In the opening chapters of his book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith argues that the division of labor, incentivized by the ability to trade and limited by the scope of the market, underlies the productivity of society, in particular, the productivity of markets. In the opening chapter of her book, What Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of the Market, Debra Satz argues similarly that markets allow for efficient allocation of resources with respect to the needs and desires of the agents participating in the market, and Satz also argues that markets promote individual liberty in a number of other ways.
However, Satz also highlights that markets have problems: individuals can still be oppressed in markets (indeed, sometimes it can be economically advantageous to enslave another, etc.), and efficiency can take a number of different forms, for instance, where a number of people are extremely well off while others are very poor off.
For this week\’s discussion post, I want you to focus on the question of how we are to evaluate markets. Granting that markets can be highly efficient ways of allocating resources, especially scarce ones, what other considerations constrain that efficiency? How are we to determine what counts as a market success or a market failure? Can a highly efficient market nonetheless fail to meet some important extra criterion of evaluation? To what extend do you think markets serve the \”social good,\” whatever that might mean? You don\’t have to answer all of these questions, but you should answer some of them, and you should discuss points on the topic of these questions.
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