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date: 11 December 2018

Abstract and Keywords

For more than a century, the economics profession has extended its reach to encompass policy formation and institutional design while largely ignoring the ethical challenges that attend the profession’s influence over the lives of others. Economists have proved to be disinterested in ethics, which, embracing emotivism, they often treat as a matter of preference, and they seem hostile to professional economic ethics, which they incorrectly equate with a code of conduct that would be at best ineffectual and at worst disruptive to good economic practice. But good ethical reasoning is not reducible to mere tastes, and professional ethics is not reducible to a code. Instead, professional economic ethics refers to a new field of investigation—a tradition of sustained inquiry into the irrepressible ethical entailments of academic and applied economic practice. The risks and costs of establishing the field are real, but a profession that purports to enhance social welfare cannot avoid them.

Keywords: professional economic ethics, codes of conduct, economists’ influence, econogenic harm, epistemic insufficiency, emotivism

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