Apologies, I Don\’t Understand

Angus Deaton\’s got a report out about the difference in American and Brit attitudes to the Stern Review.

Much of it discusses the really important point about Stern, the discount rate used. Only by adopting a near zero discount rate can he show that (large) action now is worthwhile. Deaton says that a low rate can be justified. The American attitude is that if we look at markets then a higher rate should be used. It\’s all rather good as a way of describing the situation.

His final sentence however astonishes me:

Relying on markets to teach us ethics is very much worse.


We\’re supposed to look to politicians instead to teach us ethics?

The man\’s barmy.


3 thoughts on “Apologies, I Don\’t Understand”

  1. Yes, we should look to people for ethical guidance, teaching, advice, and ethical examples, not markets. That’s obvious.

    (Whether those people should be politicians, of course, is far from obvious, but I do agree that ethics aren’t prescribed for us by the economy in the abstract – an argument bizarrely close to Marx’s ‘top-down’ view of human behaviour, where people’s choices are described as being controlled by market forces, not the other way around.)

  2. Relying on markets to teach us ethics is very much worse.

    Yes that would be the case were it true. However, relying on the market to teach us the discount rate is a far more logical idea.

  3. Why can’t markets teach us about ethics? They are, after all, the product of the silent intentions of the masses. I’m not claiming they should be our only guide but they can assist us. It’s a false dilemma. You don’t have to choose. You can make ethical decisions informed from a thousand different sources, including politicians and the market place.

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