Op-ed Spotlight: 'Markets Need Morals,' Says Prime Minister

Gordon Brown hauls out a centuries-old critique: we need more humanity in the economy

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Today, no less a figure than the prime minister of Britain is featured in The Guardian, weighing in on where the West's economic ideas derailed. Free market criticisms are not new, and they've been particularly abundant in the last year. But Gordon Brown isn't just a columnist, and he's not just arguing for more regulation.

Brown says he has "long been fascinated by Adam Smith" because this father of modern economics "recognised that the invisible hand of the market had to be accompanied by the helping hand of society." What does that mean? Says Brown:

As we have discovered to our cost, without values to guide them, free markets reduce all relationships to transactions, all motivations to self-interest. So, unbridled and untrammelled, they become the enemy of the good society. The truth is that the virtues that make society flourish--hard work, taking responsibility, being honest, enterprising and fair--come not from market forces but from our hearts.

In this featured excerpt of a new Citizens Ethics pamphlet, Brown also comments on the place of the state:

For me, true freedom is only possible through the positive power of an enabling state, which unleashes the talents of all by equipping individuals with the wherewithal to realise their full potential. At its best, this means advances in the life chances of millions; at its worst it can become unaccountable, with stifling paternalism that sees public interest and state interest as the same.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.