Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets

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Overview

"Markets are important forms of social and economic organization. They allow vast numbers of people, most of whom never meet, to cooperate together in a system of voluntary exchange. Through markets, people are able to signal to others their own desires, disseminate information, and reward innovation. Markets enable people to adjust their activities without the need for a central authority, and are recognized as the most efficient way we have to organize production and distribution in a complex economy. WIth the death of communism and the rise of globalization, markets and the theories that support them are enjoying a great resurgence. Markets are spreading across the globe, and extending into new domains. Most people view markets as heroic saviors that will remedy the deadening effects of bureaucracy and state control. Are they in fact a positive force?The noted philosopher Debra Satz takes a skeptical view of markets, pointing out that free markets are not always a force for good. The idea of free exchange of child labor, human organs, reproductive services, weapons, life saving medicines, and addictive drugs, strike many as toxic to human values. She asks: What considerations ought to guide the debates about such markets? What is it about the nature of particular exchanges that concerns us to the point that some types of markets are problematic? How should our social policies respond to these more noxious markets? Categories previously used by philosophers and economists are of limited help, because they assumed markets to be homogenous and of limited scope; Satz develops a broader and more nuanced view of markets whereby they not only allocate resources and incomes, but shape our culture, foster or thwart human development, and create and support structures of power. Satz's original and long-anticipated expression of her views on this important topic will be of interest to philosophers, political scientists, economists, and scholars in law and public policy"--Provided by publisher.

"The noted philosopher Debra Satz takes a skeptical view of markets, pointing out that free markets are not always a force for good. The idea of free exchange of child labor, human organs, reproductive services, weapons, life saving medicines, and addcitive drugs, strike many as toxic to human values. She asks: What considerations ought to guide the debates about such markets?"--Provided by publisher.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A rigorous and pertinent inquiry into the relationship between morality and markets and the need for regulation of specific commodity markets. Moving deftly between the registers of the economist and the philosopher, Satz, professor of ethics at Stanford University (and coeditor of Toward a Humanist Justice), argues that faith in the intrinsic fairness and self-regulatory abilities of an unfettered free market is misguided, especially when markets are permitted to dictate the sale of, say, vital organs or the dumping of toxic wastes. Offering surprising readings of such classic economists as Adam Smith, the author distinguishes between effective, efficient markets and "noxious markets" in need of strict regulation to avoid commercial infringements on equality and citizenship. With whole chapters devoted to such specific case studies as child labor and prostitution, Satz admirably attempts to enrich dry analyses with live issues. Despite a reliance on notions like morality and citizenship that are perhaps question-begging in themselves, the author makes a persuasive case for the claim that markets cannot be detached from the social world of which they are part and upon which they impact in myriad ways. (July)
From the Publisher

"A wonderfully lucid tour of the thinking on markets over the years by economists and philosophers, from Adam Smith through Ronald Dworkin. Her main focus is markets that almost all find offensive: child labor, sex, kidneys. But the lessons she draws from them raise hard questions about the markets for health care, education, and maybe even credit derivatives." --Harvard Business Review

"Satz here provides a rigorous analysis of the relation between morality and the role of markets. Satz's contributions will be useful for a wide range of scholars concerned with ethics, moral theory, and economics. Highly recommended." --CHOICE

"Why not put everything up for sale--shoes and sex, cars and kidneys, blackberries and babies? Drawing on history and philosophy, economics and sociology, Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale presents a powerful defense of a bracing answer to this question. According to Debra Satz, we can have markets for everything or we can have a democratic society, but we cannot have both. Satz's argument is subtle, rich, and complex, but in the end, the choice she presents us with is that simple."--Joshua Cohen, Stanford University

"This is a major accomplishment, and a compelling study for everyone interested in exploring the moral limits of markets. Satz seamlessly integrates moral reflection with concrete studies of how specific markets actually work. She provides an outstanding model of how empirically responsible moral inquiry should be conducted."--Elizabeth Anderson, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

"In the modern world markets are central to our lives. We sell our labor and buy the goods and services we want. Markets can lead to economically efficient outcomes that could not be reached by other means. But markets have their limits. As Debra Satz points out, we reject markets in child labor, organs, votes or human beings, among other things. Sometimes we reject markets because they are inefficient. But, Satz argues, efficiency is not the only value in play, for markets affect 'who we are, how we relate to each other and what sort of society we can have.' Markets, Satz, demonstrates, are far too important to be left to economists. In this masterful work, the culmination of many years of thought, Satz provides a highly original framework to assist our reflections on which markets are beneficial and which, as she puts, it are 'noxious'."--Jonathan Wolff, Professor of Philosophy, University College London

"Our intuitive reaction that there are some trades that should not be made has received little understanding from economic analysis. Satz has greatly clarified the issues by making clear the social role that markets play, both in their own performance and in their consequences. She is discriminating in her analysis, pointing out the markets may sometimes contribute to the achievement of broader social values and better interactions while at other times they may reinforce bad consequences. This is a work that will have to be studied and taken account of by all those concerned by the role of the market as compared with other social mechanisms."--Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economics, Stanford University

"A rigorous and pertinent inquiry into the relationship between morality and markets and the need for regulation of specific commodity markets." --Publishers Weekly

"Satz's analysis is likely to be the focus of much debate among political philosophers, as those with a libertarian bent endeavor to respond to herwell-crafted critique" --Library Journal

"Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale is intelligent, insightful and on the whole convincing, and even those readers who already agree with most of Satz's conclusions regarding the justifiability and permissibility of particular sorts of markets will learn from it." --Troy Jollimore, Truthdig

"Satz's contribution will be useful for a wide range of scholars concerned with ethics, moral theory, and economics. Highly recommended." --Choice

"This book is third in the Oxford Political Philosophy series and offers a rich argument about the morality of markets and the limits of our political and philosophical categories when looking at various markets, such as those in human organs or child labor." --Christine M. Fletcher, Journal of Markets and Morality

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195311594
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/10/2010
  • Series: Oxford Political Philosophy Series
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Debra Satz is Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society and Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction

Part I
1. What Do Markets Do?

Part II
2. The Changing Visions of Economics
3. The Market's Place and Scope in Contemporary Egalitarian Political Theory
4. Noxious Markets

Part III
5. Markets in Women's Reproductive Labor
6. Markets in Women's Sexual Labor
7. Child Labor: A Normative Perspective
8. Voluntary Slavery and the Limits of the Market
9. Ethical Issues in The Supply and Demand of Human Kidneys

Conclusion

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