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Debra Satz on John Rawls

Debra Satz, the Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society, is the senior associate dean for the humanities and arts. Satz, a philosophy professor, directs the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society. She earned a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York and a doctorate in philosophy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. […]

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This is KZSU Stanford.
Welcome to entitled opinions.
My name is Robert Harrison, and we're coming to you
from the Stanford campus.
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Six score and seven years ago, Nietzsche's madman went into the marketplace
bright morning hours with a lantern in his hand.
He was looking for God.
He said to the people there,
many of whom didn't believe in God,
and started mocking him.
Where is he gone?
Did he lose his way like a child, they asked?
Where has God gone?
Cryed the madman?
I will tell you we have killed him.
You and I, we are all his murderers.
But how have we done this?
What did we do when we unchained?
This earth from its sun?
Where is it moving now?
Aren't we straying as through an infinite nothing?
Isn't the greatness of this deed too great for us?
The people fell silent and stared at him in astonishment.
He threw his lantern on the ground, it shattered and went out.
I come to early, said the madman,
deeds need time after they have been done.
This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars.
And yet we have done it ourselves.
Why did Nietzsche's madman go into the marketplace?
What do markets have to do with the death of God?
Looks so good, it looks so cool.
What does that mean?
God is dead and that we,
modern Western humanity killed him.
It means, first of all, that God no longer founds,
no longer informs and orders are world.
Second of all, it means that this so-called death is a historical event,
a world historical event to speak Hegelian.
If I remove God from the picture, I understand nothing of the art,
philosophy, cosmology, or politics of the Middle Ages.
Nothing of its rituals and practices.
By contrast, if I remove God from the modern world,
it's still the same world.
Not so when it comes to science and technology,
and even less so when it comes to money.
Nothing about the world we live in today makes any sense at all
if I subtract money from the equation.
So Nietzsche's madman was clear-voyant when he chose the marketplace
to announce the news that God is dead.
He foresaw that in the wake of God's demise,
the modern world as a whole was bound to become one vast,
all-consuming, all-encompassing marketplace,
where the universal currency of money would now take the place
that God had previously occupied.
The modern marketplace should have a sign over it that reads,
"Beyond good and evil."
Everything in this new temple is a good, as long as it has exchange value.
Even evil can be bought and sold,
hence even evil gets turned into a good by the marketplace.
I'm not sure that's what Nietzsche had in mind
when he talked about moving beyond good and evil.
In fact, I'm sure that's not what he had in mind,
but such is the A morality or trans morality or post morality
of the awesome market forces that are reconfiguring the contemporary world order as we speak.
"La jafilighe," Napoleon declared, "money makes wars."
We now know that it makes a whole lot more than wars.
It makes and unmakes and remakes just about everything.
The person who joins me in the studio today is recently written a book entitled,
"Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale," subtitle,
"The Moral Limits of Markets," the moral limits of markets.
Later on our show, I ask her whether the word "should" as in why some things should not be for sale,
still has any currency in our market-driven world,
and whether the phrase "The Moral Limits of Markets" has any swaetion among its major protagonist
But first, let me introduce her to you.
Deborah Sats is the "Marda" Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society,
and Professor of Philosophy here at Stanford.
In addition to her book on the moral limits of markets,
she has worked on the place of equality and political philosophy,
on theories of rational choice, on democracy, feminist philosophy,
and issues of international justice,
will be posting other details about her impressive academic profile
on the entitled "Pinience Website," so Deborah, welcome to our program.
It's good to be here.
Before we discuss your new book about markets,
I'd like to ask you if you would kindly share a few thoughts with us about John Rawls,
the author of that very influential book of political philosophy,
called "Theory of Justice," that was published in 1971,
a number of people who listened to entitled "Pinience" have lobbied me over the years
for a show about John Rawls,
and I can't think of anyone better suited to discuss John Rawls than you,
because I know that Rawls has been very important for your work on equality,
and you don't shy away from identifying yourself as a Rawlsian,
at least when I asked you, you did not shy away from saying, "Yes, I am a Rawlsian."
