Articles & Blogs on the Limits of Markets

Hand-picked for you from around the web + original content published just on the Moral Markets site

Republicans Keep Flunking Microbe Economics

“Econ 101 has lots of good things to say about free markets […], but no rational discussion of economics says that free markets, left to themselves, can solve the problem of ‘externalities’ — costs that individuals or businesses impose on others who have no say in the matter. […] Pollution is the classic example of an externality that requires government intervention, but spreading a dangerous virus poses exactly the same issues. Yet many conservatives seem unable or unwilling to grasp this simple point. And they seem equally unwilling to grasp a related point — that there are some things that must be supplied through public policy rather than individual initiative. And the most important of these ‘public goods’ is probably scientific knowledge,” so Paul Krugman argues

The Relational Economy

“Even before the coronavirus, the boundaries between work and home had thinned, and our vocabularies for both were blending. ‘Emotional capitalism’—a term Perel borrows from sociologist Eva Illouz—leads to first dates that feel like job interviews, as we apply market logic to our love lives. Meanwhile our bosses expect us to bring all the passion we have to our jobs, and in return we expect work to provide ‘authenticity and vulnerability and trust and transparency and belonging,’ according to Perel.”

Pay for Plasma? We Bloody Well Should

“As for the purported evil of ‘commodifying’ plasma collection, it’s hard to see how our current situation of importing paid plasma is morally distinct from allowing British donors to be compensated. It’s also worth asking how much extra death and suffering we would be willing to tolerate from plasma shortages in exchange for keeping markets out of our lives. The only moral answer is zero. As Jaworski and his co-author Jason Brennan make clear in their book Markets without Limits, the anti-commodification thesis about how markets can corrupt or offend our dignity, is on very shaky ground.”

Private Gain, Public Loss

“The project of selling state or public assets to be owned or run by private businesses has always been controversial. What characterises the controversy, though, is that both advocates and opponents tend to cast it in instrumental terms. That is, the identity of the body or entity doesn’t matter in and of itself; what matters is whether or not they achieve a good outcome or do a better job. […] But that view is shortsighted. We don’t just care about what the decision is and whether a decision is right, just, efficient or good. We also care about who makes the decision.”

Vital Signs: Why ‘the Marketplace for Ideas’ Can Fail – From an Economist’s Perspective

“The proposition that good ideas eventually triumph in ‘the marketplace for ideas’ dates at least to 1644 […] Now economists generally like markets. […] Yet economists […] are all too aware that markets don’t always function well in reality. […] Why, then, why should we have faith in the marketplace for ideas?”

To Get Out of This We Are Going to Have to Think like Central Planners

“Businesses are being told whether they can or cannot open and how they must operate, consumers are subject to formal and informal rationing, workers are directed to stay home, or, in the case of schoolteachers, until now ordered to turn up regardless of risk. All of it is taking place against the background of what is assumed to be a market economy, where businesses are meant to live or die according to their success in meeting the needs of consumers, and where unemployed workers are expected to find jobs or live in poverty.”


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