Integrity and justice: what is required of free market participants?

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The purpose of this article is to present an account of integrity and justice in a free market. The article seeks to answer the question, “When evaluating integrity, what does justice require of free market participants?” using historical, philosophical, and economic perspectives. The answer to this question can guide researchers and practitioners to better evaluate market participants and their integrity or counterfeit integrity. Market participants include corporations, investors, employees, communities, unions, consumers and governments within the context of democratic institutions. The article first outlines an account of integrity that explains the connection between integrity attributions and the moral community. Adam Smith’s ideal model of a free market and several critiques from a justice perspective are then presented. A review of different accounts of justice follows and it is argued that defining justice as desert (that is, give others what they are owed) avoids irreconcilable justice accounts and increases transparency. Using the accounts of integrity and justice situated in a free market, a description is provided of the implications of these accounts by analyzing how two companies, Apple and McDonald’s, demonstrate integrity or counterfeit integrity in regards to the justice issues of wealth inequality and low wages. This article is published as part of a collection on integrity and its counterfeits.

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