I AM an advocate of commerce because I am a friend of its effects. It is a pacific system expanding to cordialise mankind. So said Tom Paine, normally portrayed as a Leftie and a Republican. The notion that an active commerce is socially benevolent would not have startled anyone in the Enlightenment. To the classical authors it was plain that markets were ethical as well as productive.
Today, to claim capitalism or markets are the morally superior or ethical option seems outlandish. Those paladins of capitalism at the Confederation of British Industry regard themselves as merely the sources of prosperity to be milked for schools, hospitals and pensions. I doubt if any top industrialist today would feel confident explaining why he and his company are ethically superior to any public body. It is a pity capitalism is so weak about defending its moral credentials. Lord Kalms of Dixons is the exception that proves the rule, as he takes his sword to those who would denigrate or misrepresent his vast contribution not only to our wealth but also to our sense of right and wrong about capitalism.
The essence of morality or ethics is options or choices. The market is a creative tissue of these choices. It is the opposite of coercion or command. Markets are a civilising force. To offer a good or a service to o