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Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the Economy

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ISBN-13: 978-0691135236
ISBN-10: 0691135231
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Editorial Reviews


"Moral Markets challenges the 'homo economicus' rational choice framework of mainstream economics with 15 chapters contributed by a team researching the nature of values in economic thinking. Zak has compiled what may become a starting point for further work on this topic, given the volume's scope and creative insights. After philosophical reflections from Aristotle to Adam Smith on the origin and nature of values, the readings focus on evolutionary processes that form values like fairness and reciprocity. . . . [T]his collection is important in helping to reconsider the value-free claims of economics."--J. Halteman, Wheaton College, for CHOICE

"The book's span is huge, taking in cooperation among chimpanzees, the status of moral emotions, and the role of contract law in encouraging trustworthy behaviour, as well as areas more familiar to economists such as the effect of incentive schemes on employee effort. . . . Moral Markets is an interesting and valuable book, addressing important and under-researched questions."--Joe Perkins, World Economics

"Moral Markets is a fascinating indicator in its own right of trends in thinking about markets. . . . This . . . should be part of strategic thinking for any senior manager, in library work and beyond. This is also an attractive addition to the economics and business ethics shelves of any academic library."--Stuart Hannabuss, Library Review

"Moral Markets is challenging not only because it brings to bear a wide variety of scientific fields of inquiry but also because it is willing to buck widely held assumptions about markets and what human nature really is. By drawing the best available science, it manages to offer a sense both of objectivity and of hope that perhaps we are not as nasty and brutish as we sometimes seem."--Ray Bert, Civil Engineering

"This is an interesting and important collection of essays, indicating some important shifts of thinking and some of the positive benefits of work in 'neuro-economics'."--Geoffrey M Hodgson, Journal of Economic Issues

"Moral Markets provides the serious student of business, government, and society with the necessary intellectual tools to reengineer their knowledge and practice of virtue, and perhaps enlighten them on why and how 'goodness' ultimately serves society."--Sean D. Jasso, PhD, Graziado Business Report

"Everyone who is vaguely interested in how motivated choice interacts with morals should own this collection. The bibliographies span a dozen research areas and offer precise guidance to enter ongoing discussions."--David M. Levy, Journal of Bioeconomics

"Moral Markets provides a surprising and fundamentally new view of economic one that also reconnects the field to Adam Smith's position that morality has a biological basis."--World Book Industry

From the Back Cover

"Most people are fundamentally honest, trustworthy, and fair. Why? Because they have a capacity for empathy and trust that is just as innate as their capacity for selfishness. It evolved in order to enable people to capture social benefits through exchange. Markets not only need that instinct; they also nurture it. This simple and beautiful idea has been disinterred by the authors of this book from beneath the cynical sophistries of the twentieth century."--Matt Ridley, author of The Origins of Virtue

"Before he became famous as the father of free-market capitalism through The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a long-forgotten and still little-known treatise about the role of values and virtues in economic and social life. At last, science has caught up with Smith, and now Paul Zak has gathered leading scholars and scientists in a definitive volume on why markets are moral. This paradigm-shifting book is required reading not only for economists, but for all behavioral scientists."--Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic, columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Mind of the Market

"Understanding how values are reflected in markets, and how markets either reduce or increase their positive or negative effects on human welfare, is obviously important. The work of the scholars represented in this volume contributes significantly to these issues and adds substantially to the foundations of analysis that will eventually lead to a richer and more complete understanding of these issues.
I look forward to seeing the creation of an entirely new field of inquiry in economics, and in its sister social sciences, focused deeply on the positive analysis of the role of values in elevating the possible outcomes of human interaction. . . . The role of values is a purely positive question for economics and the other social sciences, and this volume begins that journey toward creating such a science."--from the foreword by Michael C. Jensen, professor emeritus, Harvard Business School


