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Market and Common Good

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Part of the Ethical Economy book series (SEEP,volume 41)


Das Neves, well-known author on economics, advisor to the Portuguese government, and professor at the Catholic University of Lisbon, describes the main obstacles which hinder the market mechanisms in serving the common good. His analyses focus on the economics of Smith, Malthus, and Marx as of three influential thinkers. Das Neves shows that both the classical analysis and the intents to overcome their deficiencies have thus far concentrated on institutional aspects, leaving aside the true problems which are to be found on a deeper level: on the level of the aims and the objectives of economic activity rather than that of its functional aspects. The author considers the Aristotelian distinction between oikonomia and chrematistike as helpful for solving the ethical question of the relationship between the free market and the common good. Financial transactions are not in themselves evil, but they become so if they are aimed at things which are completely detached from true human needs. The social evaluation of institutions by economics has to be completed by an analysis of personal attitudes, moral identity, and ethical intentions of the economic agents.


  • Common Good
  • Moral Identity
  • Greek Philosopher
  • Household Management
  • Ethical Condemnation

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  1. 1.

     These condemnations follow immediately in Aristotle (1932, 1258b.01, 1258b.2–8). See the now classical discussion in Gordon (1975), Lowry (1987), Lowry, and Gordon (1998).

  2. 2.

     Actually, the Greek philosopher is not a frequent reference of the Scott at all. In The Wealth of Nations, Aristotle is mentioned in only six paragraphs of the massive treatise. In the total of the six volumes of the The Glasgow Edition of The Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith, Aristotle is mentioned in just 51 paragraphs, with 23 of these in The History of Astronomy, one of the Essays on Philosophical Subjects in volume 3.

  3. 3.

     See Marx (1867), volume I, part II, Chap. IV, paragraph 19, note 6, and Chap. V, paragraph 18.

  4. 4.

     See, among many others, Kaye (1998); Langholm (1983, 1992, 1998), and Noonan (1957).


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Correspondence to João César das Neves .

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das Neves, J.C. (2012). Market and Common Good. In: Schlag, M., Mercado, J. (eds) Free Markets and the Culture of Common Good. Ethical Economy, vol 41. Springer, Dordrecht.

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