Economic Morality and Jewish Law compares the way in which welfare economics and Jewish law determine the propriety of an economic action, whether by a private citizen or the government. Espousing what philosophers would call a consequentialist ethical system, welfare economics evaluates the worthiness of an economic action based on whether the action would increase the wealth of society in the long run. In sharp contrast, Jewish law espouses a deontological system of ethics. Within this ethical system, the determination of the propriety of an action is entirely a matter of discovering the applicable rule in Judaism's code of ethics. This volume explores a variety of issues implicating morality for both individual commercial activity and economic public policy. Issues examined include price controls, the living wage, the lemons problem, short selling, and Ronald Coase's seminal theories on negative externalities. To provide an analytic framework for the study of these issues, the work first delineates the normative theories behind the concept of economic morality for welfare economics and Jewish law, and presents a case study illustrating the deontological nature of Jewish law.
The book introduces what for many readers will be a new perspective on familiar economic issues. Despite the very different approaches of welfare economics and Jewish law in evaluating the worthiness of an economic action, the author reveals a remarkable symmetry between the two systems in their ultimate prescriptions for certain economic issues.
The late Aaron Levine was the Samson and Halina Bitensky Professor of Economics at Yeshiva University. A leading authority on Jewish commercial law, he published widely on the interface between economics and Jewish law, especially as it relates to public policy and modern business practices. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brooklyn College, Dr. Levine earned his Ph.D. in Economics from New York University and was ordained in Jewish civil and ritual law at the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School. He was a member of the World Jewish Academy of Science and a recipient of the Irving M. Bunim Prize for Jewish Scholarship. In 1982, Dr. Levine was respondent to Milton Friedman in the Liberty Fund symposium on the Morality of the Market.
Preface ; Acknowledgments ; Introduction ; A Tale of Two Sermons (Derashot): Jewish Law's Deontological Ethics at Work ; The Sale of the Birthright and the Bilateral Monopoly Model ; The Coase Theorem as Treated in Jewish Law ; Price Controls in Jewish Law ; Reviving Yehoshua b. Gamla's Vision for Torah Education ; Aspect of the Lemons Problem as Treated in Jewish Law ; The Living Wage and Jewish Law ; Short Selling and Jewish Law ; Glossary ; Name Index ; Subject Index