Classical political economy, defined economics in terms of self-interested humans operating in a world characterized by the law of diminishing returns and other manifestations of scarcity. Belief in pervasive natural scarcity made poverty seem inevitable and so minimized any obligation for individuals or society to alleviate or cure it.
A morality that defines right and wrong with respect to the autonomy, or unrestricted freedom, of the individual also tends to see selfinterest as a rational reaction to natural scarcity. In this view, moral values that fail to respect harsh economic realities may be dismissed as unscientific sentimentality.
Conversely, a morality that affirms obligation and rights in a wider community tends to understand economic life in terms of human institutions and relationships.