The moral grounds of economic relations

Fundamental moral principles are invoked whenever items are exchanged. The difficulty is that these principles contradict each other. Moral though is founded on this tension.

Reciprocity, justice as a set of scales, is a prime motive of the moral life. Yet when a debt is paid, the two parties can part ways. The relationship is severed. Reciprocity also assumes equality between the two parties, which is not true for many moral relationships.

Graeber proposes 3 main moral principles which can support economic relationships: communism, hierarchy, and exchange.

Communism: common ownership and common management of collective resources. Sharing. No accounts are kept. And it is more than morality, shared pleasures are superior.
Baseline communism is the raw material of society. At this level, reciprocity is vague at best, but mutual responsibility is absolute.

Exchange: a process of interaction tending towards equivalence, in which each side is striving for advantage or to outdo the other. There is no long term commitment. The parties are also equals, and autonomous.

Hierarchy: based on clear lines of superiority. Precedent is the rule. Items or services exchanged are not presumed to be of equal value, nor is it even possible to compare their values.

Side note: the nanny state has its basis in conquest.


Posted on January 20, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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