June 6, 2011
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: NOXIOUS MARKETS (?)
Debra Satz, Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale: The Limits of Markets (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2011) ("Markets not only allocate resources among different uses and distribute income among different people, but particular markets also shape our politics and culture, even our identities. Some markets thwart desirable human capacities; some shape our preferences i problematic ways; and some support objectionably hierarchical relationships between people. Efficiency is clearly not the only value relevant to assessing markets: we have to think about the effects of markets on social justice, and on who we are, how we relate to each other, and what kind of society we can have. . . . In this book I challenge the one-dimensional view of markets found in many economics textbooks and seek to address markets as institutions that raise political and moral questions as much as economics ones." Id. at 4-5. "I begin with a characterization of four parameters in terms of which we can differentiate the markets that people find especially objectionable from other types of markets . . . . "The first two parameters characterize the consequences of particular markets. "1. Some markets produce extremely harmful outcomes . . . . "2. In addition to leading to extreme individual harms, certain markets can also be extremely harmful to society. . . . "3. Some markets are characterized by very weak or highly asymmetric knowledge and agency on the part of market participants. . . "4. Some markets reflect underlying extreme vulnerabilities of one of the transacting parties . . . ." Id. at 94-97. Interesting read. However, the economics and markets perspective attacked here is not the robust, nuanced view of economics and markets of say, Richard Epstein, or James Buchanan, or F.A. Hayek. Although Richard Posner is cited and listed in the bibliography, little attention is given to Posner's large body of work, including his Economic Analysis of Law.).