In preparing for this show, I read somewhere a quote by someone named Jonathan Wolf to the effect,
now quoting,
"Well, there might be a dispute about the second most important political philosopher of the 20th century,
there could be no dispute about the most important."
John Rawls.
Well, I think there can be some dispute about that.
At least personally, I don't agree with that.
I think that Hannah Arendt for me would be the most important political philosopher
of the 20th century, but leaving that aside, do you agree with Wolf about Rawlsian importance in political philosophy?
I think it's hard to underestimate Rawls' influence on political philosophy and beyond,
I think, and in a couple of substantial ways.
One is the subject wasn't seen a central to philosophy and to political philosophy in the 20th century
before Rawls wrote.
The 20th century philosophy tended to be dominated by issues in logic and epistemology and metaphysics and philosophy of science.
Rawls put political philosophy and ethics back on the map as serious subjects that analytic philosophers could contribute to.
That's one thing, just in terms of making the subject speak.
But there were two other things about Rawls' theory that I think are really important.
The dominant view, both in philosophy and then in common sense thinking about justice, was a form of utilitarianism.
The idea that the right thing to do was what maximized the greatest happiness of the greatest numbers, the slogan for utilitarianism,
and that theory had and still has a hold on many people.
It points to the importance of consequences, it points to the importance of well-being in thinking about justice.
But it has some untoward consequences, as was often shown by the idea that you could sacrifice an innocent person and produce a bit more happiness.
Rawls saw it as his charge to work at an alternative theory of justice to the dominant utilitarian theory.
So that's a second reason he's so influential, is that he developed, revived a tradition of thought that was an alternative to utilitarianism and did it with 20th century analytic tools.
And I think third is he developed a theory that's very systematic and it's hard to build a systematic theory and it's a big book and it has a lot of parts to it.
And it's not just a little piece of an issue, it really tries to tackle the kind of biggest question we face as a society, which is, you know, in thinking about our institutions and how we arrange them, what's fair,
what do we owe each other? And Rawls tries to give us a way of thinking about that.
Well, there are that word fairs come up, you know, as if justice equals fairness and he's very well known for defining justice as a kind of fairness and we can talk about what exactly that means.
Because you and I have talked about this before that the word fair cannot be really translated into romance languages, for example, and I looked it up, you know, at a melodically it really comes from beautiful and light and so there's nothing in the history of the use of that word which would seem to make it the natural correlate of justice.
And even the word justice, I was, you know, I'd like to get a historical perspective on these things and that word's not that ancient.
So the first question I'd like to ask you about utilitarianism and that was the reigning concept of justice.
Obviously justice works within a legal framework independently of philosophers coming up with theories of it.
So our constitution is supposed to be that which safeguards, you know, the functioning of the of the, at least the system of justice that we associate with positive law.
What importance has utilitarianism had as in when it comes to the question of justice, my first question, then I'll ask you what importance Rawls has had when it comes to the influence that that it may have had or not had in the actual practice of the administration of justice.
Well, I think so historically utilitarianism was very concerned about law, Jeremy Bentham and John Mill who were the, you know, early proponents of the theory.
We're very concerned to reform law along utilitarian lines because they thought the justification for coercion has to be the contribution that that coercion makes to improving the well-being of people.
And so they, for example, argued against laws that, for example, victimless crimes, which they thought had no external bad effects and simply curtailed an individual's freedom for no positive end.
So they were very clear on that and they thought laws needed to be reformed and that in thinking about punishment, taxation, the distribution of wealth, the vote, we ought to reform laws.
So that they benefit the most amount of people.
And I think that thinking has been very influential and is extremely powerful.
We often point in the justification of regulations by the government to the fact that these regulations serve the interests of everybody.
They serve to make people better off than they would have been in the absence of those regulations.
And that thinking, which not only permeates the justification of regulatory law, is also very influential in economics where we, you know, constantly are looking to improvements that can be made in terms of efficiency and justifying them because they make people better off than they would have been in the absence of those.
Let's take, in the case of markets, different kinds of exchanges.
I think that's a very live and many of our norms are tracking individual well-being.
The Rawlsian response is to take another strain of our law and go back to the idea of a different way of justifying policies beyond their maximizing effect on well-being.
