Jaana is always firing on all cylinders!
After we covered the main moral codes–altruism, egoism, and cynical exploitation–in my MBA business ethics course, my students report that they are all egoists (I do tell them that egoism isn’t automatic but requires knowledge of what constitutes one’ self-interest). That isn’t surprising, given that egoism is a common sense morality: pursuing one’s self-interest without exploiting other people is what survival and flourishing requires. We haven’t discussed social systems yet, but one student said: “I like egoism, but why does it align with capitalism? I want social justice, so I am happy to pay taxes for public education and healthcare.”
What makes this student, and many other people, dislike capitalism even while claiming that they advocate the pursuit of self-interest? I think there are two primary reasons: 1) a lack of understanding of capitalism, and 2) a failure to integrate capitalism with the requirements of self-interest. Let’s discuss each in…
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