Markets erode moral values!

Here, in Science.

The possibility that market interaction may erode moral values is a long-standing, but controversial, hypothesis in the social sciences, ethics, and philosophy. To date, empirical evidence on decay of moral values through market interaction has been scarce. We present controlled experimental evidence on how market interaction changes how human subjects value harm and damage done to third parties.

Sigh.

What they\’ve actually found is that the moral values that people express are different from those they act on.

You know, revealed preferences.

19 thoughts on “Markets erode moral values!”

  1. Well ,without going through the tedium of reading whatever Tim had to suffer, there could be some sort of point there.
    Anyone who’s ‘played a market’ knows what you’re trying to do is estimate greed. Punters will try & ride on a price movement to maximise profit & it’s the trick of appreciating when that’s gone sufficiently past the point of realistic expectations & time to bet against the trend, is where you make money.
    So if greed is a moral failing & the market is where it’s being played out, yes. And profiting from the weaknesses of the ignorant could be another.
    Personally? Evolution in action. Tough.

  2. FFS.

    If the abstract is an accurate summary of the paper, they haven’t.

    They’ve shown that the moral values people act on are very different depending on whether the person is acting in isolation or within a market.

    You know, as in markets eroding moral values.

  3. I thought Soviet, North Korea, DDR etc were all pretty decent emprical experiments for testing this?

  4. “So if greed is a moral failing & the market is where it’s being played out, yes. And profiting from the weaknesses of the ignorant could be another.”

    But the market is only showing us how we are: it’s not making us any worse morally. And then there’s the argument that free(er) markets increase cooperation and promote peace rather than war.

  5. What Emil said. And you don’t even need to look at the extreme cases of communist countries to see the morality of the State in action. Look at our thieving, lying, expenses-guzzling MP’s. Look at our dishonest police forces, who lied about Hillsborough and about Andrew Mitchell. Look at our social workers who, when not snatching children away from UKIP members, were (are?) offering Urdu lessons and condoms to little girls who were being raped by Muslim gangs. Look at all our marvellous NHS doctors and nurses who allowed patients to die of dehydration covered in their own shit.

    Why, it’s almost as if the State draws and empowers the worst specimens of humanity to inflict pain and suffering on their fellow man in a manner which the market would soon weed out.

  6. bloke in france: No, but I’ve heard rumours about just what sort of candlesticks are being made.

  7. As Larry says, it’s not a revealed preferences things. In the base experiment they are offered 10 euros, they other experiment states the % that kill the mouse for 10 euro or less. The % is higher in markets. That’s a pretty clearly an actual change; they get the money in each case.

    The better line of attack, to my mind, is to point out that their baseline is an individual treatment, and the market one is not. It seems that this, then, is just proving that we are less moral collectively than individually; which isn’t really suprising to my mind.

    It would be deeply interesting to repeat the experiment with a non-market, but collective, base line. thinking one up is hard though.

  8. @steve

    Re Hillsborough, yep the cops messed up and lied about it, but the ‘Justice for the 96’ crew are stretching it a bit if they expect me to believe what happened was all down to the old bill and had nothing to do with stupid, drunk, football supporting louts who couldn’t care less about what was happening at the front of the stand.

    As far as I know S Yorks police were not at Heysel.

  9. @theophrastus

    But the market is only showing us how we are: it s not making us any worse morally. And then there s the argument that free(er) markets increase cooperation and promote peace rather than war.
    ……………..

    Hardly. Participating in markets can induce a sort of herd behavior. Left to themselves, to value something, people assign one value. When behaving as a member of the herd, they may assign a different value. Suppressing their own judgments to what they perceive others to be doing. It’s how those scam high street auctions work. It’s not just the shill starts off the bidding that drives it. People will compete to buy absolute crap they don’t even want at ridiculous prices. It’s actually identical behavior ends up in atrocities, lynchings etc etc etc.
    It also invalidates there’s any such thing as ‘common morality’. Subject of another heated discussion, recently. Or at least ‘common morality’ isn’t necessarily all that pleasant. Individuals can be quite ‘moral’ in their behavior (WETF morality is supposed to mean). Groups are completely unpredictable & can be exceedingly nasty because of the feedback effect.

  10. ve shown that the moral values people act on are very different depending on whether the person is acting in isolation or within a market.

    Larry, sorry, but morality really only is useful when it talks about how we deal with other people (which is all a market is). Moral values … acting in isolation are useful for hermits maybe, but not the rest of us.

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