Are Political Questions All Economic?
In Mark Sagoff’s article, “At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima: or Why Political Questions Are Not All Economic”, Sagoff debates the economic nature of political questions and whether or not they are all economic. Sagoff says they are not, that you cannot place a market value on many issues where morality must come first.
Segregation, is there an economic gain from this issue, is there a market value based on this? No, economics as a science has no meaningful concept of value. Sagoff believes the question of value can only be raised in the context of morality, religion, and philosophy, but not economics.
One might argue that political questions are all economic because of the fact that Americans live in a free-market society where every decision made affects the consumer. Economics is the science that studies how price signals serve to coordinate economic activity in ways that maximize prosperity. Price signals contain information, such as, the scarcity of supply relative to effective demand. If there is a demand for housing because of population growth, yet land is scarce, it becomes most beneficial to the economy to use open land to build homes bringing more people in while putting more money into the economy. Sagoff believes that it’s wrong to think that important decisions, such as these, can be made according to market choices. Is the higher cost of housing worth the loss of preservation of open space land? Economists would answer in the affirmative as this is what the consumer wants, however, Sagoff would disagree.
Sagoff argues that we are not just consumers, but also citizens, “We act as consumers to get what we want for ourselves. We act as citizens in order to achieve what we think is right or best for the community.” (p475) In order to protect certain things, such as the environment, we must make decisions as citizens about what needs to be done and not allow the market to determine our...
Cited: Ciulla, Joanne B., Martin, Clancy, and Solomon, Robert C. Honest Work, A Business Ethics Reader. Oxford University Press 2007 “At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima: or Why Political Questions Are Not All Economic”, Sagoff, Mark. (P 474-481)
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