Job Talk: The Market Fairness Approach to Business Ethics

Seminar Room & Zoom
Wed, 02/02/202210:30-12:00
Etye Steinerg


This paper argues that the implicit morality of the market is to be found in an ideal of fairness. Call this the Market Fairness Approach (MFrA). According to the MFrA, we should think about the deontic constraints generated by the competitive status of the market, and specifically the competitive standing different participants in the market have. According to the MFrA, so long as market participants have their fair chance of benefiting from the market, things are going well, morally speaking. We can, therefore, have a deontic approach to business ethics based on the raison d’etre of competitive markets, by focusing on competitive fairness and how well positioned different parties are to benefit from participating in the market. According to the MFrA, we should understand consumers and suppliers as competing over consumer surplus, and market status as the ability to capture or retain that surplus. The paper argues that competitive markets should enable participants to ‘profit’ from taking part in the market, i.e. by having some resources left over after they have satisfied their desires and preferences. Market participants should be able to benefit not merely by satisfying their preferences, but also by being able to improve their overall material conditions. The MFrA can thus provide fruitful ground for conducting research on stakeholder management, as well as the use of disruptive market devices (such as AI and machine-learning algorithms).