By the end of winter quarter, I will have completed the economics core. Completing this six-course sequence has taught me a great deal about concepts such as optimization, efficiency and cost analysis. What I have not been taught, however, is how to analyze the moral questions that economics raises. To what extent is inequality acceptable in an economy? Is it necessary to interfere in an economy to aid individuals who are deprived of sufficient resources? To fill this vital gap in economic student’s education, the economics department should not only design ethics electives but also make an ethics of economics course mandatory for all undergraduate economics majors.
David Magnus Ph.D. ’89 is the director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics and the co-Chair of the Ethics Committee for the Stanford Hospital.
Yesterday, economist Samuel Bowles explored the risks and rewards of incentivizing moral behavior in his lecture titled “The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives are No Substitute for Good Citizens.” Bowles’ talk was part of the Arrow Lecture Series on Ethics and Leadership sponsored by the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society.