¿Es moral el mercado?

Clemenceau dijo alguna vez que la guerra es demasiado importante como para dejarla en manos de los generales. De la misma manera, la moral es demasiado importante como para dejársela a los filósofos, sobre todo en lo que se refiere a la del mercado. Quienes se consideran defensores de la moral son más dados a oponerse al mercado, mientras que quienes lo apoyan hablan de producción, distribución y riqueza material; de todo, menos de moral.

Sin embargo, son muchas las características morales positivas del mercado. Consideremos una, que identificó Adam Smith, a saber, el vínculo entre la autonomía individual y el sustento propio a través del trabajo libre y legal. "No es de la benevolencia del carnicero, el cervecero o el panadero que esperamos nuestros alimentos, sino de la atención que prestan a sus propios intereses", escribió Smith. "Nadie, sino un mendigo, elige depender principalmente de la benevolencia de sus conciudadanos".

Este pasaje es un célebre enunciado de la utilidad del interés propio. Pero nótese la afirmación de que depender de otros es moralmente degradante. Thomas Carlyle, y posteriormente Marx y Engels, denunciarían este llamado al interés propio y el aumento en el "nexo del dinero" relacionado con él como un peligroso ataque en contra de las tradiciones o como una fuente de autoenajenación humana. Al menos, existe el peligro de que el nexo del dinero promueva una dedicación exagerada al trabajo, y la creencia de que la propia valía proviene únicamente del trabajo remunerado, lo que conduce a un temor a depender de otros, o a evitar actividades vitales pero no remuneradas.

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