The Ethics of Competition Revisited

by Eugene Rostow



The theme of this distinguished lecture series, the morals of trade, directs thought to an unresolved conflict in view of oneself, and their society and culture. With one lobe of brains, people know that business, commerce, and industry, when well conducted, are socially useful activities, worthy of man's best efforts, and of his pride. One knows that they offer some men the opportunity to express and fulfill their creative instincts, and that they have greatly advanced the well-being of the human race. Yet one never stops recalling another feature of the inner terrain-the memory that moralists whose words echo in our minds have frowned on money making, and driven money-changers from the temple; considered money the root of all evil, and poverty as morally superior to affluence. Indeed some have found poverty a necessary condition of spiritual grace. Societies people respect have regarded trade as an `occupation unworthy of gentlemen. Some of the noblest men have identified business with greed, rapacity, and other moral offenses, although pride, envy, and the more naked forms of selfishness are quite as evident in the noncommercial realms of life and power as they are in trade.

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