Master of International Affairs   Master of Public Policy  

Ethics and economics

The objective of the course is to foster ethical reflection on a variety of economic issues by examining problems from economic life and by analysing (and possibly solving) them with the help of moral philosophy. Participants will be trained in the use of relevant terminology and will develop their skills in advancing and assessing arguments with respect to moral issues and ethical dilemmas emerging in markets and other contexts of social interaction.

Upon completing the course, participants will have an overview of the main ethical conceptions and their interconnections with economic theory and policy and will be able to produce and defend moral arguments backed by reason (e.g. by evaluating the coherence and the consistency of claims, by using appropriate evidence and by considering appropriate objections). This will be achieved by way of studying relevant texts, critically reflecting upon the different ethical conceptions and by deepening the moral intuitions of the participants in carefully selected case studies.

Is it possible to provide an ultimate justification for our moral convictions? If yes, how is this possible? If not, what is the alternative? Do we behave morally independently of the context that we are in or does our moral behavior crucially depend on the situation? If this is the case, why is it the case? Is the image of a self-interested individual acting egoistically in the market a scientific representation of economic actors or a fairy tale? Does the answer to this question make any difference for the actual behavior of market participants? How should one decide in a fundamentally uncertain environment in which the future will not necessarily look like the past? Should one stick to rules or be creative and if the latter is the case, what does creativity amount to and how can it be explained? Does the question 'Are market outcomes just?' allow for a concrete, definite answer? Can we fight corruption by changing our moral attitudes or not, and is it primarily a moral issue or not? Should the sole aim of business organisations be profit maximisation? If not, where should be the limit be and who should set and impose it?

This course is for 2nd year MIA and MPP students only.

Instructor