-interest.”
As we saw in the discussion of social ethics in Chapter 3, two sorts of moral questions need to be distinguished. The first is “How should our institutions be structured?” The second is “Given the institutional structures within which I am living, what will I myself do in my own economic activities?”
Consider the first question. Deciding how to structure institutions requires conversations about the character of a market system, for example where to build the “fences” or what goods or services are essential. Such decisions are inevitably a mixture of empirical and moral judgments.