And to ask, you know, are these laws and rules that the people who are live under them would agree to have?
So to think about the justification to people and one way Rawls thinks about this is, under a set of arrangements, if you could justify to the person who's made worse off under these arrangements, still that they're better off with these arrangements than alternatives, then you've succeeded in justifying.
And the test of whether or not people would accept a set of arrangements, whether they could be justified to everyone is different than the justification that proceeds in terms of maximizing the greatest happiness of the greatest number, because the maximization might take place even though some people wouldn't consent to it.
Okay, well, I have a few questions. I love having a philosopher in the studio's because then you can get into, you know, the little knitting griddle that he's arguing.
If I were to leaving aside Rawlsian here for a moment, talking about the utilitarian concept of justice, which has had all this importance, what if I were to say that, no, the way I see it, at least from the point of view of the American Constitution, is that the primary purpose of justice is not to maximize the greatest good for the government.
The greatest good for the greatest number, but on the contrary, it's to assure protection for minorities. It's to assure that the individual rights are not trampled on by the demands of the majority, and that therefore our whole system is intensely aware of how it's, in some cases, even the minority of one must win out over the majority of the all.
So I think the American Constitution clearly reflects a different tradition from utilitarianism, even though there are utilitarian-like elements in our laws. And one of the things we're all said was his hope in his theory of justice, was to take an earlier tradition of the social contract, the tradition which tries to justify through something like hypothetical consent, and move it to a whole system.
And move it to a higher level of abstraction. And that's the tradition of people like John Locke and Rousseau and Hobbes. And Locke, of course, was very, very influential in the American Constitution and the idea of the protection of individual basic liberties, even when protecting those liberties, you know, wouldn't make a majority very happy, because there are liberties of a minority that's disliked is a fundamental part of our Constitution.
So, Roles wasn't, you know, he's very radical in some ways, but he's not radical in many ways. He starts from very widely shared what he calls fixed points of our thinking and culture, you know, at the 20th century. And some of these are found in our Constitution, the idea of individuals as free and equal.
And he takes that as a fixed point so that any theory of justice that can't accommodate that point is to be rejected.
And then he tries from that very minimal, intuitive idea to build up to some pretty radical conclusions about the kind of economy we should have and about the obligations we have to other people.
Well, there again, that word should have, it comes in, so we'll talk about the should. You mentioned liberty and equality or freedom and equality and you're alluding to his famous two principles. Can you tell us something about what the two principles are in the theory of justice?
Sure. Although I have to say, to me, is always seem that there are three principles, not two principles, although he calls it as two principles. And I'll explain why.
So, Raul says, the theory of justice he's defending can be understood as composed of these two parts.
A first principle, which is the equal basic liberty principle, which says, every citizen is entitled to a package of basic freedoms where those freedoms are the same as those that other citizens have, or every member of the society.
And those are equal in a formal way, you might think they're equally guaranteed by law. Now, Raul says in that first principle, there's one exception to the formal guarantee of these.
And that is with respect to political liberty, which he thinks we have to treat in a different way. He says political liberties should be distributed to people, not so that they just have them as equal under the law.
But every person who's similarly talented and able should have the same opportunity to influence the political process and the same opportunity to run for office.
And that's already a very egalitarian constraint on basic liberty and one, I think our society has moved quite far away from in the current dominance of money and politics.
So could we call that freedom of opportunity?
So the equal basic liberty principle is really about guarantees of certain kinds of rights that people hold.
The second principle is more of an opportunity principle.
So, Raul's is second principle says, and the second principle has two parts, which is why I said it's really a three principle theory.
The second principle says, "Goods in the society basic goods that people need in order to make those freedoms real so that they're not just formal, so that basic liberties should have said include things like freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of expression.
To make those things real people need certain kinds of goods, they need opportunities, they need resources, they need a certain level of income and wealth."
And so Raul says, "These goods that they need, which he calls primary goods, should be distributed according to two principles.
The first is a fair quality of opportunity principle, and that says people in the society should have the same life chances, if they're similarly talented and able, their income class of birth shouldn't affect their life chances.
It shouldn't affect their opportunity to occupy different positions of power and prestige in the society.
We're not a caste society, class shouldn't be destiny."
And the second part of that principle says these primary goods should be distributed so that inequalities in them are justified when they improve the position of the least well-off person, meaning there's an efficiency justification for allowing the inequalities.
We don't get to earn more than somebody else, just on some basis of pre-political desert, we think about what people deserve and what they're owed in the cooperative scheme of a society by thinking about how those rewards affect what other people have.
I should say that Raul's theory is limited in scope. I mean, the two principles of justice don't apply to everything. They don't apply to how my husband and I decide to divvy up the evening's tasks of dishwashing.
They are meant to apply to what Raul's calls the basic structure of society and that's the system of law, the basic institutions, the market, the economy, government, the public sphere.
They do apply to the family in some ways, although they don't apply to every action in the family and they don't apply to individuals.
When I make decisions, as long as I'm operating within the bounds of a just society, I don't have to make my decisions according to the difference principle.
I don't have to decide where to go to dinner on the basis of that it maximizes the position of the least well-off person, these apply to the basic set of institutions that compose the society.
Raul's theory of justice presuppose a well-developed or advanced state that would be the central agency of distribution.
Raul's theory is what's sometimes referred to as ideal theory, so there's a whole set of background assumptions. One is that the society is relatively well-ordered, meaning people have a sense of justice and are willing to comply with the principles of justice, the institutions function fairly well.
The society is not so poor or so under-resourced that it can't meet, so if you think that allowing basic liberties can be costly, some societies might not be able to give a full package of the basic liberties in non-ideal circumstances because they're too poor and because they've got to do certain things to feed themselves.
So Raul's thought the two principles only apply against a certain background that's idealized and then we can approximate or not approximate.
In non-ideal conditions he thought the two principles might still apply but they might not be ordered.
I should say something about that because that's relevant to the issue about utilitarianism.
In most thought his two principles have what he called the lexical ordering, meaning you have to satisfy the first principle before you can move down to the second part of the second principle and then to the second part of the second principle.
So I can't trade off basic liberties against income and wealth. The assumption in the ideal theory is my interest in my basic liberties, my freedom of expression, religion, association are so fundamental that these have to have a protection against income and wealth and improving the position of the lease well off person.
In non-ideal circumstances he said we could make these trade offs.
Right. So it does presuppose these ideal cases and I think it presupposes a long history.
One of my most important influences is an 18th century thinker Italian Thigr name, John Batista Vico, who wrote the new science where he tries to reconstruct how we got from an age of severe kind of primitive
gigantism to finally after many centuries if not millennia to a kind of aristocracy society and then after many revolutions and plebeian travails and so forth we finally get the rudiments of a republican system of government and then finally we get democracies, a long, long history that seems to be presupposed by a Rawlsian theory of justice that our forebears have gone through an extraordinary process of evolution where now we can think.
I think rationally and reasonably and that we can engage in what he calls this experiment of the veil of ignorance but it seems to presuppose that all citizens within this ideal society are rational and reasonable agents now.
I think there are a lot of background pieces of machinery in the Rawlsian story and as I said one of the most important ones is he begins with what he takes to be fixed points.
Fix points are these beliefs and commitments we have that we don't expect to change their fundamental they're like the laws of logic and mathematics and those are the people are free and equal.
Well of course the idea that people are free and equal is a historical achievement for that idea to have taken hold and the theory doesn't get off the ground in the context of people who would reject that idea because it's one of the building blocks of the theory when we're constructing a theory of justice where all things were constructing it out of some of our intuitions and then we're subjecting those intuitions to critical reflection.
But we've got to take those intuitions into the picture there's no view here from nowhere there's no God's eye view it's us thinking for ourselves in the context of the world we live in and our best judgments what's the best set of institutions for us what's fair how should we live.
And I guess the question there is what degree of universality he pretends to because the notion of fairness is one that it's almost like a transcendental and it's something that should have a universal consent so I have two questions for you one is is the theory of justice as fairness compatible with a view of life.
That was expressed by John F. Kennedy who said famously life is not fair.
Can life in its essence not be fair and we still need a theory of justice because we aspire to it as an ideal because it actually contradicts the fundamental unfairness of life.
So the really interesting question I don't think the purpose of the of Rawls's theory is to make life fair it's a political theory aimed at the institutions we make.
So our laws our economy the way we distribute wealth our tax system our education system it governs those but life is a lot bigger than those now there's some people who think the point of a theory of justice ought to be right from you know from the point of view of the universe to create fairness.
That's not that's not the Rawlsian project I don't think that's a plausible project because I think that life is inevitably full of things that happen to us that we can't control.
And that there is no and one of the main ones is death and the fact that for all of us we die and people we love die and no theory of justice can redress you know the experience of losing people you love.
That's true losing people you love it but I guess I come from a continental philosophical position where death is not unfair death is the very conditioned matrix of life in any cases not that is so far.
That is not that is a fulfillment not that just the termination of life that last question.
Point taken.
Last question for you Deborah before we talk about your book about the markets I came across again preparing for the show I want to read you that following quote and ask ask you to respond to it John Rawls failure to consider non ideal cases.
And that would go with this frequent use of the word should.
Quote is not a tiny mole that serves as a beauty spot to set off the radiance of the rest of the face but the epidermal sign of a lethal tumor.
And then that's over the top it's really actually bad.
It's just bad metaphorics or imagery but how do you how do you respond to that that is failure to consider non ideal cases is a lethal flaw in the system or the theory.
So I think the question is whether or not the kind of theory Rawls builds is guiding for us in the non ideal world that we live in.
And one of the things Rawls said he was trying to do with his theory of justice was in this is a quote to provide guidance where guidance is needed.
So he thought doing this kind of theory construction can help us when we find our intuitions and our policies and our laws are in conflict.
And I think the proof of the pudding is to what extent it's guiding and I actually think in some important respects it has been guiding there are a lot of policy debates where Rawls has had a huge influence one of them is in the whole issue of how should health care be distributed and how should we think about our obligations to people with respect to the provision of medical care.
Another is in education and so people who are involved in thinking through our non ideal world will draw on Rawls's theory for guidance.
I'm sympathetic I mean my own work is at a lower level of abstraction than Rawls is is.
And so I'm sympathetic that we sometimes have to push ourselves back down to the messy world.
But I think abstraction and critical reflection are tools we need and use in their part of the messy world.
And so I think with all due respect to Raymond Goyce it is over the top.
Good enough. Good enough. That's great.
So moving now on to your book about why something should not be for sale.
This is a book about the the hegemony if it's not too strong a term of the of the marketplace today and how there are a number of people who believe that the market is.
If you let the market regulate our interactions everything will be for the better maybe the greater, you know the greatest number.
And you you take issue with some of the presuppositions that underlie some of the discourses about the marketplace today, you know.
And you've written this very interesting book about why something should not be for sale in which you do try to get down now in to the more concrete realms.
And fine nevertheless abstract well let's say philosophical are reasoned arguments.
Principal arguments.
Moral arguments about why certain things should not be for sale.
So can I ask you first question how Rawlsian do you consider this book that came out in 2010?
So there are a couple of Rawlsian tropes in this book.
One is that I'm thinking about institutions and a basic structure and social arrangements and I'm trying to apply principles to that rather than to individual actions and that's a Rawlsian you know that the concerns of justice are really about institutions primarily.
A second Rawlsian piece of this is I'm trying as much as possible to shy away from particular views about the good life or human flourishing.
So one of the things the Rawlsian project we didn't talk about the veil of ignorance but one of the things Rawls was trying to do in designing his two principles was to think about principles that could be accepted by people.
Who disagree about value in life like what makes a life good.
One of the other fixed points of Rawls's theory was what he called the fact of reasonable pluralism.
The fact that in the absence of state coercion reasonable people will disagree about what gives meaning to life.
So when I approach the issue of what are the limits of markets, I didn't take a view which has sometimes been taken by people in this literature interested in this topic who think, well the reason not to distribute certain kinds of goods according to markets is because there's a certain appropriate way of valuing those goods and when we sell those goods we debase their value.
