On Monday, I’ll be at CU Boulder’s Center For Western Civilization, Thought, & Policy, along with Jason Brennan (Associate Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics & Public Policy, Georgetown University) and Margaret Jane Radin (Michigan Law, Toronto Law) to discuss and debate the moral limits of free markets.
The event is free and open to the public, and I’ve copied the event information below. Although I’ll be back after the event with updates on the substance, I expect that Jason will take the position, consistent with his book, Markets Without Limits, that “if you may do it for free, you may do it for money.” I imagine that Peggy, consistent with her book, Contested Commodities, will argue that there should be some limits on markets, when necessary to protect nonmarket ideals important to personhood.
I plan to leave the normative debate to those two and take a more descriptive approach: regardless of whether or not market transactions actually degrade relationships and values, most people continue to believe that they do, at least in certain contexts. As a result, market advocates need to account for, and even accommodate, those concerns if the market is to exist at all.
As I explain in a piece I just posted to SSRN:
Students of markets from all disciplines are increasingly turning their attention to the cultural and psychological factors that affect market structure. In traditionally taboo markets, of which reproduction surely is one, those factors include cultural understandings of the moral limits of markets and our collective level of comfort with fully commodifying and subjecting traditionally sacred items and activities to the marketplace.
While it is easy to dismiss these cultural understandings as romantic, silly, or delusional, this severely underestimates their importance, not just to society, but to the market itself. By reframing traditionally unacceptable behavior as a more palatable and familiar transaction, society is able to accept a market that is otherwise socially problematic or even repulsive. Market architects ignore these cultural understandings–and, in particular, societal conceptions of the ethical limits of markets–at their peril. In a world unwilling to embrace the sale of female reproductive capacity for merely a price, the “priceless gift” of egg donation allows a market to flourish that otherwise might stagnate under the weight of social disapproval.
The Moral Limits of Free Markets (4/4/16)
The “Western Civ Dialogue” series presents:
The Moral Limits of Free Markets
Monday, April 4, 2016
4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
British and Irish Studies Room
Norlin Library – 5th Floor
University of Colorado Boulder
Free and open to the public.
If you may do it for free, may you do it for cash? For instance, may you buy and sell votes? How about buying and selling kidneys? Or buying and selling children? What should be off-limits to the market economy? Or do genuinely free markets permit everything? Scholars representing a wide range of views discuss the issues.
– Jason Brennan, Associate Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics & Public Policy, Georgetown University
– Margaret Jane Radin, Professor of Law, Emerita, University of Michigan Law School & Distinguished Research Scholar, University of Toronto Faculty of Law
– Kimberly Krawiec, Professor of Law, Duke University Law School
Sponsored by the:
Center for Western Civilization, Thought and Policy (CWCTP)
Co-sponsored by the:
Center for Values and Social Policy