Books / Digital Text

6. Antimarket Ethics: A Praxeological Critique

Appendix: Professor Oliver on Socioeconomic Goals

Some years ago, Professor Henry M. Oliver published an important study: a logical analysis of ethical goals in economic affairs.30 Professor Kenneth J. Arrow has hailed the work as a pioneer achievement on the road to the “axiomatization of a social ethics.” Unfortunately, this attempted “axiomatization” is a tissue of logical fallacies.31

It is remarkable what difficulty economists and political philosophers have had in trying to bury laissez faire. For well over a half century, laissez-faire thought, both in its Natural-Rights and its utilitarian versions, has been extremely rare in the Western world. And yet, despite the continued proclamation that laissez faire has been completely “discredited,” uneasiness has marked the one-sided debate. And so, from time to time, writers have felt obliged to lay the ghost of laissez faire. The absence of opposition has created a series of faintly worried monologues rather than a lively two-sided argument. Nevertheless the attacks continue, and now Professor Oliver has gone to the extent of writing a book almost wholly devoted to an attempted refutation of laissez-faire thought.

  • 30. Henry M. Oliver, Jr., A Critique of Socioeconomic Goals (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1954).
  • 31. Kenneth J. Arrow, “Review of Oliver's A Critique of Socioeconomic Goals,”Political Science Quarterly, September, 1955, p. 442. Arrow is correct, however, when he says, “It is only when the socio-economic goals have been made clear that we can speak intelligently about the best policies for their achievement.” Such clarification has been attempted in the present chapter.