by Dr Paul Vorster | Published on 25 February 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter
Is ethical capitalism a contradiction in terms? Perhaps, observing the economically unequal society we live in today, one might feel obliged to say ‘yes’. If a system generates such stark disparities in wealth and life prospects for different people, often based entirely on the circumstances of their birth, it would surely by nonsensical to describe that system as ethical. It is instructive, therefore, to pay attention to the moral points that Adam Smith, the ‘Father of Economics’ himself, made about capitalism. Three distinctly ethical principles – prosperity, justice and liberty – were woven into Smith’s famously lucid explanation of the forces shaping what we still call the free market. And it is high time that they were re-emphasised.