Markets and Morals: The Limits of Doux Commerce

William and Mary Business Law Review (Forthcoming)

30 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2018

See all articles by Mark Movsesian

Mark Movsesian

St. John's University School of Law

Date Written: January 10, 2018

Abstract

In this essay for a symposium on Professor Nathan Oman's new book, "The Dignity of Commerce," I do three things. First, I describe what I take to be the central message of the book, namely, that markets promote liberal values of tolerance, pluralism, and cooperation among rival, even hostile groups. Second, I show how Oman's argument draws from a line of political and economic thought that dates to the Enlightenment, the so-called "doux commerce" thesis of thinkers like Montesquieu and Adam Smith. Finally, I discuss what I consider the most penetrating criticism of that thesis, Edmund Burke's critique from tradition, which suggests we should be careful attributing too much to markets' ability to promote liberal pluralism. According to Burke, it is the Western tradition, including religion, and not commerce, which creates the tolerant, pluralist marketplace of the doux commerce thesis. That Burke was correct is suggested by several historical examples and by contemporary events in the United States and across the globe. That is not to say that Oman is entirely wrong about the potential political benefits of the market, only that we should be careful not to overstate them.

Keywords: Contracts, Markets, Doux Commerce, Burke

JEL Classification: K12, K30

Suggested Citation

Movsesian, Mark, Markets and Morals: The Limits of Doux Commerce (January 10, 2018). William and Mary Business Law Review (Forthcoming) . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3099712

Mark Movsesian (Contact Author)

St. John's University School of Law ( email )

8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
718-990-5650 (Phone)
718-990-2199 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/graduate/law/faculty/profiles/Movsesian

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