Conventionally, economics is seen as a moral science and philosophy directed at a shared "good life", which Adam Smith characterized in terms of a set of external material goods and internal intellectual and moral excellences of character. Smith in his Wealth of the Nations commented, "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind." However, a section of economists influenced by the ideology of neoliberalism, interpreted the objective of economics to be maximization of financial growth through accelerated consumption and production of goods and services. Under the influence of the neoliberal ideology, business finance which was a component of economics is promoted to constitute the core of the neoliberal economics. Proponents of the ideology hold that financial flow, if redeemed from the shackles of "financial repressions", it can be put into service of impoverished nations. It is held that the liberation financial systems would ensure economic growth through competitive capital market system ensuring promotion of high levels of savings, investment, employment, productivity, foreign capital inﬂows and thereby welfare, along with containing corruption. In other words, it was recommended that governments of impoverished nations should open up their financial systems to the global market with the least regulation over the flow of capital. The recommendations however, met with serious criticisms from various schools of ethical philosophy. For the pragmatically oriented ethicists, blind submission to the a priori claims, such as the claim of an "invisible hand" which are merely ideological, could be ethically counterproductive. The welfare claim of the laissez-faire finance is disputed because, welfare would be overridden given a conflict with liberty. Further, history of finance does not suggest that firms always maintain principles of honesty and fairness under unregulated environments. The prudence and ethics of recommendations to the countries which were impoverished by the ravages of centuries of colonial exploitation, subsequent cold wars and subjection to imperial hegemony to unconditionally open up their economies to transnational finance corporations is fiercely contested by ethicists from various quarters. Further, the claim that deregulation and the opening up of economies would bring down corruption too is contested.
The firm, within the finance paradigm, is seen as a complex network of contractual relations, mostly implicit, between various interest groups. "Within this finance paradigm," Dobson observes, "a rational agent is simply one who pursues personal material advantage ad infinitum. In essence, to be rational in finance is to be individualistic, materialistic, and competitive. Business is a game played by individuals, as with all games the object is to win, and winning is measured in terms solely of material wealth. Within the discipline this rationality concept is never questioned, and has indeed become the theory-of-the-firm's sine qua non". Ethics of finance is narrowly reduced to the mathematical function of shareholder wealth maximization. Such simplifying assumptions are necessary in the field of finance for the construction of mathematically robust models. Such a mathematical chimera, it is observed, lets the experts in the field of finance into the vice of greed justification. However, the signalling theory and agency theory within the domain of finance reveal clearly the normative undesirability of wealth maximization. Ethics seen from the stakeholder perspective is the privilege of the immediate and remote stakeholders as much as it is the obligation of the firms towards them.