Adam Smith and the Study of Ethics in a Commercial Society

Over time, the fields of economics and ethics have become more distinct with economics focusing on the rationality of actors, the incentives they face, and the outcomes of interacting within an amoral market setting. However, in the real world, economics and ethics are more interconnected. Humans are social and ethical beings regardless of setting. Recent studies have shown that individuals reward trustworthiness, punish dishonesty, and can develop meaningful social bonds within markets. Economists, seeking to better understand the world, should incorporate ethics into their economics. We argue that Adam Smith is an exemplar of pursuing a fuller approach to social science, and utilize his arguments on both economics and ethics to advance a study of ethical markets.

A chapter from The Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics

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