By John Meadowcroft (auth.)
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Extra info for The Ethics of the Market
This is because, as noted in the previous chapter, once we move beyond the most basic requirements, information about people’s needs is dispersed throughout the economy, highly subjective and frequently tacit. Where there are a practically infinite number of alternative uses of our resources it is impossible to deliberately comprehend the relative urgency of so many different needs and preferences, yet the price mechanism spontaneously performs this feat. It clearly is the case that many of the relative prices generated within a market economy do offend our sense of the moral worth of different goods and services.
Switches on one’s awareness of hitherto unnoticed disappointing conditions, or hitherto unnoticed opportunities for gain . . The point to be stressed is that it is one’s own purposefulness which inspires one’s actions and excites one’s alertness. One’s purpose may be altruistic or otherwise; one’s interest in achieving one’s (possibly altruistic) goals switches on one’s alertness to opportunities for advancing those goals. 26 The Ethics of the Market Smith’s description of the importance of self-love to the operation of the market should be properly understood as highlighting the polycentric, decentralized basis of economic coordination and hence the importance of individual motivation to observe and respond to the needs and demands of others – as communicated by the price mechanism.
Unfortunately, the market socialist solution fails because the accounting prices set by the planners and bureaucrats charged with managing the economy cannot perform the epistemological function demanded of them in the absence of fully functioning markets in consumer and capital goods; prices can only reflect the relative value of different goods and services (and the factors of production required to produce those goods and services) if they are generated by genuine markets driven by the polycentric choices of consumers and producers (for example, Boettke 2001; Hayek 1982d; Reynolds 1998; Rothbard 1991; Steele 1992).
The Ethics of the Market by John Meadowcroft (auth.)