David C. Rose, chair and professor of economics at UMSL, published his new book, “The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior.”

Have you ever wondered whether a society’s moral beliefs might affect the way its economy functions or its general level of prosperity? A new book by a University of Missouri–St. Louis economist explores these questions.

In “The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior,” David C. Rose, chair and professor of economics at UMSL, explains why prevailing moral beliefs can, and likely do, affect the development, operation and downfall of market economies.

“Morality matters because trust matters, and I show that our ability to trust each other is powerfully affected by the kind of moral beliefs we believe others hold,” Rose said. “But contrary to what one might first suspect, I found that what matters is not specific religious narratives, the list of moral values or even the level of moral earnestness. Poor people in poor societies are not poor because they are insufficiently moral or because they value the wrong things. Instead, I found that what really matters is how moral beliefs affect the way we think about morality. In the book I explain why being able to trust others is the key to maximizing general prosperity. Unfortunately, modern approaches to moral instruction are undermining the key characteristics I discuss in the book. I believe this largely explains the precipitous decline in measured trust levels in the West since the 1950s.”

Rose began researching morality when he became interested in the questions of why so much of the world remains impoverished.

“The standard answers were lack of natural resources, bad economic policies and bad institutions,” he said. “But each of these arguments was easily dispatched. Over time I became increasingly convinced that something more fundamental must be at work. Perhaps just as markets require an institutional foundation, that institutional foundation requires a cultural foundation.”

Later Rose discovered that his framework also has disturbing implications for the downfall of market economics that have already achieved a high level of general prosperity.

The 288-page hardcover book, “The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior,”  is published by Oxford University Press. It’s available for purchase at amazon.com.

Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton

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