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date: 02 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Markets are often criticized for being amoral, if not immoral. The core of the “political economy” that arose in the eighteenth century, however, envisioned the exchanges that take place in commercial society as neither amoral nor immoral but indeed deeply humane. The claim of the early political economists was that transactions in markets fulfilled two separate but related moral mandates: they lead to increasing prosperity, which addressed their primary “economic” concern of raising the estates of the poor; and they model proper relations among people, which addressed their primary “moral” concern of granting a respect to all, including the least among us. They attempted to capture a vision of human dignity within political-economic institutions that enabled people to improve their stations. Their arguments thus did not bracket out judgments of value: they integrated judgments of value into their foundations and built their political economy on that basis.

Keywords: political economy, virtue, prosperity, Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith

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