Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Debra Satz on noxious markets

The Stanford class day speech: Satz to graduates: Some goods should never be for sale by Stanford philosopher Debra Satz, whose interests extend to sales of kidneys

Debra Satz (2008). The Moral Limits of Markets: The Case of Human Kidneys. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108 (1pt3):269-288.

From the news story on her class day address:

"What are the different characteristics of markets? Why do some exchanges prompt "extreme revulsion"? Among the examples Satz raised: child labor, body parts, reproductive services, international arms, addictive drugs.
"What makes particular markets appear undesirable or, in my terminology, noxious?" she asked. The intrinsic nature of certain goods – friendship, a person's good name, various prizes and honor – can immediately diminish their value when they are sold.
There are also extrinsic reasons that make markets noxious, and this was Satz's focus. Is the agent fully aware of the consequences of his or her actions? Do all agents have the same information? Does the market cause extreme harm to individuals? And how extreme does it have to be to make it noxious? Does it cause harm to society?
As Satz said – with a nod to Tolstoy's line about unhappy families – "Each noxious market is noxious in its own way," and there will not be agreement on these issues. For example, the sale of kidneys is among one of the most difficult questions. Sales are illegal in every developed society, she said. Kidneys can be donated altruistically while the donor is alive or after death, but no society makes donation mandatory, even in death. Some would argue that with two kidneys people have more than they need. As of June 10, more than 80,000 Americans were on the waiting list for a kidney, and many of them will die waiting, Satz said. "...

"In closing, Satz threw up two final challenges: "Noxious markets" reflect some of the most fundamental problems of our globe, and they will not go away unless and until the underlying problems are addressed. That will require public debate and a willingness to confront hard issues."

HT: Michael Ostrovsky

And here's Megan McArdle on Satz: What We Should Feel and What We Should Not Sell
She quotes Satz's book Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets on the following juxtaposition of moral positions:
"[T]here is a dilemma for those who wish to use the mother-fetus bond to condemn pregnancy contracts while endorsing a woman's right to choose an abortion. They must hold it acceptable to abort a fetus but not to sell it."

1 comment:

Sebastian Franck said...

It is in fact Will Wilkinson writing for Megan McArdle.