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Ethonomics is the provisional name for the discipline of formally mapping and defining the prioritization of values within value systems, with the intent of understanding differences between seemingly disparate value systems, the people who hold those value systems, and the decisions they make based on those value systems. The intent is also to provide a mechanism for resolving conflicts between value systems through rational analysis.
Some would assert that an implicit consequence of ethonomics as applied to human value systems would be a form of moral universalism, derived from choosing an "optimal" value system via a formal process that "mathematically" proves the correctness of a particular prioritization of values. While some "ethonomists" might have such a goal, it is not inherent in the discipline itself. All that can be shown through ethonomics is how internally consistent a value system would be if applied in real life. For example, ethonomics could be used to demonstrate the consistency (or lack thereof) in a "might makes right" value system or moral code, but this would not make such a system superior to any other value system that is also internally consistent.
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• Economics is the rules governing material things in the marketplace, derived from the Greek words 'oikos' - house (and by extension material things), and 'nomos' - custom or law.
• Ethonomics, by analogy therefore, is the rules governing ethics in the marketplace.
The analogy and parallels with economics show that ethonomics, in this definition, has the potential to be a rich, influential and multi-faceted academic area. The growth of interest in areas such as corporate social responsibility, fair trade and microfinance underline this.
In today's world the pivotal significance of ethonomics is shown by problems such as global warming, pollution, and human inequalities fostered by elements such as disparities in wages or standards of working conditions. It is hypothesised that in very general terms the intractability of these ethical issues is the disparity that grew up through the process of modernisation between what might be termed the 'span of economic linkages'/'economic community size' (which comes down most fundamentally to the geographic length of supply chains) versus 'community size' (the actual community linkages that exist between people). This led to economic communities no longer lying within the ambit of actual communities and therefore there being inadequate monitoring of economic communities, which were therefore able to behave unethically with fewer and fewer consequences. Legal systems expanded to contain these problems (though unhelpfully international law lagged far behind) but could only provide relatively inflexible overarching structures around all the complex and numerous issues.
Nowadays finally human society has the means (inasmuch as the internet is needed for the solutions proposed) and the need (due to the urgency of the ethical issues involved) to move beyond the 'temporary holding structure' that law in its current form can be seen as: law is termed a temporary holding structure primarily because there is limited capacity for lawmaking (we need many more rules and norms than law in its various forms can provide (e.g. each ethical issue needs a stance to be adopted on it)). Moving forward is a question of applying to the wider field of law-making/regulation the reasons that in economics arguably made free-market economies stronger than command economies during the Cold War (tapping into greater flexibility/ creativity/ citizen-involvement etc.). This also seems to be the essence of what Big Society is (or should be): beginning to shift the emphasis in parliamentary democracies away from the top in this way. In our specific case - thinking about these ethical issues in the economy - we have two broader categories in mind to which responsibility would devolve:
- Businesses - get businesses much more involved in regulatory-type decision making through the use of voluntary agreements (provided competition law (or its interpretation) can be modified to allow it).
- Consumers/ the man-on-the-street - ultimately aim also to involve these groups in these same ethical issues (and ultimately potentially the whole range of democratic issues) through e-democratic-type participation (here the level of detail needed to explain how such an e-democratic system would function is not provided - a relatively high level of detail is needed before it appears sufficiently tangible).
Amongst each of those groups the solutions proposed seek, as outlined, to create better opportunities for collective, community action. What is sought, in doing this, is to redress the balance between competition in those groups on the one hand, and cooperation in those groups on the other.
The internet is key to the mechanisms for both groups, particularly 2, obviously, so there could also be opportunities for examining its potential for historical phase-change in the context of the things outlined here and perhaps some general examination of the impact of other technological advances/historical phase-changes for the purposes of comparison.
One key strength of the line taken here on these ethical issues is in providing structural explanations (e.g. economic vs actual community size) in areas like bankers pay and indeed the general greed of business, which can potentially be very divisive if the focus is too much upon personal morality. Indeed since essentially everyone can be implicated in unethical behaviour in the economy, say through their participation in the economy as a consumer, this structural approach is therefore the only realistic way for people to feel positive about their participation in the economy (albeit only in a time-scale long enough for this type of solution to come into play).
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Alt: Ethinomics: The philosophy that all transactions and efforts should be such that all parties involved benefit from said transactions. Ant: Any efforts to create advantage by subterfuge, sabotage, or slander. Ethonomics was suggested by Christopher Flynn in 2007 as a solution to Corrupt Capitalism; the ruling faction of the era. Ethonomics is used and was coined by the Dons Net Cafe (social entrepreneurial student run business) as the mix between ethics and Economics, a way to make money by engaging in ethical activities 2005 *see DonsNetCafe.com
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