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DOI 10.12887/33-2020-1-129-11

Włodzimierz KACZOCHA – Towards Positive Competition and Social Solidarity: Ethical Values and Standards in a Free-Market Economy

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The first part of the article describes the views characteristic of neoclassical economics (or, the so-called mainstream economics) on the autonomy of an economy and free market, postulating their independence of ethics, politics, or the State. In this context, Elaine’s Sternberg’s idea of “just business” is presented. Following the principles of mainstream economics, Sternberg assumes that profit maximization is the aim of economic activity and considers this aim as a value and an ethical norm. An opposing standpoint has been adopted by institutional and neoinstitutional economics, whose proponents claim that an economy, while developing in a particular cultural context, is inevitably related to an ethic. James M. Buchanan, a cofounder of this current, writes than an individual engaging in an economic activity must take a moral “leap” and go beyond her egoistic interests. In turn, John K. Galbraith argues that free market is controlled by social countervailing powers, such as civil society organization. Based on these views, Lynn S. Paine has developed the principles of “positive competition.” The second part of the paper discusses the Catholic social solidarism and presents the teaching of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis on the economic development and on the values of solidarity, justice, and freedom as axiological foundations for economic activity undertaken by individuals and institutions. Particular attention has been given to pope Francis’s criticism of the principles of mainstream economics and of the “technocratic paradigm” adopted by the economists and technocrats attempting to maximize the exploitation of nature. The article also addresses the principles, virtues, and moral standards endorsed by the popes in the context of the aims of economic development and economic activity of individuals (persons) on the free market. In the section concluding the paper, the author proposes his critique of neoclassical economics and explains why the principles of positive competition, as well as the social teaching of the Catholic Church, must be respected in an economic practice.

Keywords: neoclassical economics, neoinstitutional economics, just busines, countervailing powers, positive competition, technocratic paradigm, free-market ethics, social solidarism, Catholic social teaching 

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  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 20.00
  3. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  4. DOI Prefix 10.12887