Moral Aspects of Economic Power

There are unavoidably moral aspects of economic power because people’s health and security depends so much upon having enough money

Economics is an important factor in political decision-making but, as observed in the introductory section to this chapter (3.1.1), it should not be the only consideration.  As Michael Sandel noted in the opening remarks of his Reith Lectures 2009: A New Citizenship, Lecture 1: Markets and Morals:

“…questions of what we ought to do in politics or as a society are unavoidably moral and political, not merely economic questions, and so they require democratic debate about fundamental values.  Economists can inform us about possible implications of policy choices, but they can’t tell us – and they don’t really claim to tell us – what’s right and wrong, what’s just and unjust”.

Sandel’s phrasing echoes this book’s separation of the different dimensions of governance, as illustrated by the examples given in the next sub-section (

The moral aspects of economic power appear both directly and indirectly in the Economic Dimension:

●  Individuals and organisations might behave in accordance with their moral values, for example when they pay extra for products that have been certified as ‘fair trade’ as described in the next chapter (, or when organisations such as charities are founded for a moral purpose.

●  An organisation can choose to behave morally to enhance its image, to attract buyers of its products and services, or at least to avoid reputational damage.

●  Individuals in a democratic political system can exercise their moral preferences by voting, and thereby exert moral influence through the politicians that they have elected.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/3123.htm.