By Jason F. Brennan & Peter Jaworski
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.
Lamont Rodgers on Philosophy in Review wrote:
"As a whole, Markets without Limits is an insightful book defending commodification, and will no doubt be cited for years to come in regards to the anti-commodification debate. The authors present each anti-commodification objection justly, impartially, and thoroughly. Their responses are exceptionally coherent, clear, and concise (often even with a sprinkling of humor!). Although there are most certainly objections to be raised about the relevance of trivial possible market scenarios to the reality of actual markets, Markets without Limits is a skillful defense of commodification, set forth in a manner that is accessible to veteran philosophers and novices and students alike."
Jonathan Anomaly on Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews wrote:
"Anti-commodification Theorists (ACTs) hold that ‘there are some things that people are normally allowed to own or possess in some way, but which should not be for sale’. In this eminently accessible text, Brennan and Jaworski aim to refute ACTs. Their fundamental thesis is that ‘if it is permissible to do X for free, then you may do X for money’. [...] Despite these minor problems, this text contains important conceptual and empirical arguments that one must confront in order to have an informed view of what effect markets do and do not have on people. In this regard, the text ends with an explanation of how ACTs might prove the authors wrong (224-25). Those who wish to take up that challenge must track and overcome the many arguments packed into this book. The text is thus a necessary read for both friends and foes of markets."
"Philosophers like Michael Sandel and Gerald Cohen have argued that as markets expand into new areas of life, important character virtues wither and valuable social relationships decay. Other philosophers like Debra Satz and Elizabeth Anderson direct their criticism at specific markets ranging from sex and surrogacy to kidneys and votes (though they don't always think moral objections justify legal prohibitions). Giving away morally significant goods and services is fine, even noble, but selling them is wrong. Jason Brennan and Peter M. Jaworski's book is a welcome challenge to this view. [...] Are the gut reactions we feel when we encounter a market that makes us queasy an indicator that our queasiness is justified, for reasons we don't yet understand? Maybe so, but I doubt it. In high stakes cases like markets for organs or genetically engineered babies, we should take our cue from Brennan and Jaworski and look to the expected consequences of markets -- including regulated markets -- on human welfare as a way of gauging whether our gut reactions are a reliable indicator of whether a market is morally justified."
Where Jaworski Draws the Line
Or watch a lecture by co-author Jason Brennan (37 minutes), or a debate between Peter Jaworki and an opponent (74 minutes), or listen to this podcast interview with both authors from libertarianism.org.
"In Markets Without Limits Brennan and Jaworski defend the view that there are “no legitimate worries about what we buy, trade, and sell.” But rather than being a unified defense of this position Brennan and Jaworski unwittingly offer three distinct pro-commodification views—two of which are subject to counterexamples. This Commentary will clarify what should be the thesis of their volume and identify the conditions that any counter-example to this must meet."
About Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski
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.
Table of Contents
Part I: Should Everything Be for Sale?
- Are There Some Things Money Should Not Buy?
- If You May Do It For Free, You May Do It For Money
- What the Debate Is and Is Not About
- It’s the How, Not the What
Part II: Do Markets Signal Disrespect?
- Semiotic Objections
- The Mere Commodity Objection
- The Wrong Signal and Wrong Currency Objections
- Objections: Semiotic Essentialism and Minding Our Manners
Part III: Do Markets Corrupt?
- The Corruption Objection
- How to Make a Sound Corruption Objection
- The Selfishness Objection
- The Crowding Out Objection
- The Immoral Preference Objection
- The Low Quality Objection
- The Civics Objection
Part IV: Exploitation, Harm to Self, and Misallocation
- Essential and Incidental Objections
- Line Up For Expensive Equality!
- Baby Buying
- Vote Buying
Part V: Debunking Intuitions
- Anti-Market Attitudes Are Resilient
- Where Do Anti-Market Attitudes Come From?
- The Pseudo-Morality of Disgust