Moral Philosophy’s role in economics

I always felt that the role of moral philosophy in economics entered when value judgments appeared – and as a result, it would be possible to separate this issue from the domain of economic science.

However, a book I just purchased (Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy – by Hausman and McPherson) appears willing to attack this belief of mine:

Our job will be … to show how knowing moral philosophy helps one do economics and policy evaluation better

Given how heavily another Hausman book (The Philosophy of Economics:  An Anthology) helped shape my view of the economic method, I am sure that this book will end up with me talking like a very different economist.  You have been warned 😉

8 replies
  1. Brad Taylor
    Brad Taylor says:

    I was slightly disappointed with that book. A lot of it seemed to rely on a pretty superficial treatment of both economics and moral philosophy. There is some interesting stuff and it would be a good place to start considering some of the issues. Reading people like Sen, Buchanan, Hayek, and de Jasay has proved much more useful to me. Given that you already think like an economist, I would even recommend just jumping into straight moral philosophy: you’re going to use your economic understanding to make sense of the issues and you’ll get a decent synthesis anyway.

  2. broke(r)
    broke(r) says:

    i bought that book about a year ago but haven’t but have been stuck at halfway for a long time!.

    Maybe a ‘book club’ on here might help me get through it. Also bought the anthology, started reading but stalled.

  3. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:


    Book club – good idea. It might be a few weeks away – as there are other things I have to read and the such. But I’ll definitely give that a think 😉

    I would be very keen to do that for the anthology – really enjoyed those essays, especially the more modern ones. I think my least favourite was Veblen – I’ve always felt that institutionalists sort of miss the point 😉

  4. Tom M
    Tom M says:

    A little late on this, but I thought that book was useful, but I agree with Brad Taylor that it tends towards superficial. A useful introduction though, and provides heaps of useful future reading tips.

  5. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    @Tom M

    Indeed, I’m sure it can’t hurt to read it. Only problem is that after the first chapter I realised I had already read part of this earlier – now I need to find the motivation to go back through it again 😛

    I will have to do that book club thing with it at some point – that was a sharp idea 😉

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