Commerce and Gentle Mores: Assessing the Empirical Validity of Doux Commerce
Wright, Walker A
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During the Enlightenment, a relatively new view of commerce began to emerge among various thinkers across Europe and America. Doux (gentle) commerce argued that commerce is associated with and promotes a bundle of moral habits and attitudes. This bundle can be divided into what will be called the Big Six: (1) peace, (2) honesty, (3) trust, (4) cooperation, (5) fairness, and (6) tolerance. While numerous modern thinkers have defended this theory from a variety of angles, an empirical assessment of the theory’s validity is sorely lacking. Using various measurements of economic liberalization as a proxy for commerce, this study explores the impact liberalization has on each on the Big Six. In every case, the empirical literature finds that economic liberalization promotes and/or is associated with the Big Six. This indicates that market exchange can be a means of resolving conflict and fostering cooperation.