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date: 02 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Mainstream economics is essentially utilitarian, both in the motivations it ascribes to individual decision-makers as well as in welfare economics and policy recommendations. But utilitarianism is widely criticized, especially regarding its failure to recognize the value of the individual or recognize meaningful rights. This chapter incorporates into economics the deontological moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, which emphasizes principle and rights above preferences and welfare. After introducing the basic elements of Kant’s moral, it shows how Kantian ethics can be worked into the standard economic model of choice, allowing the agent to make principled decisions alongside prudential ones. It then surveys several areas of economics in which a Kantian approach can make a significant contribution, including instances of individual choice in which ethical factors are likely to be particularly important, as well as policy issues which are inherently ethical in nature, including the way the state intervenes in market activity.

Keywords: Immanuel Kant, duty, principle, judgment, rights, wrongdoing, utilitarianism, markets, externalities, Kaldor-Hicks

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