Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets Hardcover – Jun 12 2010
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"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
About the Author
Debra Satz is Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In contrast to Sandel, Satz downplays the argument that markets corrupt the meaning of goods and crowds out intrinsic motivations to supply certain goods. I believe this is a good choice, as Satz points out that while this `corruption’ may occur for some goods (which is why honorary awards are not bought and sold), it certainly does not in general. For example, many people find the bible to be full of meaning, but do not object to it being bought and sold in the market. In addition, while I know from my own research field that financial motivations may crowd out civic motivations in some cases, there are examples where the opposite is true and even more examples where civic motivations are simply not strong enough to lead to a meaningful supply of desired behavior.
A second, and perhaps more important point in favor of Satz is that she makes an explicit effort to deliver a framework to think about morals and markets, whereas Sandel often seems to rely on moral intuitions and the shock value of his examples. To this end, Satz carefully reviews two dominant frameworks in political economy (which gives a stylized accounts of the conditions for the efficiency of markets) and political philosophy (which discusses the moral status of inequalities resulting from market exchange). She shows how these paradigms need to be augmented to account for what she calls “noxious markets”.
One key condition for the validity of market exchange is that the interaction partners need to have ‘equal standing’. This means not only that they are both well informed about the transaction, but also that they are not so desperate that they accept any transaction, or have their interests misrepresented. In addition, she considers the consequences of markets transactions for participants, placing great emphasis on the development of values and capabilities. (Here, it is a pity that she does not relate more closely to the work by Amartya Sen). These conditions are discussed in the context of prostitution, child labor, voluntary slavery and exchange of human kidneys.
Satz’ arguments are always nuanced, as she insists that the context determines not only which markets are noxious, but also what policy is best applied to such markets (regulation versus abolition). This makes the book a more demanding read than Sandel’s, but from my perspective as a researcher in economics, much more rewarding as well.
The dust jacket claims it will "engage not only philosophers but also political scientists, economists, legal scholars, and public policy experts." As a philosophy graduate student, I rarely found the book engaging. The ideal theory she does is VERY underdeveloped. She claims to have four parameters to judge whether a market is noxious, but in the end, her main concern is usually whether some market undermines the equality of citizens. That's fine, but why spend a whole chapter talking about these four parameters? Her chapter on the history of economics is rather head-scratching, and is constantly cherry-picking quotes from authors who, were they alive, certainly wouldn't support her argument.
The second half of the book examines various controversial markets (child labor, prostitution, contract pregnancy, etc). There are some stronger parts in this half, but overall, it still left me dissatisfied. Her "policy prescriptions" for the markets basically amount to "don't ban it, but regulate it to make sure that no one involved is forced into it or is unable to get out of it." We get such uncontroversial statements as "child labor that is abusive to children threatens the core of their lives and should not be tolerated." Who would argue with that? Statements like this are especially surprising when you notice how short the chapters are.
Satz's overall project is an interesting one, but her execution of it in this book is quite poor.
Each half of the book is strong on its own. The second chapter on the development of the concept of the market as a heterogeneous collection of institutions based on varying needs, rather than a uniform homogenous set of integrated markets, makes clear the value in viewing some markets as substantively different than others. Satz argues that key insights were lost when economists from the 19th century onward replaced the notion of markets as a system of relationships between classes, to be used for the end of producing a good society. Markets are linchpins to improving the lot of citizens via a change in social arrangements, rather than by simply maximizing consumer preferences. In addition, Satz establishes a framework to determine whether a market fails to preserve social equality in Chapter 4, as demonstrated by one of four conditions: weak agency, vulnerability, and extreme harms to an individual or society.
Satz spends the second half of the book on specific markets (reproductive and sexual labor, human organs, child labor, slavery) and their regulation. She uses the framework for noxious markets to show that a range of markets can be regulated differently, depending on their contribution to social inequalities. She does not hold that any of these specific markets inherently contribute to some citizens' inability to participate as equals, but does claim that they all perpetuate social injustices which must be remedied in some way. Whether a market should be regulated or abolished depends on the nature of the condition the noxious market imposes on a society's citizens.
Ultimately though, I found myself hoping there would be a little bit more to Satz's ideal theory, which would clarify what the conditions for a society of equals are, and which institutions are necessary for Satz's brand of democratic equality. The brief sketch she provides lists some non-economic features of society that are required for citizens to function as equals: that citizens have adequate capabilities, have the ability to have self-respect, that pervasive social inequalities be resolved, all citizens have equal standing amongst each other. It is clear that these features undergird her restrictions on markets, and in the conclusion she states that "some goods need to be provided outside the market if citizens are to be treated as equals." And the book's subject is markets, not institutions in general. But given that interactions between market and non-market institutions are often where conflicting values are at stake, I hoped to learn a little more about how these institutions could co-exist to support a society of equals.
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