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Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets (Oxford Political Philosophy)

Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets (Oxford Political Philosophy)
Author: Debra Satz
ISBN 13: 9780195311594
ISBN 10: 195311590
Edition: 1
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2010-06-10
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 264
List Price: $82.00

What's wrong with markets in everything? Markets today are widely recognized as the most efficient way in general to organize production and distribution in a complex economy. And with the collapse of communism and rise of globalization, it's no surprise that markets and the political theories supporting them have seen a considerable resurgence. For many, markets are an all-purpose remedy for the deadening effects of bureaucracy and state control. But what about those markets we might label noxious-markets in addictive drugs, say, or in sex, weapons, child labor, or human organs? Such markets arouse widespread discomfort and often revulsion.
In Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale, philosopher Debra Satz takes a penetrating look at those commodity exchanges that strike most of us as problematic. What considerations, she asks, ought to guide the debates about such markets? What is it about a market involving prostitution or the sale of kidneys that makes it morally objectionable? How is a market in weapons or pollution different than a market in soybeans or automobiles? Are laws and social policies banning the more noxious markets necessarily the best responses to them? Satz contends that categories previously used by philosophers and economists are of limited utility in addressing such questions because they have assumed markets to be homogenous. Accordingly, she offers a broader and more nuanced view of markets-one that goes beyond the usual discussions of efficiency and distributional equality—to show how markets shape our culture, foster or thwart human development, and create and support structures of power.
An accessibly written work that will engage not only philosophers but also political scientists, economists, legal scholars, and public policy experts, this book is a significant contribution to ongoing discussions about the place of markets in a democratic society.

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)