Economic Ethics: Can the Market be Moral?

Economic Ethics: Can the Market be Moral?

Course dates:
3 January, 2022 to 26 January, 2022
1100 € (Course fee) + 250 € (Program fee)
Economics, Multidisciplinary, Social Sciences
Application deadline:
Sunday, 6 June, 2021
Freie Universität Berlin International Summer and Winter University (FUBiS)
Berlin, Germany


General information

Modern capitalist market economy is an extremely powerful instrument to create wealth and
to satisfy human demands – and to exploit, alienate and destroy the very societies it is
supposed to serve. How can it be made moral?
Actually, there are quite a number of ways: for example through deliberate lawmaking,
responsible research & development (e.g. technology assessment), through enlightened
consumer choices and sustainable use of human and natural capital assets. But they often
come at a high cost and involve more fundamental questions:
- How can politicians and lawmakers regulate the market for the common good without
suffocating it?
- How can big corporations and tech companies continue to deliver innovative services
without monopolizing the market and dominating their customers?
- What does a fair distribution of income look like?
- How do we assign value to natural and social goods (like clean air or low crime rates)
and how do we measure sustainable welfare beyond traditional economic growth?
- How can consumers harness their own power to make informed choices and act in
accordance with their values?
- Are digital business models based on artificial intelligence and machine learning
threatening the autonomy of consumer choice?
- What does corporate social responsibility look like in times of crisis?
These and other questions are not only of interest to economists and business people but
are relevant to all economic agents (individuals, companies, state institutions, etc.).
To answer these questions, the course equips participants with key ethical approaches to
economic behavior (virtue ethics, religious teachings, deontology, utilitarianism, master
morality, neo-liberalism), approaches which have been or still are dominating ethical
discourses on economic behavior.
These ethical approaches and ideas range from Ancient Greek philosophy to modern
economic theory (Friedman, Ostrom, and Game Theory). Since religions, philosophies and
social theories are major sources of ethical conduct, the course covers a wide array of these,
including teachings of the Catholic Church fathers, ideas from European modern period
philosophy (Kant, Mill, Nietzsche) and from modern critical sociology (Veblen, Weber,
Adorno, Marcuse).
As a major learning outcome, participants develop ethical frames of reference which allow
them to identify and tackle ethical dilemmas posed by today’s economy. Particularly, they will
learn do adopt strategies that avoid moral hazards and self-harming or self-defeating
behavior. Thus, they will be able to act ethically conscious in real life situations, be it…
- as decision-makers in firms and investment companies allocating capital, workforce
and bonuses,
- as scientific researchers launching technologies that impact human life and the
- as customers rewarding sustainable or punishing unsustainable business models,
production methods or supply chains or
- as lawmakers or leaders of NGOs setting legal and ethical standards and fighting
collusion, corruption, fraud, exploitation, overproduction & -consumption,
wastefulness, obsolescence, extinction, free-riding or other forms of cost
Participants’ learning outcomes will be put to test in a hands-on way:
- when we do case studies on contemporary topics in business ethics,
- when we conduct online expert interviews on corporate compliance, digital business models
and the ethics of artificial intelligence and
- when we play (and have fun with) a CSR (corporate social responsibility) online simulation
Below the line, participants will learn to analyze, interpret and transform economic behavior –
first and foremost their own!


The easiest way to register to FUBiS is by using the online registration form. You can find detailed information on how to register here.

ECTS accreditation


Contact information


Phone: +49 30 838 73 472