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It is now possible to buy or sell many things that have traditionally been kept outside of the market. Controversial examples include the sale of human organs and the renting of reproductive labour. Supporters of these markets argue that they provide a means of allocating important goods whose supply cannot be secured through altruism or other non-market methods. Critics see the spread of markets into new areas of social life as cause for concern, either because they offend against the status of certain goods, exploit vulnerable people, or lead to an objectionable proliferation of commerce. Other problems with markets seem to be emerging given the increased amount of consumer spending in pursuit of status or competitive advantage, as evidenced by markets in luxury goods and private education. This subject will evaluate these concerns with reference to various policy tools, including pricing controls, cooling-off periods, specialised taxation, a minimum wage, and the use of government monopolies.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who complete this subject will:
- Understand core philosophical positions relevant to markets and their place in a just society;
- Be able to use such philosophical theory to assess real policy proposals about how and when to prohibit or constrain markets in certain goods;
- Appreciate the moral significance of various concepts related to markets, including human dignity, freedom of choice and contract, property rights, and exploitation.
Last updated: 3 November 2022