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The Economist's Oath: On the Need for and Content of Professional Economic Ethicsby George Demartino
Synopses & Reviews
Economics is today among the most influential of all professions. Economists alter the course of economic affairs and deeply affect the lives of current and future generations. Yet, virtually alone among the major professions, economics lacks a body of professional ethics to guide its practitioners. Over the past century the profession consistently has refused to adopt or even explore professional economic ethics. As a consequence, economists are largely unprepared for the ethical challenges they face in their work.
The Economist's Oath challenges the economic orthodoxy. It builds the case for professional economic ethics step by step-first by rebutting economists' arguments against and then by building an escalating positive case for professional economic ethics. The book surveys what economists do and demonstrates that their work is ethically fraught. It explores the principles, questions, and debates that inform professional ethics in other fields, and identifies the lessons that economics can take from the best established bodies of professional ethics. George DeMartino demonstrates that in the absence of professional ethics, well-meaning economists have committed basic, preventable ethical errors that have caused severe harm for societies across the globe. The book investigates the reforms in economic education that would be necessary to recognize professional ethical obligations, and concludes with the Economist's Oath, drawing on the book's central insights and highlighting the virtues that are required of the "ethical economist."
The Economist's Oath seeks to initiate a serious conversation among economists about the ethical content of their work. It examines the ethical entailments of the immense influence over the lives of others that the economics profession now enjoys, and proposes a framework for the new field of professional economic ethics.
Economists enjoy enormous influence over the life chances of the world's inhabitants, yet do not receive, at any point in their training, any exposure to the professional ethical challenges that their work entails. This lack of attention to professional ethics means that even well-meaning economists will take actions that can cross ethical lines, to the detriment of those whom they seek to serve.
The Economist's Oath seeks to initiate a serious conversation among economists about the ethical content of their work, by raising fundamental questions on the nature of what economists do, the reception that ethics has historically had in the profession and why, how this reception is dangerous for all parties involved, the lessons to be drawn from other professions with advanced professional ethics, the principles that could emerge from professional economics ethics, and the kinds of reform in economic education that might be implied by a commitment to professional ethics. The book does not present an ethical expose or seek to embarrass the profession or individual economists, nor does it seek to lay down an ethical law for the profession. Instead, it more modestly but more importantly advances the case for the inauguration of a new tradition of inquiry. DeMartino argues that critical inquiry by economists into professional economic ethics would enhance the quality of the services that the profession offers, might help to prevent avoidable and consequential errors and could provide the communities that economists serve with a standard to which economists could be held accountable.
About the Author
George F. DeMartino is Professor of Economics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He writes widely on ethics and economics, as well as labor issues and political economy theory. He is the author of Global Economy, Global Justice: Theoretical Objections and Policy Alternatives to Neoliberalism.
Table of Contents
PART I: The Case for Professional Economic Ethics
1. "I Do Solemnly Swear"
2. Economics Practice: What Do Economists Do?
3. Ethical Challenges Confronting the Applied Economist
4. Historical Perspective: "Don't Predict the Interest Rate!"
5. Interpreting the Silence: The Economic Case against Professional Economic Ethics
6. Breaking the Silence: A Rebuttal of the Economic Case Against Professional Economic Ethics
7. The Positive Case for Professional Economic Ethics
PART II: The Content of Professional Economic Ethics
8. Learning from Others: Ethical Thought Across the Professions
9. Economists as Social Engineers: An Ethical Evaluation of Market Liberalization in the South and Transition Economies
10. Global Economic Crisis and the Crisis in Economics
11. On Sleeping Too Well: In Search of Professional Economic Ethics
12. Training the "Ethical Economist"
13. The Economist's Oath
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