Pope Visit Ticket “Scalping” Ethics

business_ethics_highlights_2The term ‘scalping’ is pejorative, but using it isn’t the same as offering a coherent rationale for condemning the resale of event tickets (or anything else) for profit. This story, about tickets for the Pope’s visit to New York being distributed by lottery and then promptly put up for sale by some of the winners on eBay and Craigslist, is useful fodder for classroom discussion on a number of topics. Is it unethical to resell popular products at prices above face (sticker price, MSRP) value? What coherent rationale can one construct for forbidding voluntary, mutually beneficial exchanges? What does Pope Francis ‘stand for’, such that reselling tickets for his appearance is anathema to him? If the aim of distributing papal visit tickets for free in a lottery was ‘to give as many people as possible the chance to participate in the pope’s visit, including those with “modest means”’, what alternative institutional design might better have accomplished that end? >>>

LINK: New York officials condemn selling of Pope Francis tickets (by Rick Hampson in USA Today)

About 80,000 tickets were dispersed through a city-sponsored lottery system for the pope’s procession through Central Park.

Tickets were being sold on secondary markets such as eBay and Craigslist for hundreds and in a few cases thousands of dollars soon after lottery winners were notified.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, says the tickets were free for a reason — to give as many people as possible the chance to participate in the pope’s visit, including those with “modest means.” And he says scalping them “goes against everything Pope Francis stands for.”

Also relevant here: (1) The master argument of Debra Satz in Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets. (2) The master argument of Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski in Markets Without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests, which defends the proposition that if it’s okay to do for free, it’s okay to do for money.

What do you think?

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