ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context : OnMarkets, OnCapitalism

A blog-post about GeorgeSoros's claim claim that markets are amoral or can not be morally evaluated or censured by Charles Dodgeson :

That seems to be an interesting issue. Soros's claim apparently hinges on the fact that markets are large enough that no individuals harm any other individual, because rational acts simply contribute to the way the market was going anyway :

I insist that there is no point in applying moral judgments to decisions that have no outcome – and that is the case regarding the social effects of individual investment decisions. Those decisions affect only the profits of the individual, not the prices prevailing in the market. That is what I mean when I say that markets are amoral: The anonymous participant need not be concerned with the social consequences of her decisions. By contrast, political actions, such as voting or lobbying or even arguing, do have social consequences. ...

But, as Dodgeson points out, in the case of monopolies and oligopolies, individual decisions do affect the market price. I'd go further. 'The whole point of markets is that every individual negotiation contributes to the setting of the market price. That's why they're information aggrogators!

So, I'd say, the opposite is true. All negotiations affect the local price, which has knock-on effects on the wider price.

Of course, this does mean that moral responsibility is diffuse. The CreditAssignmentProblem of tracking back the cause of the harm is very difficult. But does that means it goes away?

Another point. We normally only think of monopolies and oligopolies as "bad" agents. Because can (and generally do) take advantage of their strength in the market to force an unfair deal.

But power differentials exist in every transaction in the market. Every buyer and seller has a different range of alternatives available to them, and therefore one is at an advantage, with more freedom to walk away from the transaction, and the other, more desperate with less freedom to walk away. It's extremely rare for two agents to equally empowered by their market contexts, and thus the equally free in their bargaining.

In fact markets are FractalOligopolies, all the way down to the smallest unit of negotiation. Maybe this favours Graham's hypothesis SeekingSimilarStatus. You have more freedom trading with those roughly equivalent clout.

On the other hand, I think Soros has some things right, because at least he seems to understand that MarketsAreEmbedded.

Dodgeson :

And Soros does go on to claim that moral accountability is on society at large for setting up the market mechanism in the first place, and goes on to inveigh against arguments for the primacy of markets as a social decision making mechanism, for exactly that reason: