Markets, Morals, and the Law


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The philosophical debate of what is for sale has not been straightforwardly expressed until lately. In fact, many services that were once considered too sacred to sell have become a widely-accepted part of the market. We need only think of the concept of human capital, a concept which until the late s was thought as inadmissible by society at large.

And yet, twenty years later, human capital is a quintessential element of neoclassic economic theory, and firms could not be understood without it. But there is a piece of the puzzle that Sandel has ignored when discussing the question of market morality. It seems that when studying markets, we forget that markets are a human invention and arise from human needs and interactions. Markets might be inert, and they might not take into account what is moral, but markets are not separated from the human factor.

They are essentially an element of human society. The implications of this debate are political: if markets have no morals, and if humans create markets even where there should not be one, then how should the society react? Should the state interfere? Many of the social elements that seem to have a market of their own, as was the case with paying for a friend or a conversation, were created based on individual needs, by individuals themselves.

If they have evolved, that means that perhaps there is a need for them. Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that there are broader, darker implications to the idea of a market for everything.

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One point we can all agree with Sandel, is that putting a price on everything creates further inequality, and not even necessarily in an economic sense. He points to examples such as using your forehead for advertising, or buying mercenaries to fight for your cause. The estimate reports the difference between the number of agreed statements by subjects in the control group who had five statements and those who received four statements, or the estimated share of subjects who would support the establishment of regulated payments for organs or legalized indoor prostitution.

Similarly, the difference is the estimate of the approval rate for payments to organ donors or legalized indoor prostitution for those in one of the treatment groups. Finally, estimates the difference in approval rate between the treatment group and the control group, our main treatment effect of interest.

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The vector X i includes covariates derived from the socio-economic survey responses, as well as an indicator for the wave in which the experiment was conducted. The estimated support rates for each condition are illustrated in Fig 2. The baseline support for legalizing organ payments and indoor prostitution i. The approval rate for organ payments was higher than what found in previous studies [ 17 , 32 ]. This is most likely due to different sampling, and it is not the main focus of this study because we are interested in the difference between the baseline and the support after receiving additional information.

Notes: The figures report the percentage of subjects favoring either payments for organs or legalizing indoor prostitution, by treatment condition. None of our treatments had a meaningful effect on the support for legalizing indoor prostitution. In our companion study we also found no direct aggregate effect of a text about the potential reduction in violence and STDs associated with legalized indoor prostitution on support for its legalization [ 18 ].

The relatively high baseline approval rate indicates that, presumably, individuals are already informed of the relevant facts, and that any residual opposition to legalizing prostitution is due to deeply-held moral beliefs. However, in line with our previous work and other studies, we find substantial heterogeneities along two features of the subjects: gender and religious attitudes. As shown in Fig 3 , women and religious individuals reported substantially lower approval for legalizing prostitution compared to men, and these differences were consistent across experimental conditions.

Moreover, note that the directionally negative effect of the market text on attitudes toward prostitution is entirely driven by women and religious individuals. Notes: The figures report the percentage of subjects favoring either payments for organs or legalizing indoor prostitution, by treatment condition and demographic trait. See notes to Fig 2 for details. The bottom panel shows similar reactions of religious and non-religious individuals. The top-right and bottom-right panels of Fig 4 reveal a lack of heterogeneous effects of the generic text on the efficiency properties of market systems on attitudes toward legalizing organ payments, again mirroring the findings from our companion paper where very limited heterogeneity was found for the direct effects of information on the organ shortage and potential solutions on attitudes toward introducing a price mechanism in this context [ 18 ].

As shown in Tables 3 , 4 and 5 , none of our estimates meaningfully changed in regressions that included covariates for the socio-economic characteristics of the respondents and wave dummies to control for underlying trends. It is therefore unlikely that the perceived credibility of the information affected our results.

Two main insights can be derived from our analyses. First, general information or additional focus on the efficiency properties of markets did not affect individual attitudes toward the introduction of markets or price-mediated transactions in such morally controversial cases as organ donation and prostitution.

