Economics as a discipline, in teaching, research and policy, is very poor at ethics. There are six inter-related reasons for this. First, whilst the rigid distinction between positive and normative economics (and theory and fact) has long been recognized in principle to be invalid, the discipline has continued in practice as if nothing were wrong with the separation(s) between the two. Second, economics is negligent of, and backward in, methodology, and so unlikely to interrogate its own ethical or other foundations. Third, economics also neglects its own history as a discipline, and so its own shifting ethical approaches and content. Fourth, economics has been isolated from the other social sciences so that their contribution to ethical questions has been ignored. Fifth, mainstream economics has always been and is now almost absolutely intolerant of heterodox alternatives from which ethical differences might be teased out. Sixth, in sum, with method, methodology, history of economic thought, interdisciplinarity and heterodoxy sidelined to marginal status, this has all meant that economics is extraordinarily lacking in circumspection around the (ethical) meaning and implications of its standard concepts such as production, consumption, utility and the market, let alone development itself. It stumbles among these as if partially sighted, a lack of vision that is compounded in turning to development where the urge to prescribe is rarely matched by attention to context.
“Fine, Ben. 2004. “Economics and Ethics: Amartya Sen as Point of Departure.” New School Economic Review 1(1): 95-104