Can a Good Person be a Good Trader? An Ethical Defense of Financial Trading

  • Marta RocchiEmail author
  • David Thunder
Original Paper


In a 2015 article entitled “The Irrelevance of Ethics,” MacIntyre argues that acquiring the moral virtues would undermine someone’s capacity to be a good trader in the financial system and, conversely, that a proper training in the virtues of good trading directly militates against the acquisition of the moral virtues. In this paper, we reconsider MacIntyre’s rather damning indictment of financial trading, arguing that his negative assessment is overstated. The financial system is in fact more internally diverse and dynamic, and more reformable, than suggested by MacIntyre’s treatment. The challenge at the heart of MacIntyre’s claims can be crystallized in the question, “under which conditions, if any, can a person be an effective trader and simultaneously live a worthy human life?” We conclude that there are realistic possibilities of integrity and growth in moral virtue for those who work in the financial sector, at least for those operating in a work environment minimally permissive toward virtue, provided they possess characters of integrity and genuine aptitude for the skills and attitudes required in their professional tasks.


Finance ethics Financial trading MacIntyre Virtue ethics Integrity 



We wish to thank the editor and two reviewers for their diligent comments and feedback, which helped us refine and clarify important aspects of the argument. Likewise, we thank the participants in the conferences where we have presented the paper at different stages of its evolution : IV Colloquium on Christian Humanism in Economics and Business (Berlin, 25th October 2016), Society for Business Ethics Annual Conference (Atlanta, 5th August 2017), and the workshop on “New Ideas in Economic Justice” at the Manchester Centre for Political Theory annual meeting at University of Manchester (13th September 2017). We are also indebted to several financial practitioners for helpful and informative discussions of both ethical and technical aspects of our argument. Marta Rocchi gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the MCE Research Centre at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the School of Economics and Business of the University of Navarra, and the Calihan Travel Grant provided by the Acton Institute. Finally, David Thunder is grateful for the support of a Ramón y Cajal research fellowship awarded by the Spanish Government (Grant Number RYC-2015-18808).


This study was partially funded by a Ramón y Cajal Research Fellowship, awarded by the Spanish Government (RYC-2015-18808).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interests

Authors declare that they have no conflicts of interests.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies involving human participants or animals performed by either of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Markets, Culture and Ethics Research CentrePontificia Università della Santa CroceRomeItaly
  2. 2.Institute for Culture and Society – Religion and Civil Society ProjectUniversidad de NavarraPamplonaSpain

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