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This contrasts with the positive effect of providing context-specific information and a focus on the effects of markets in particular cases [ 18 ]. Moreover, the null effects of general market information and if any, some directionally negative effects are inconsistent with an increased focus on markets necessarily relaxing or corrupting the moral constraints in which people believe [ 9 , 19 ]. On the contrary, for some groups, such as women and religious individuals, it had a negative effect, making them less favorable to the use of markets.


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These results imply that the provision of well-supported information can change attitudes toward the acceptance of morally charged market trades but it has be context-specific, thus potentially leading to implement, or at least experiment, as recently proposed [ 35 , 36 ], some market-based solutions to socially pressing issues such as the shortage organs for transplant. Because of the different responses for different activities, and interactions between attitudes, a case-by-case approach appears to be preferable for both scholars and policymakers in exploring responses to the introduction of these market-based solutions.

Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract Most societies prohibit some market transactions based on moral concerns, even when the exchanges would benefit the parties involved and would not create negative externalities. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

Introduction Most modern societies rely on markets for organizing exchanges.

Morals and markets

Participants were then randomly assigned to one of the following conditions: Control : For subjects in this experimental condition, we first elicited their attitudes toward legalizing payments for either organ donors or their families in case of deceased donation, or for legalized indoor prostitution; then, we administered a survey with questions about their demographics and socio-economic characteristics.

Details on the survey questions and structure can be found in the Supporting Information. Organs text and approval for legalized indoor prostitution : Individuals in this treatment condition were provided a text that reported information about the current organ supply shortage in the United States, and described a number of proposals that have been advanced or, in some cases, implemented to reduce such shortage, with references to the academic studies advancing or evaluating these proposals.

These included kidney exchange programs [ 29 ] as well as studies estimating the effects of introducing monetary compensation for donors [ 13 ]. The remainder of the survey was the same as that the one presented to the control group, with elicitation of attitudes toward legalizing indoor prostitution in the U. Prostitution text and approval for payments to organ donors : This experimental condition was symmetrical to the previous one: the text provided included information about recent academic work that showed that the legalization of indoor prostitution in a U.

Subjects were then surveyed about the approval for payments for organ donors or their families. Market text : In this condition, subjects received a text with general not context-specific arguments concerning the beneficial welfare properties of market exchanges, as commonly described in standard economic textbooks. We then split this sample to gather attitudes toward legalizing organ payments and support for the legalization of indoor prostitution. Download: PPT. Table 1.

Distribution of number of statements with which subjects reported to agree. Table 2. Descriptive statistics on individual characteristics collected from the survey, overall and by experimental condition. Results The estimated support rates for each condition are illustrated in Fig 2. Fig 3. Estimated support for legalizing indoor prostitution, by gender and religiosity. Fig 4. Estimated support for legalizing organ payments, by gender and religiosity. Table 4. Regression estimates, heterogeneous effects: Support for legalizing prostitution. Table 5.

Regression estimates, heterogeneous effects: Support for legalizing organ payments. Fig 5. Percentage of subjects who found the provided text to be reliable, by treatment condition. Discussion Two main insights can be derived from our analyses. Supporting Information.

📖 Is Legal The Same As Moral And Just? - What Good Law Should Look Like?

S1 Table. S2 Table. Comparison between the mTurk sample and the US population on selected socio-economic characteristics.

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The Ethical Challenges of the Market | The Buchmann Faculty of Law | Tel Aviv University

S1 Text. Experimental material. References 1. Arrow K. Hayek FA. View Article Google Scholar 3. Smith A. An inquiry into the wealth of nations, Strahan and Cadell, London. Knight F. Roth AE. Hill JL.


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Markets, Morals, and the Law Markets, Morals, and the Law
Markets, Morals, and the Law Markets, Morals, and the Law
Markets, Morals, and the Law Markets, Morals, and the Law
Markets, Morals, and the Law Markets, Morals, and the Law
Markets, Morals, and the Law Markets, Morals, and the Law
Markets, Morals, and the Law Markets, Morals, and the Law
Markets, Morals, and the Law Markets, Morals, and the Law

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