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The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior$
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David C. Rose

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199781744

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199781744.001.0001

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Moral Values

Moral Values

(p.59) Chapter 4 Moral Values
The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior

David C. Rose

Oxford University Press

This chapter distinguishes between moral values that encourage us to take positive moral actions and moral values that discourage us from taking negative moral actions. It explains why with regard to economic behavior, “moral exhortations” are superfluous while “moral prohibitions” are very supportive since they combat opportunism and thereby keep transaction costs low. The key to maximizing prosperity is driving up feelings of guilt that result from taking negative moral actions so as to make opportunism irrational. This conserves on resources normally devoted to safeguarding and supports the development and operation of trust-dependent institutions. It is also shown why the obedience of moral exhortations is inherently subjective and therefore incapable of defining universal standards for moral behavior.

Keywords:   guilt, moral standards, moral values, negative moral actions, positive moral actions, rationality, value system

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