Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy

PHIL 470: Ethics and Economic Justice

Catalog Description

This course investigates questions of ethics as they relate to economic practice and theory, including the distribution of economic goods in a market economy and the structure of economic organizations.

PHIL 470: Ethics and Economic Justice

This course has a double focus--economic justice at the national level, and economic justice globally. We begin by reading two classic texts, Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom, and, John Rawls' A Theory of Justice.

Milton Friedman, a Nobel-laureate in economics, is generally regarded as the most influential economist of the post-World-War II era. His perspective is currently hegemonic in much of the world, having been re-baptized as "neoliberalism." Friedman called himself a "classical liberal," to distinguish his views from "modern liberalism," the perspective that finds its most comprehensive expression in Rawls's magnum opus, which is easily the most influential philosophical work of Anglo-American political philosophy of post-war era.

Friedman endorses a version of laissez-faire capitalism as in ideal state. Rawls thinks that a just capitalism requires a much more interventionist government. The third author we study argues that capitalism itself is fundamentally flawed, and that economic justice demands going beyond capitalism. This perspective is articulated in my book, After Capitalism, the third text we study.

All three of the above-mentioned works have as their primary focus justice within a given state. Recently philosophers and economists have become increasingly concerned with justice at the international level. To address this issue,we then read another Nobel-laureate economist, Amartya Sen, whose Development as Freedom articulates a philosophically sophisticated theory of justice intended to be an alternative to Friedmanite and Rawlsian theories that is global in scope. Sen's book is followed by the philosopher Thomas Pogge's World Poverty and Human Rights. Pogge, a student of Rawls, is one of the most important philosophers writing today on the question of global poverty.

Other Possible Readings:

Noreena Hertz, The Debt Threat: How Debt is Destroying the Developing World
John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
David Ellerman, Helping People Help Themselves: From the World Bank to an Alternative Philosophy of Development Assistance
Gregg Easterbrook, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse
Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time [2001 Edition is used, with preface by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz]