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2 posts from July 2015


Avsar, "A Rawlsian Defense of the Individual Mandate: The 'Collective Asset' Approach"

ROSEThe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires individuals to get coverage or pay a fine (or “shared responsibility payment”) starting in 2014. This mandate had been at the center of a contentious political and legal debate. Although the Mandate is key to ending discriminations based on pre-existing conditions in the individual insurance market, its constitutionality had been challenged. We argue that the Obama administration's legal argument for the constitutionality of the Mandate by invoking conventional economic categories such as “negative externalities” is inadequate in addressing the economic and moral significance of the Mandate. As an alternative, we suggest a Rawlsian approach. Specifically, we will borrow the Rawlsian notion of “collective asset” to articulate the moral appeal of the Mandate and its social insurance logic.

Rojhat B. Avsar, "A Rawlsian Defense of the Individual Mandate: The 'Collective Asset' Approach," Review of Social Economy, 73/2 (2015), pp. 146-153.


Steve Pressman on the ethics and economics of the Greek financial crisis

AristotleAt the American Institute Economic Research's Daily Economy blog, visiting fellow (and ASE trustee) Steve Pressman of Monmouth University looks at the Greek financial crisis through the lens of several philosophers, namely Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, and Aristotle, injecting a much needed ethical dimension to this economic debate:

Greek Financial Crisis: What Would Aristotle Do?

A common put-down of economists is that they know the price of everything but the value of nothing. This pithy comment encapsulates two very different views of money, and can be helpful in understanding how to resolve the Greek financial crisis.

Adam Smith, regarded as the father of economics, took a moral view of money. For Smith, money was about being able to have a decent standard of living, or being able to “appear in public without shame.” He supported government regulation of lending rates because he feared that lenders would take unfair advantage of the destitute. Following the Smithian view of money, we developed bankruptcy laws that let people (and business firms) escape from crushing debt, and survive without this debt hanging over them.  

The philosopher Jeremy Bentham adopted a more economic perspective. He thought that Smith’s moral view of money was inconsistent with his laissez-faire economics, where people determined what was best for them, and markets determined what was best for the economy overall. Bentham pointed out that usury laws limited individual freedom and had bad economic consequences: Lenders would not lend at low rates, and so we had less investment and spending. The economic view of money states that bankruptcy laws encourage reckless behavior and speculation, since if something goes wrong there is a simple out.

Understanding these two views of money is crucial for understanding the Greek tragedy whose last act will take place this week in Brussels (unless everyone agrees to kick the can down the road for another few weeks).

Continue reading here.