The Symbolic Value of Market Transactions

business_ethics_highlights_2Many people worry about expanding markets — that is, expanding the range of things that can be bought on markets — because they worry about what they call “commodification.” Commodification means making a thing into a commodity. At least some people who worry about commodification because of the “signal” it sends, or the way it changes the meaning of the thing commodified. For example: if we could literally buy and sell children on the market, this would “send a signal” that children are mere consumer goods, rather than being proper objects of love and care. The blog entry linked below summarizes a recent scholarly article by Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski on this topic. Brennan and Jaworski argue that these objections rooted in symbolism ultimately fail. >>>

LINK: Markets without Symbolic Limits (by Jason Brennan in Bleeding Heart Libertarians)

Abstract: Semiotic objections to commodification hold that buying and selling certain goods and services is wrong because of what market exchange communicates or because it violates the meaning of certain goods, services, and relationships. We argue that such objections fail. The meaning of markets and of money is a contingent, socially constructed fact. Cultures often impute meaning to markets in harmful, socially destructive, or costly ways. Rather than semiotic objections giving us reason to judge certain markets as immoral, the usefulness of certain markets gives us reason to judge certain semiotic codes as immoral…..

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