The Ethical Orientations of Schools of Economic Thought

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“Any systematic inquiry into public issues which simultaneously involve economic and ethical questions requires a careful dialogue between ethicists and economists concerning those issues directly and concerning the methods employed by each group in such an analysis. This paper aims at half of the latter task: it is an attempt to outline the ethical orientations of six of the seven major schools of economics generally recognized by historians of the economic thought of the past two centuries: classical political economy, the historical school, the early neo-classical school, the later neo-classical school, the institutional school, and the Austrian school. It is due only to the constraint of time that Marxian political economy, one of the two most important schools, is omitted on the grounds that its divergences from the majority empiricist opinion in economics are far better known to our discipline than are those of the other perspectives to be outlined presently. In each case we will examine the conception of "good" economic science which characterizes each group and will address the group's understanding of the relation of the results of scientific economics to ethical decisions.”


The author is listed in this publication as “Daniel Rush Finn.”