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Creating the Moral Political Economy for the Future

Click here for this project's working groups

All economic frameworks imply a moral as well as a political economy. Moral economies vary in time and place and have implications for the values that dominate the thinking and practice of governments, firms, and citizens. They influence the reciprocal obligations, social compact, and social cohesion of a society.

We are still operating within a political economic framework developed in the twentieth century. This framework enshrines the rational individual as decision maker and centerpiece; it then emphasizes the importance of rational choices defined narrowly in terms of personal costs and benefits. It is normative about firms, governments, and the economic system itself: firms should single-mindedly maximize profit, governments should limit themselves to protecting property rights and providing the infrastructure for markets to operate efficiently. The assumption is that unfettered markets will ultimately benefit all who work and strive. It is also normative about individuals: free riding is expected, and economic failure generally reflects personal, not structural, problems.

CASBS has initiated a podcast on its Medium page, "CASBS Conversations," about the Center's projects. John Markoff serves as moderator. In the kick-off to the series, Markoff interviews Margaret Levi on the "Creating a New Moral Political Economy for the  Future" project. You can access that interview here.

The aim of this project is to create a new moral political economic framework that builds on contemporary understanding of human beliefs, values, institutions, organizations, and interactions. We see this work as having implications for the ways in which we define the role and scope of markets, trade, and work; for reconceptualizing the reach and impact of government; and for creating a safety net that is compatible with, and can benefit from a technologically driven economy. Building such a framework will require new responsibilities and a new sense of moral and ethical leadership from the elites that are creating new technologies and driving their adoption and governance. More explicitly, it will require that those who create and use technology to produce and sustain innovation do so not just for the economic security of some, but to enhance human capabilities and to facilitate the learning processes that are in turn crucial to sustaining innovation in the long-run.

The moral political economy project includes four separate but interrelated working groups. These groups focus on the building blocks of the new framework; the role of technology; the values the framework will embedt; and the pedagogical strategies needed to disseminate new ideas.

The moral political economy project has received some initial funding from the Hewlett Foundation, the Berggruen Institute, and Bloomberg Beta.

For more information, please contact CASBS program director Federica Carugati (carugati@stanford.edu).