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MARKETS AND MORALITY: Things Ethicists Should Consider When Evaluating Market Exchange

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For most of human history, economic systems were personal in nature—people normally interacted with people they knew personally and knew well. Today's modern market economies are impersonal—people normally interact with people they do not know personally. The historical movement from personal to impersonal systems was necessary for societies to develop the specialization of labor needed for modern production technologies. That is, the high standards of living in the developed world are due to these impersonal systems. However, the ethical systems theologians apply to modern market systems were developed for personal societies and are often inappropriate for impersonal societies. In this article, we develop the differences between personal and impersonal systems, examine the writings of a number of theologians who are very critical of market economies, and attempt to show how a different ethical approach is needed.
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Keywords: biblical ethics; capitalism; impersonal exchange; markets

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Wheaton College 2: Hope College

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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