As economic indicators continue to nosedive, debate over the free market continues apace. On Dec. 3 the John Templeton Foundation hosted a forum in London to address the issue.
A group of economists and commentators gathered to debate the topic: "Does the Free Market Corrode Moral Character?"
Michael Walzer, retired professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, argued that free market competition forces people to break the rules of decent conduct. Attempting to justify this behavior leads to self-deception that corrodes moral character, he said.
Competition is not, however, only a negative force, Walzer added. Cooperation in economic enterprises produces mutual respect, friendship and solidarity, and people learn how to take risks and forge alliances.
Walzer proposed limitations on economic power and markets so as to reduce the corrosion due to market forces.
Kay S. Hymowitz, the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, also warned against the negative effects of the free market on morality. The modern market economy introduces many novelties that undermine established cultural and moral traditions, she argued.