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Il profitto e la sua etica / Egoismo e altruismo nel mercato

Selfishness, Exploitation and the Profit Motive

Anno XXIX, n. 124, gennaio-marzo 1994
Centro Einaudi


Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese

It is continually asserted as a supposedly profound, yet at the same time manifest, moral truth that competitive capitalist economies are inherently selfish. The first source of this misconception is failure to distinguish selfishness, which is necessarily wrong, from self-interest, which is not. Concentration on the self-interested motive, which is attributed by definition to capitalism, conceals the crucially relevant fact that no economy would work at all without appealing to the self-interest of the majority of participating agents. Several of the perennial errors on this point can be traced back to Aristotle: for instance, the idea that trade is an essentially exploitative zero-sum operation and that production for use and production for profit are authentically opposed. It was again Aristotle who, from the mistaken premise that natural is licit and unnatural illicit, concluded that the enslavement of those who are slaves by nature is right and connecting money to interest is wrong. Finally, the author contends that economic arrangements should be judged by results rather than by the actual or alleged motives of participants.