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691135231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691135236
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul J. Zak is a scientist, prolific author, entrepreneur, and public speaker. He is the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and Professor of Economics, Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Zak also serves as Professor of Neurology at Loma Linda University Medical Center. He has degrees in mathematics and economics from San Diego State University, a Ph.D. in economics from University of Pennsylvania, and post-doctoral training in neuroimaging from Harvard. He is credited with the first published use of the term "neuroeconomics" and has been a vanguard in this new discipline. He organized and administers the first doctoral program in neuroeconomics. Dr. Zak's lab discovered in 2004 that the brain chemical oxytocin allows us to determine who to trust. His obsession with finding the chemical basis for morality has lead him to write The Moral Molecule.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Herbert Gintis on February 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
The role of values in the modern market economy is important for two reasons. First, economic development in poor countries involves importing some subset of institutions and cultural values from the currently advanced economies, while rejecting others in order to maintain traditional values and institutions, where possible. We have a pretty good idea as to which institutions are required for a healthy market economy, but only a few obvious organizing points when it comes to cultural values (e.g., corruption and nepotism are bad, primary, secondary, and higher education, and the rule of law are good). Second, business leaders in the United States and other advanced market economies have been involved in huge numbers of scandals in recent years, and there is a general sense that business culture tolerates a much higher level of unethical and illegal behavior that such other professions as medicine, science, education, and law. What can be done, if anything, to rectify this situation?

This problem is interdisciplinary by its very nature, drawing upon the knowledge of psychologists, economists, legal scholars, sociologists, and biologists within the behavioral sciences, as well as neuroscientists, philosophers, journalists, and even business executives themselves. Twenty years ago, the need for interdisciplinary research would have assured that nothing interesting from the scientific point of view could possibly be said. This is because until recently, interdisciplinary research meant compromising down to a common denominator that could be accepted by all representatives of diverse fields with largely contradictory organizing principles and incompatible views of social organization and dynamics.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Charles Taylor on July 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
This collection of essays provides an accessible and often delightful guided tour of the frontier of current research in sociology, economics, biology and philosophy.

The first of five parts is philosophical and argues that core moral values are real and universal, and not something illusory or relativistic. The second discusses new scientific evidence that certain species of apes behave morally: the roots of morality run deep apparently. The third lays out a couple of ways in which markets and morals co-evolve. The fourth examines the not-always-obvious interdependence of morality and law. And the final section looks at ways in which markets and morality can in fact be highly supportive of one another.

There are great insights to be gleaned from this book: several of the shortcomings of traditional economic thinking are neatly exposed; morality is revealed to be a field of empirical research as well as a subject of philosophical enquiry; markets are shown to be almost psychic on occasion in the speed with which they can capture and evaluate information. Economists have for a long time appreciated that law is important to the smooth functioning of an economy. This book shows us how virtues matter as much.

Here is one example of a nice insight. In chapter eight, Lynn Stout, writes about "Taking Conscience Seriously" and starts off by describing Homo Economicus, the stereotypical rational profit maximizer featured in the pages of most economics textbooks. "Not to put too fine a point on it," she says, "Homo Economicus is a sociopath. The hallmark of sociopathy is extreme selfishness as shown by a willingness "to lie, cheat, take advantage, [and] exploit."" She uses the American Psychiatric Association's definition of a sociopath to make her point.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Doug Norton on August 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Economists gravitate toward explanation by incentives; but, values also constitute motivations for action. The premise of this book was to investigate the values-based explanations and demonstrate the "Critical Role of Values in the Economy". Sadly, if that was the aim of this book it was a disappointment. While the diversity of disciplines provides alternative perspective on values (their transmission, acceptance, evolutionary basis) the feel of the whole book is disjointed. There were, however, a few bright spots amidst several misguided articles. The particulars of the basis for my critique are below, but, overall I would still recommend the book as a first cut at a discussion about morality and markets.

Paul Zak's introduction and chapter "Values and Value" as well as Schwab and Ostrom's article "The Vital Role of Norms and Rules in Maintaining Open Public and Private Economies" come the closest to integrating values. Particularly, Schwab and Ostrom explain the need for values when they discuss the infinite regress problem, "Thus, at some point, we must cease to rely upon institutional corrections and place our faith in a citizenry well educated in virtue. Ultimately we must guard the guardians. It is our hope that, by keeping our rules for institutional design in mind, we can guard them well."

That is, good institutions help; however, when there is always an incentive to defect for personal gain (from each guardian), at least one guardian must say, "I will not defect because of that's not part of my value system." That there is a necessary critical mass of pre-existing values is important. Now, how those values come about is another story.
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