James M. Buchanan: Smithian Economist as Business Ethicist

40 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2019

See all articles by Art Carden

Art Carden

Brock School of Business, Samford University; Independent Institute

Greg Caskey

George Mason University

Zachary Kessler

George Mason University

Date Written: November 21, 2019

Abstract

We explore some of the key themes in the Nobel Prize-winning economist James M. Buchanan’s classic works, showing how his ethical thinking, particularly in his Ethics and Economic Progress , apply to the problems facing firms and workers. We also explore how Buchanan’s ethical arguments pertain to the “public capital” of a flourishing society. Buchanan’s argument that we should work more, save more, and “pay the preacher” of “the institutions of moral-ethical communication” suggest several ways that people with other-regarding preferences can contribute to overall social flourishing and highlights some of the mechanisms by which those who have “affected to trade for the public good” might want to redirect their efforts. Our analysis shows how Buchanan’s work has considerable implications for business ethics. Just as his economic analysis of politics changed how we understand government, we think his economic analysis of ethics can (and should) change how we understand business.

Keywords: James M. Buchanan, Economics, Public Choice, Business Ethics, Corporate and Social Responsibility

Suggested Citation

Carden, Art and Caskey, Greg and Kessler, Zachary, James M. Buchanan: Smithian Economist as Business Ethicist (November 21, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3492169 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3492169

Art Carden

Brock School of Business, Samford University ( email )

800 Lakeshore Drive
Birmingham, AL 35229
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.artcarden.com

Independent Institute ( email )

100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428
United States

Greg Caskey (Contact Author)

George Mason University ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Zachary Kessler

George Mason University ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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