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Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets (Oxford Political Philosophy) 1st Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195311594
ISBN-10: 0195311590
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A rigorous and pertinent inquiry into the relationship between morality and markets and the need for regulation of specific commodity markets. Moving deftly between the registers of the economist and the philosopher, Satz, professor of ethics at Stanford University (and coeditor of Toward a Humanist Justice), argues that faith in the intrinsic fairness and self-regulatory abilities of an unfettered free market is misguided, especially when markets are permitted to dictate the sale of, say, vital organs or the dumping of toxic wastes. Offering surprising readings of such classic economists as Adam Smith, the author distinguishes between effective, efficient markets and "noxious markets" in need of strict regulation to avoid commercial infringements on equality and citizenship. With whole chapters devoted to such specific case studies as child labor and prostitution, Satz admirably attempts to enrich dry analyses with live issues. Despite a reliance on notions like morality and citizenship that are perhaps question-begging in themselves, the author makes a persuasive case for the claim that markets cannot be detached from the social world of which they are part and upon which they impact in myriad ways.
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Review


"A wonderfully lucid tour of the thinking on markets over the years by economists and philosophers, from Adam Smith through Ronald Dworkin. Her main focus is markets that almost all find offensive: child labor, sex, kidneys. But the lessons she draws from them raise hard questions about the markets for health care, education, and maybe even credit derivatives." --Harvard Business Review


"Satz here provides a rigorous analysis of the relation between morality and the role of markets. Satz's contributions will be useful for a wide range of scholars concerned with ethics, moral theory, and economics. Highly recommended." --CHOICE


"Why not put everything up for sale--shoes and sex, cars and kidneys, blackberries and babies? Drawing on history and philosophy, economics and sociology, Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale presents a powerful defense of a bracing answer to this question. According to Debra Satz, we can have markets for everything or we can have a democratic society, but we cannot have both. Satz's argument is subtle, rich, and complex, but in the end, the choice she presents us with is that simple."--Joshua Cohen, Stanford University


"This is a major accomplishment, and a compelling study for everyone interested in exploring the moral limits of markets. Satz seamlessly integrates moral reflection with concrete studies of how specific markets actually work. She provides an outstanding model of how empirically responsible moral inquiry should be conducted."--Elizabeth Anderson, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


"In the modern world markets are central to our lives. We sell our labor and buy the goods and services we want. Markets can lead to economically efficient outcomes that could not be reached by other means. But markets have their limits. As Debra Satz points out, we reject markets in child labor, organs, votes or human beings, among other things. Sometimes we reject markets because they are inefficient. But, Satz argues, efficiency is not the only value in play, for markets affect 'who we are, how we relate to each other and what sort of society we can have.' Markets, Satz, demonstrates, are far too important to be left to economists. In this masterful work, the culmination of many years of thought, Satz provides a highly original framework to assist our reflections on which markets are beneficial and which, as she puts, it are 'noxious'."--Jonathan Wolff, Professor of Philosophy, University College London


"Our intuitive reaction that there are some trades that should not be made has received little understanding from economic analysis. Satz has greatly clarified the issues by making clear the social role that markets play, both in their own performance and in their consequences. She is discriminating in her analysis, pointing out the markets may sometimes contribute to the achievement of broader social values and better interactions while at other times they may reinforce bad consequences. This is a work that will have to be studied and taken account of by all those concerned by the role of the market as compared with other social mechanisms."--Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economics, Stanford University


"A rigorous and pertinent inquiry into the relationship between morality and markets and the need for regulation of specific commodity markets." --Publishers Weekly


"Satz's analysis is likely to be the focus of much debate among political philosophers, as those with a libertarian bent endeavor to respond to herwell-crafted critique" --Library Journal


"Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale is intelligent, insightful and on the whole convincing, and even those readers who already agree with most of Satz's conclusions regarding the justifiability and permissibility of particular sorts of markets will learn from it." --Troy Jollimore, Truthdig


"Satz's contribution will be useful for a wide range of scholars concerned with ethics, moral theory, and economics. Highly recommended." --Choice


