Publication in: Spring 2023 Issue

Morals Over Money: Toward a More Ethically Conscious Economics
Timothy Greene
Faculty Mentor(s):
Robert Tatum
Abstract / Summary:
The rational choice model and models of utility maximization, as they stand today, hold a quite narrow view of human behavior. The idea that people are solely self-interested, “utility maximizing” creatures leaves much to be desired as an explanation of why people do what they do. A vast majority of the population, if not its entirety, take more into account when making a decision than only what is best for them, what is maximizing their utility. Instead, whether consciously or not, people also tend to weigh their actions on a moral scale, asking internal questions like: Is this the right thing to do?Does this benefit someone other than myself? This research aims to show not only why, but also how the rational choice model and basic utility functions can be improved upon through a critical analysis to better define why people make the choices they make, by helping explain and introduce moralistic and altruistic behavior into the models. While the source of these moral considerations (e.g. society, evolution, education, or God), may vary, the fact remains that they are present in all of us. Critically studying the importance of morals in everyday life, decisions and society will assist in reinforcing the notion of a flawed model and help to better understand how adding a moral constraint could bring about a clearer, more accurate depiction of human behavior.
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