Introduction

Traditional studies on natural law and justice have been eclipsed by the development of a conception of economic science which has tried to apply a methodology originally formed for the natural sciences and the world of physics to the social sciences. According to this trend of thinking, the defining content of economic theory would consist of the systematic application of a narrow criterion of “rationality”, so that both individual human action and economic policy at a general level is considered to be determined by calculations of costs and benefits, based on a maximization criterion which supposedly make it possible to “optimize” the attainment of the ends pursued on the basis of given means. According to this approach, it seemed obvious that considerations relative to ethical principles as guides for human behaviour lost relevance and significance. In fact, it seemed that a universal guide for human behaviour had been found and, at its different levels (individual and social), it could be put into practice by applying a simple criterion of maximization of the beneficial consequences derived from each action, without the need, therefore, to adapt the behavior of human beings to any kind of pre-fixed ethical rules. Science had apparently thus managed to eliminate considerations related to justice and make them obsolete.

 


Jesús Huerta de Soto
Professor of Political Economy
King Juan Carlos University of Madrid, Spain

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