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Il Sole 24 ore - 25/03/2010

From Gianfranco Fabi´s Blog on Sole24Ore, the review of Luigino Bruni´s latest book


A Breath of Ethos that Gives Life to the Free Market 

By Gianfranco Fabi

Published on Sole 24 Ore 25/03/2010


The concept of market spans over the entire history of economic thought. In the third century before Christ, Aristotle presents the first analytical indications on the importance of exchange, business, money and the division of labor. With Thomas Aquinas, we´re presented with the first meritorious assessments that are significantly open, for that time, to the legitimacy of interest on loans, surpassing the traditional condemnation of usury.

But it is with classic economics, and especially with Adam Smith, that the market becomes such an important foundation for the economic reality, an instrument of expression of freedom of producers and consumers. What particularly comes into relief is the "invisible hand" capable of transforming the persuit of individual interests in the progressive conquest of an always better collective well-being.




Something has changed in recent months: many decorated economists, like Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, have defined the current economic crisis as a failure of the market, as a definitive sign that the economic model based on capital and free exchange is incapable of self-regulation. No one denies that there is some kinf of problem at a systemic level. What is more controversial is the debate about possible solutions, about roads to take and medication to prescribe to cure the current crisis and avoid future ones. Luckily, the 2009 crisis happened 20 years after that which in 1989 swept away models of real socialism, models which were the only historical opposition to the market economy. So the alternative to the free market cannot but be a system founded on the same principles, but capable of joining freedom with justice, work with wealth, merit with the dignity of persons.

This is Luigino Bruni´s hypothesis: "The great operation that awaits us is to go beyond this market economy without renouncing the conquests of civilization that such an economic and social system allowed us to reach in the last few centuries." The recipe is that of recuperating that "fraternity without which life, either individual or social, does not flower." The challenge is undeniably as much reckless as it is full of fascination. Joining positive values with the market, putting liberty, initiative and award up front, with a humanity that also has many other values, like gratuitousness, which are very different from those measurable within monetary perimeters.

For this to happen, it is not enough to call us back to ethics. It is necessary to build an ethos, that is, an environment, a lifestyle, a way of understanding economic relationships with a strategy capable of enriching both individuals and the community, without fundamentalism and dogmatism, and instead with freedom of expression, even of far-stretched visions, with constructive comparison of values and, why not, even of interests.

In the end, aiming not only at a market with a human face, but one with many recognizable faces - as many faces as the number of people in it.




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