May you sell your vote? May you sell your kidney? May gay men pay surrogates to bear them children? May spouses pay each other to watch the kids, do the dishes, or have sex? Should we allow the rich to genetically engineer gifted, beautiful children? Should we allow betting markets on terrorist attacks and natural disasters?
Most people shudder at the thought. To put some goods and services for sale offends human dignity. If everything is commodified, then nothing is sacred. The market corrodes our character. Or so most people say.
In Markets without Limits, Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski give markets a fair hearing. The market does not introduce wrongness where there was not any previously. Thus, the authors claim, the question of what rightfully may be bought and sold has a simple answer: if you may do it for free, you may do it for money. Contrary to the conservative consensus, they claim there are no inherent limits to what can be bought and sold, but only restrictions on how we buy and sell.
Table of Contents
Part I: Should Everything Be for Sale? 1. Are There Some Things Money Should Not Buy? 2. If You May Do It For Free, You May Do It For Money 3. What the Debate Is and Is Not About 4. It’s the How, Not the What Part II: Do Markets Signal Disrespect? 1. Semiotic Objections 2. The Mere Commodity Objection 3. The Wrong Signal and Wrong Currency Objections 4. Objections: Semiotic Essentialism and Minding Our Manners Part III: Do Markets Corrupt? 1. The Corruption Objection 2. How to Make a Sound Corruption Objection 3. The Selfishness Objection 4. The Crowding Out Objection 5. The Immoral Preference Objection 6. The Low Quality Objection 7. The Civics Objection Part IV: Exploitation, Harm to Self, and Misallocation 1. Essential and Incidental Objections 2. Line Up For Expensive Equality! 3. Baby Buying 4. Vote Buying Part V: Debunking Intuitions 1. Anti-Market Attitudes Are Resilient 2. Where Do Anti-Market Attitudes Come From? 3. The Pseudo-Morality of Disgust 4. Postscript
Jason Brennan is Associate Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and, by courtesy, Associate Professor of Philosophy. He is the author of Why Not Capitalism? (Routledge, 2014), Compulsory Voting: For and Against, with Lisa Hill (2014), Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know (2012), The Ethics of Voting (2011), and A Brief History of Liberty, with David Schmidtz (2010).
Peter Jaworski is Assistant Teaching Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgetown, Peter was Visiting Research Professor at Brown University’s Political Theory Project. He is a senior fellow with the Canadian Constitution Foundation and serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute for Liberal Studies.
"The great strength of Brennan and Jaworski’s book is their careful and thorough refutation of the various objections to their position . . . this book is a great contribution to the literature on its subject. Both critics and supporters of ‘commodification’ arguments have much to learn from it."
--Ilya Somin in The Washington Post
"There are many books on the morality of commerce and market commoditization, but this one is better than the others. It is better argued, penetrates into the issues more deeply, and most of all it is right."
Tyler Cowen, George Mason University, USA
"What I found remarkable is their effort to consider, and answer, objections in a way that recognizes that many of the objections have considerable merit, at least on their own terms. But the answers are still persuasive. An indispensable volume for those interested in applied philosophy and policy."
Michael C. Munger, Duke University, USA
"Brennan and Jaworski have produced the best and most straightforward critique of the 'commodification' critics and should be on every social science and humanities professor shelf."
Peter Boettke, George Mason University, USA
"This is one of the most important books published this century. Every library should have a copy. Despite its theoretical sophistication Markets without Limits is witty, irreverent, and extremely engaging, and so is readily accessible to undergraduates."
J.S. Taylor, College of New Jersey, CHOICE