Markets without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests.

Author:Morrison, Richard
Position:Book review

Markets without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests

Jason Brennan and Peter M. Jaworski

New York: Routledge, 2016, 239 pp.

Are there some things that should be beyond the market, that is, which should not be permitted to be bought and sold? Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski think, "No, for the most part."

Brennan and Jaworski, both philosophy professors at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, dedicate Markets without Limits "to the authors, supporters, and readers of the Business Ethics Journal Review." BEJR editors Chris MacDonald and Alexei Marcoux paid $275 for this dedication. Yet, far from a frivolous exercise, this is an example of both the practical seriousness the authors bring to their premise and the good humor with which they go about making their case. The acknowledgments list a couple of dozen other well-wishers who paid for their names to be included, and who, as the authors put it, "greatly assisted us by putting their money where our mouths are."

First, I should offer a clarification on the title. Brennan and Jaworski's arguments in favor of the moral nature of market exchange, while very broad in terms of what may be legitimately bought and sold, do not necessarily advocate a market without any limits whatsoever. This is not, as some of their anti-market critics would have it, a tome of "market fundamentalism" that promotes absolute laissez-faire as the only, or even the most, moral economic system. As the authors point out in the text--and have tried to remind hostile interlocutors since the book's publication--the heart of their argument is, "If you may do it for free, you may do if for money," not that all goods and services must be sold without any restrictions or regulation.

The idea of responding to critics is very much at the heart of this project. In the opening chapter, the authors describe the flood of books in recent years that have attacked markets as inherently immoral or selectively corrupting in dangerous ways. The first three years of the current decade alone saw the publication of Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets (2010) by Stanford's Debra Satz and What Money Cant Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012) by Michael Sandel of Harvard. Sandel's attacks on markets, in particular, have received dramatic accolades, including a Newsweek contributor describing him as "possibly the world's most relevant living philosopher."

The critics attacking market...

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