Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

The Commercial and the Civic

Posted Aug 31, 2010 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, 12 Comments

One way of seeing the choice we face in this coming election is a choice between the commercial and the civic.  The following chart highlights some of the differences.

The Commercial The Civic

Key value



The development of the civic

When our country was founded, only property owners could vote, the commercial dominated the civic In time, we changed to citizenship, not ownership, as the criterion for voting
The basis of our life together Property relations Human relations
The role of government To protect property and property owners To protect citizens and civic rights
The role of public administration The management of property; guided by the criteria of efficiency The organization of people, guided by civic norms of reciprocity and moral equality
The purpose of business To make a profit To provide goods and services

The misery of workers

Ignores them as belonging to another “world” and focuses on trading of commodities. Includes them as citizens of same generation

The environment

Treats the biosphere as property. Ignores what cannot be priced. Treats the biosphere as a living system that needs protection.

Meaning of citizenship

Increase property accumulation

A ”productive” person

Participate in civic conversations

An “engaged” person

View of elections The advertising of one’s “property” (what I can do for you.) The advertising of one’s capacity to represent the hopes of citizens (What we can do together.)
How to win elections Similar to selling products: more advertising increases sales Similar to winning debates: better reasons increase support

  • · See: Civilizing the Economy: A New Economics of Provision (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

Adam Smith Atlantic trade banks biosphere citizen Citizens United city civic civic conversations civic economy civic membership civilizing the economy common citizen Commons corporate citizen corporation as property corporations democracy disagreement economics of dissociation economics of provision Egypt future health care reform invisible hand John Locke Kant libertarianism membership money moral equality ownership property property relations protection reciprocity Scotland slavery Smith and slavery Smithian economics sustainability taxes the civic tobacco trade Wall Street

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