Ethonomics unpacked

Capitalism

It is our fundamental belief that today economic activity (on the part of businesses, consumers, investors, states etc) focuses far too much on the financial bottom line at the expense of ethical considerations. Therefore for us capitalism most usefully describes the situation where people’s decision-making behaviour in the economy and society is based narrowly upon financial priorities, rather than upon a broader set of values including financial and ethical dimensions. Note that this narrow financial focus can either be because of deliberate intent, or because no other choices are available: this crucial distinction runs through our work (see behaviour vs structure).

Of course, the full story is more complicated than that – for example it’s not just prioritising price that is capitalistic. Prioritising product quality, the standard of service in a shop, or the range of products available at the point of purchase, over product ethics such as environmental sustainability also has to be seen as capitalistic. However, with this background in mind in the rest of this website we will refer to prioritising capitalism, money and the financial bottom line interchangeably, for simplicity.

Capitalism’s impact

Ethical considerations that capitalism overlooks include:

• economic and social sustainability;

• human rights;

• animal rights; and

• how we want the world around us to look.

We think it is important for there to be as deep a sense as possible within society of what these values are and how they may be balanced against each other. However, we see our role as enabling society to develop this sense of values and also providing mechanisms for them to implement, rather than as establishing what those values are (see behaviour vs structure for more detail).

Decision-making in the economy – a new ethical recipe

Our main ambition is that when decisions in the economy are made then a full spectrum of relevant factors – including the financial and the ethical – should be evaluated and given due prioritisation. This would also redress the alienation that the capitalist economy has fostered.

Where now?

Now we first explore four key ideas for understanding how ethics and economics can fit together, signposting and classifying the various types of solutions that exist. Then we explore the solution that we are advocating in more detail.

2 thoughts on “Ethonomics unpacked”

  1. The problem with capitalism extends beyond amorally seeking the dollar by any means. When a person or an organization loves money, which love is manifest in amassing wealth and power seeded with contempt or dismissal of societal and moral obligations, then regardless of legality or lawfulness of the action that person or organization is ethically deficient.

    True ethics must be part of the character or a person or an organization. This is not a new concept, religions and philosophies of both the East and the West have espoused prudence or doing good in a good way. This is more than just doing “no harm”. A person is required to do good and to use his or he goods in a good way.

    To quote Father William Saunders in his blog “Living a Virtuous Life”:
    “Finally, the virtue of temperance enables a person to keep his passions and emotions under the control of reason. While temperance moderates a person’s attraction to pleasures and gives balance in the use of created goods, it also involves using these goods in a good way. Here one approaches pleasures and the use of created goods in the light of faith, of reason and of one’s own vocation and circumstance of life.”

    For businesses, ethonomics means that they are responsible for the human condition where their product is sourced, manufactured, and sold.

    1. Yes you are absolutely right that the problem of capitalism requires a remedy in which true ethics become a part of the character of an individual, whether a person or organisation.

      I think that a big part of what I am trying to achieve through ‘Peopletree’ is providing structure through which the temperance of individuals may be supported and encouraged. My hope is that this would encourage businesses and other individuals to behave in the light of the vocation and ethical balance that you mention.

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