What most people think of as moral behavior can be briefly described as satisfying three conditions: (1) helping others intentionally, (2) helping them at a personal sacrifice, and (3) helping identifiable people or groups. We all seem hard-wired to like this morality, which I refer to as ”magnanimous morality.” Magnanimous morality is an indispensible factor in living a meaningful life. But it is not the only type of morality we rely upon. While magnanimous morality is important in many of our economic activities (for example, practicing a certain measure of generosity and kindness to those we deal with directly), it is not the moral foundation of markets.
The moral foundation of markets is what I call ”mundane morality.” Mundane morality requires no more than what we would expect of any decent person and has, for most people, little of the emotional appeal of magnanimous morality. Mundane morality can be described broadly as obeying the generally accepted rules or norms of conduct, such as telling the truth, honoring promises and contractual agreements, respecting the property rights of others, and refraining from intentionally harming others except through legitimate competition.
En av Lees poänger är att vi lätt får för oss att den storslagna moralen alltid är att föredra. Vi vill ofta att mänskligt agerande ska ske utifrån storslagna motiv. Lee påpekar dock följande:
Market behavior is widely seen to be lacking in the magnanimous morality that people instinctively find appealing, and Smith’s ”invisible hand” justification for markets supports that view—people do more to help others unintentionally in markets by seeking only their personal gain, and benefits go to thegeneral public, that is, to no one in particular. Many people see this justification as immoral or, at least, amoral. Think, for example, of how most people would react if told that Bill Gates, Steven Jobs, or Henry Ford did more for humanity than Mother Teresa ever did. It’s factually correct. By bringing down the cost of computers and software (Gates and Jobs) and by putting swift personal transportation within the reach of middle-income and even lower-income families (Ford), they made life easier for hundreds of millions of people and probably took, as their reward, well below ten percent of the value they created. Mother Teresa, though a noble human being, did far less good because she helped far fewer people. Yet make that claim and you will hear howls of protest. What matters to most people in judging morality is intentions, not results.
Jag delar uppfattningen, att det normativt relevanta är vilka utfall som uppnås, inte vilka de motiv människor utgår ifrån är. Jag delar också uppfattningen att vardaglig moral, kopplad till egenintresse, kan ge och ofta ger bättre utfall än storslagen moral. Jag är rentav misstänksam mot personer som framställer sig som motiverade av en storslagen moral. Jag kan inte undgå misstanken att deras moral är mindre storslagen än retoriken gör gällande.