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George DeMartino

Do Economists Need Ethics?

About the topic


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About the topic

Economics is today among the most influential of all professions. Economists alter the course of economic affairs and deeply affect the lives of current and future generations. Yet, virtually alone among the major professions, economics lacks a body of professional ethics to guide its practitioners. Over the past century the profession consistently has refused to adopt or even explore professional economic ethics. As a consequence, economists are largely unprepared for the ethical challenges they face in their work. This is the premise of George DeMartino's important new book, published at the end of 2011 by Oxford University Press.

The Economist's Oath challenges the economic orthodoxy. It builds the case for professional economic ethics step by step—first by rebutting economists' arguments against and then by building an escalating positive case for professional economic ethics. The book surveys what economists do and demonstrates that their work is ethically fraught. It explores the principles, questions, and debates that inform professional ethics in other fields, and identifies the lessons that economics can take from the best established bodies of professional ethics. The book investigates the reforms in economic education that would be necessary to recognize professional ethical obligations, and concludes with the Economist's Oath, drawing on the book's central insights and highlighting the virtues that are required of the "ethical economist." The Economist's Oath seeks to initiate a serious conversation among economists about the ethical content of their work. It examines the ethical entailments of the immense influence over the lives of others that the economics profession now enjoys, and proposes a framework for the new field of professional economic ethics.

The book, and DeMartino's arguments, have been widely praised (for the most part; when economists disagree with him, some do violently) and discussed throughout the media; more on that here on DU's excellent Portfolio site.

There's a short, enjoyable article about DeMartino in the Winter 2011 University of Denver Magazine online: Blame the Banks. It has a great picture, too.

You can read a page proof of the very informative chapter "The economic crisis and the crisis in economics" by George DeMartino in Consequences of Economic Downturn: Beyond the Usual Economics, 2011, edited by Martha Star.


Dr DeMartinoGeorge DeMartino is Professor and Co-Director of the MA in Global, Finance, Trade and Economic Integration in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.

He received a BA magna cum laude from Harvard University in History and Economics, an MA from Warwick University, UK, in Comparative Industrial Relations, and a PhD from the University of Massachusetts in Economics. He came to DU in 1993 as Assistant Professor and was appointed full Professor in 2010. At DU he has won numerous teaching awards including "Most Useful Course," "Most Accessible Professor," and "Top Professor." He has authored 2 books and many articles and other publications.

He is a furniture maker, and a soccer coach, among other achievements.

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