Values, Markets and the State
Edited by Geoffrey Brennan and Giuseppe Eusepi
Chapter 2: Value and Values, Preferences and Price: An Economic Perspective on Ethical Questions
Geoffrey Brennan and Giuseppe Eusepi One might reserve the term ‘values’ for a specially elevated or noble set of choices. Perhaps choices in general might be referred to as ‘tastes’. We do not ordinarily think of the preference for additional bread over additional beer as being a value worthy of philosophic enquiry. I believe, though, that the distinction cannot be made logically, and certainly not in dealing with the single isolated individual. If there is any distinction between values and tastes it must lie in the realm of inter-personal relations. (Arrow, 1963) Introduction It is said that America and Britain are nations divided by a common language. What presumably is meant by this remark is that words that mean one thing in the US mean something rather different in the UK – and this for enough words and expressions to make talking at cross-purposes frequent and occasionally comical,1 and yet more occasionally, seriously problematic. The conversation between moral philosophers and economists, after years of lying dormant, has somewhat revived in the recent past. And the scope for miscommunication in this conversation seems no less than in the US–UK analogue. The situation in this case is exacerbated by the fact that economists, unlike philosophers, have little taste for extended conceptual analysis over the use of terms: we economists tend to save our rigour for the equations. In this chapter, we are going to attempt a little clarification about words, in the interests, we hope, of improved communication. Often of course...
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