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Ethics, Economic Advice, and Economic Policy

Stiglitz, Joseph E.

This chapter asks, What does it mean to be an ethical economic advisor? Answering this question entails an examination of widely held ethical precepts that ought to guide the conduct of international economic relations and, by extension, the conduct of development and other economists who operate in this environment. The chapter teases out the obligations for economists that derive from the basic ethical concepts of honesty, fairness, social justice, the avoidance of negative externalities, and responsibility. It finds that in the international arena, national policymakers in wealthy countries and economic advisors at the leading international financial institutions performed poorly during the 1990s and early 2000s when judged against these ethical standards. This finding is sustained by an examination of specific issues that have been at the heart of development policy over the past several decades: international trade, global environmental policies, debt forgiveness, growth strategies, crisis management, and finally, population policy.


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Oxford Handbook of Professional Economic Ethics
Oxford University Press

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April 15, 2019


Keywords: economic advisors, economic policymaking, ethics, international financial institutions, development, trade, crisis management