Virtue, Vice, and the Globalization of Market Economies
Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy 2010; 1:G10-22
This study postulates that the recent world financial crisis, symptomatically manifested in the financial markets, is more fundamentally the result of a systemic disregard for moral constraints. This has occurred at macroeconomic levels within the industrialized nations and has pervaded the global economy. Moral relativism has become the dominant ethical system in society and government, and has undermined the virtuous ideals and self-restraint that foster the benefits of capitalism. Coupled with advances in technology and globalization, the effect of vices such as avarice, irresponsibility, excessive risk tolerance and criminal activities have been exacerbated. Government manipulation and intervention has further served to distort the market mechanism and increase the moral hazard. The crisis has created a vital juncture for the future of capitalism. If the lessons of discipline, restraint and moral responsibility can be partially re-learned, the long-term future looks bright. But if the crisis results in more government regulation and intervention, over time, the markets will be distorted further. Distortion may cause additional shocks to the world economy and pressure for more centralized control of international market integration.
Key words: ethics, virtue, moral relativism, corruption, capitalism, financial crisis, market economies, globalization.