"This book is third in the Oxford Political Philosophy series and offers a rich argument about the morality of markets and the limits of our political and philosophical categories when looking at various markets, such as those in human organs or child labor." --Christine M. Fletcher, Journal of Markets and Morality


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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Political Philosophy
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195311590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195311594
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.9 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,328,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The idea that not everything should be for sale, or that markets are not a panacea for all human problems, should be commonsense. And yet, it is far too easy in contemporary discourse to find people that argue for the rule and efficiency of markets everywhere, apparently without pausing to consider what it is that markets do and how. That's where Satz's book excels. The author begins the book with an enlightening discussion of what markets do (and don't do), which provides the necessary bases for the second part, on the history of economics (many people will be surprised to read some of the things "invisible hand" theorist Adam Smith actually wrote), the scope and place of markets in egalitarian political theory, as well as the notion of "noxious" markets. The last part of the book explores in depth several examples of noxious markets, including markets in women's' reproductive labor, sexual labor, slavery, and human organs. I actually agree only in part with the author's take on what limits the scope of markets: Satz criticizes any notion of limits imposed by concepts related to the intrinsic value of certain human attributes, seeking instead of casting the discussion in terms of highly unequal power relations between sellers and buyers in noxious markets. I think both perspectives make sense and can be operationalized. Nevertheless, no sensible person can read Satz and still maintain simplistic ideas about the efficiency and sacredness of unregulated markets. Then again, there are plenty of non sensible persons out there.
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Format: Paperback
Many of us feel uncomfortable with markets for particular goods like human organs, front positions in a queue or even education or health care. Why this is so and whether our discomfort is justified has been the focus of several recent books by moral philosophers, most prominent amongst them being the book “What Money Can’t Buy” by Michael Sandel. However, for several reasons, the book by Satz is the better one by quite a margin.

In contrast to Sandel, Satz downplays the argument that markets corrupt the meaning of goods and crowds out intrinsic motivations to supply certain goods. I believe this is a good choice, as Satz points out that while this `corruption’ may occur for some goods (which is why honorary awards are not bought and sold), it certainly does not in general. For example, many people find the bible to be full of meaning, but do not object to it being bought and sold in the market. In addition, while I know from my own research field that financial motivations may crowd out civic motivations in some cases, there are examples where the opposite is true and even more examples where civic motivations are simply not strong enough to lead to a meaningful supply of desired behavior.

A second, and perhaps more important point in favor of Satz is that she makes an explicit effort to deliver a framework to think about morals and markets, whereas Sandel often seems to rely on moral intuitions and the shock value of his examples. To this end, Satz carefully reviews two dominant frameworks in political economy (which gives a stylized accounts of the conditions for the efficiency of markets) and political philosophy (which discusses the moral status of inequalities resulting from market exchange).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As someone who is broadly sympathetic to Satz's critiques of unlimited markets, I was excited to hear what this fairly well-known philosopher had to say. Unfortunately, I was majorly disappointed with the book.

The dust jacket claims it will "engage not only philosophers but also political scientists, economists, legal scholars, and public policy experts." As a philosophy graduate student, I rarely found the book engaging. The ideal theory she does is VERY underdeveloped. She claims to have four parameters to judge whether a market is noxious, but in the end, her main concern is usually whether some market undermines the equality of citizens. That's fine, but why spend a whole chapter talking about these four parameters? Her chapter on the history of economics is rather head-scratching, and is constantly cherry-picking quotes from authors who, were they alive, certainly wouldn't support her argument.

The second half of the book examines various controversial markets (child labor, prostitution, contract pregnancy, etc). There are some stronger parts in this half, but overall, it still left me dissatisfied. Her "policy prescriptions" for the markets basically amount to "don't ban it, but regulate it to make sure that no one involved is forced into it or is unable to get out of it." We get such uncontroversial statements as "child labor that is abusive to children threatens the core of their lives and should not be tolerated." Who would argue with that? Statements like this are especially surprising when you notice how short the chapters are.

Satz's overall project is an interesting one, but her execution of it in this book is quite poor.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Satz tackles the challenging intersect of morality and free markets in this compelling and accessible work. I started reading this book out of personal interest and have incorporated it into my professional research and classroom teaching of political philosophy.
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