Much of modern economic theory is based on a rather unflattering view of human nature, one that is essentially selfish and materialistic. Not surprisingly, this incomplete version of human anthropology makes for some rather incomplete economic theory, argues Edward Hadas in Human Goods, Economic Evils. Hadas argues that human beings are not simply utility maximizers, but seek to “maximize” morality in their everyday economic lives. For Hadas, economic man is moral man, who always strives for the good according to his nature. While the weakness of human nature ensures that the good is never fully achieved, economic activity is nevertheless best understood as part of the great moral enterprise of humanity.
Human Goods, Economic Evils does not claim that the basic economic activities of laboring and consuming are the most important things in life, but they are literally vital, and as such deserve to be studied and understood through a more morally sympathetic view of human nature. With this in mind, Human Goods, Economic Evils provides both lay readers and policymakers the intellectual tools necessary to judge what is right and what is wrong about the modern economy, and returns the study of economics to its proper, more humanistic sphere.