The Ethics of the Financial Crisis

In addition to the session on “Reason in Hayek and Rand” at the APEE conference to be held April 11-13, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada, I am organizing a session on “The Ethics of the Financial Crisis.”

hokusai-wave-141x100Rationale: Many conferences and debates are focusing on the economics and politics of the crisis, but much less attention is being focused on the core ethics issues involved. So I have solicited papers from several scholars on topics such as the following:

* Whether greed is a good explanation for the crisis.

* The role of altruism in justifying Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or legislation such as the Community Reinvestment Act.

* The ethics of paternalism as a justification for such political institutions and legislation.

* The actions of political versus market entrepreneurs in the mortgage industry and/or financial sectors.

* Whether the mortgage industry and/or financial sectors were, prior to 2008, free markets, lightly regulated, or heavily regulated.

* Moral hazard in the regulated industries and sectors.

* The ethics of regulatory capture.

* The ethics of BB&T’s, Wells Fargo’s, and US Bancorp’s decisions not to pursue subprime mortgages.

* The Community Reinvestment Act as an affirmative action program for housing.

* The CRA as a housing welfare program.

* The moral difference between lobbying proactively versus in self-defense.

* The (im)morality of rent-seeking in general with application to the bailouts.

* The ethics of the government’s use of coercion, direct or indirect, to get banks to accept TARP funds.

* The ethics of the government’s accounting methods in administering the bailouts.

* Ethics and responsibility for unintended consequences.

When the session’s panel is finalized, I’ll post it.

Hayek and Rand on reason

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I am organizing a session for the Association for Private Enterprise Education conference to be held April 11-13, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The theme is “Reason in Hayek and Rand.”

Here we have two giants of twentieth-century thought, but few comparative studies have been done. So as a start I have chosen Reason as a focusing theme and have solicited papers from several scholars on topics such as the following:

* How does Friedrich Hayek’s account of reason compare to Ayn Rand’s?

* Hayek is more focused on reason’s role in social causation while Rand is more focused on reason as an individual phenomenon. True?

* Is it accurate to say that Hayek is a sociologist of reason while Rand is a philosopher of reason?

* Hayek is an empiricist, broadly speaking, as is Rand, but Hayek’s reason is more Humean while Rand’s is more Aristotelian. True?

* Hayek has been interpreted as being a skeptic about reason and as tending to postmodernism (e.g., by Theodore Burczak). True? And if so, does this put him in direct contrast to Rand, who is a strong anti-skeptic?

* Hayek sometimes seems ambivalent about the relation between reason-based discoveries of social science and normative issues. Rand tightly integrates reason’s descriptive and normative functions. Issue here?

* On socialism: Hayek argues a reason-as-fatal-conceit thesis, while Rand places the blame primarily on an ultimately irrational altruism. Are these interpretations complementary or in conflict?

When the session’s panel is finalized, I’ll post it.