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Markets and Dignity

Mark D. White

I just posted "Markets and Dignity: The Essential Link (with an Application to Health Care)" to SSRN; this is my contribution to the forthcoming volume Accepting the Invisible Hand: Market-Based Solutions to Social-Economic Problems (Palgrave Macmillan), to which Jonathan also contributed (with Benjamin Blevins and Guadalupe Ramirez), as well as Deirdre McCloskey, John Meadowcroft, Jennifer A. Baker, James Gwartney and Joseph Connors, Robert Garnett, and Steve Horwitz.

In the chapter, I argue that while markets may promote efficiency and wealth contingent on particular circumstances, on a more essential level they embody dignity, specifically respect for dignity between relatively anonymous persons engaged in commerce. I illustrate this point with reference to health care, the discussion of which may provide more general background to my comment on specific legislation in an earlier post.

Of course, comments are welcome...


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Your article makes some excellent points. The strongest moral argument for competitive markets is probably that they allow for human flourishing and dignity. Human expression leads to wealth creation.
One query: do you think the need or desire for dignity is hard-wired? Does the desire for dignity change as income grows?

Thanks, Jonathan.

I'm not quite sure how to answer your question, because to Kant, dignity is not a matter of desire; every rational person has it by virtue of his or her autonomy, with also demands that all persons respect that dignity.

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