Reframing the Moral Limits of Markets Debate: Social Domains, Values, Allocation Methods

Journal of Business Ethics 153 (1):1-15 (2018)
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What should and what should not be for sale in a society? This is the central question in the Moral Limits of Markets debate, which is conducted by a group of business ethicists and liberal egalitarian political theorists. These MLM theorists, which we will dub ‘market moralists,’ all put forward a specific version of the argument that while the market is well suited to allocate some categories of goods and services, it is undesirable for the allocation of other such categories. We argue that the current MLM debate is too much framed in terms of a market/non-market dichotomy. Moreover, authors tend to distinguish insufficiently between values such as freedom, equality, and efficiency, and allocation methods such as the market, the queue, and rationing. We introduce a new conceptual scheme consisting of societal domains, values, and allocation methods to provide a better structure for this debate. The argument is illustrated from the education and healthcare domains.



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Author Profiles

Jeff Frooman
University of New Brunswick
Ben Wempe
Erasmus University of Rotterdam

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