Crossroads of Philosophy and Economics

Pocket Reference of Business Ethics Theories


Marketplace Ethics

sometimes called Shareholder Theory

Respect for laws, regulations and commonly accepted codes for operation
Decisions geared to the economic rules of the marketplace, and then checked for compliance with letter (and potentially with the spirit) of applicable laws, regulations and accepted practices.
Key concepts

Ethics becomes the pursuit of economic opportunities within legal and regulatory boundaries.

Libertarian advocates of Marketplace Ethics build arguments on the principle of individual freedom and dignity.

The invisible hand names the argument that businesses seeking profit in their field of expertise ultimately do more good for society generally than businesses distracted by philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and similar apparently noble initiatives.

Hard questions

What non-legal norms and codes will be honored and to what degree? (Example: will advertising and sales pitches stray from the strict truth?)

How, and to what extent does society as a whole benefit when businesses narrowly pursue their own bottom-line welfare?


Most start-ups and small businesses

Goldman Sachs

Walmart (pre-Michael Duke)

Facebook—according to the Winklevoss story: The Winklevoss twins maintain that in essence they had the idea for Facebook and paid nerdy programmer Mark Zuckerberg to do the programming. He broke his commitment to the brothers, wrote the program for himself and profited.

Prime philosophical
theory compatibilities
Rights theory, Libertarianism, Egoism, Utilitarianism (under some conceptions of economic growth).
Notable figures
Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, The Cato Institute.
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