Well I think there's something to be said on behalf of that argument, I think the worry is that people disagree about the meaning of certain goods.
And one of the nice things about a market is you and I could disagree about religion and we could buy and sell a Bible.
And the fact that I sell a Bible doesn't necessarily express my attitude towards the Bible any more than you're buying of it.
But there is a view what Michael Sandell's just written a book on this that comes out of his tenor lectures and Michael Walzer and other people have argued that there's an appropriate way to value goods and markets debase the currency of those goods.
When I say there's something to the argument you can think about a good like friendship and you can think, well look if you try to buy a friend, whatever you buy, it's not a friend you've debased the good and if there's an appropriate way of having a friend you've now destroyed that.
I think that in a very limited set of goods are like that but in many goods we can have plural understandings and then in a liberal society we don't want to impose one way of valuing a good on people.
And so arguments that press the limits of markets solely on the basis of you should view this good in this way I think are a liberal.
Whereas you are dealing with some things that you don't think should enter into the place of exchange and you are not, you claim I correct understand you correctly that you're not putting forward moral arguments as such but you're in more social political arguments for why the trafficking in certain kinds of goods works against principles.
of either equality or of human dignity.
So I'm putting forward moral arguments but they're not based on specific views about what makes a life good.
So but I am trying to single out features of certain kinds of markets that I think are worrying actually from the point of view of a democratic society.
That's the political argument.
It's an ethical argument embedded in a political argument about democracy.
So if we're going to have a democratic society of society of people who are free and equal there are certain kinds of goods whose sale is problematic.
But for example and we can get into the goods that you find not just as you say, prostitution for example.
So in your chapter on prostitution why you don't think that the selling of sexual services should be marketed.
That you're saying that you're not taking again the moral stand from the point of view of sex is bad outside of marriage or something of that sort but rather that there is a certain way where sexual services when they enter the marketplace degrade the women in general in this society.
There are social and political consequences to certain knock-off markets if I understand you correctly.
That's right.
So I'm interested in some of the effects that worry me are what are third party effects.
So there are not effects on the parties to an exchange but there are effects that spill over into other kinds of exchanges that affect the ability of people in a society to stand as equals.
So, you know, some people are too poor, right?
This is kind of a so idea that no man should be rich enough or poor enough that one man is forced right to work for another one.
There should be no such extremes of desperation.
When you have people who are desperate they can't stand together as equals some bow and scrape before the higher born.
So some kinds of markets child labor is another, I think not so controversial example where many most forms of child labor prevent children from developing the capacities that they need to see themselves as, you know, people can make claims, stand as equal, get an education, understand alternatives.
There are also third party effects of child labor on other people.
And so one of the things I look at in the book are markets who have, who's, markets with effects that are different than apples.
You know, if you think of apples as a kind of canonical market, we buy and sell apples.
We don't worry that much unless the apples become poisoned or there's some issues about the way the farm laborers are treated.
We don't worry about the spillover effects of apples.
But there are other markets, particularly markets dealing that deal with human beings, where we do worry about the effects of certain kinds of markets on people's ability to understand themselves as free and equal citizens.
And actually I go back and the book and look a little bit at the history of political economy and Adam Smith, who's often seen as the great celebrator of the free market,
was very concerned about some of the effects of labor markets in degrading, he said,
and unless we have intervention in the form of public education, we should worry about the effects of certain kinds of markets in making people into beings that are unfit to be citizens.
Well, okay, let's speak about a few examples because you do an excellent job in your proposing the counter arguments to the arguments that you end up making.
And if you take, for example, child labor laws, you say that there are some arguments that do actually make sense that if you forbid markets in child labor, you might be forcing those children into child prostitution, which would have a much more noxious effect on the end of the year.
And so on.
So, you have a question on the individual's question as well as on the society and so forth, but you think that you have criteria by which you can actually adjudicate why it's still the right thing to do to forbid markets in child labor, even though sometimes the consequences could be worse.
What are these criteria? How do you arrive at them?
So, one of the things, again, the kind of Rawlsian trope, I start and look at a bunch of reactions people have to different kinds of markets.
And maybe these reactions have, you know, are just repugnance that can't be analyzed.
But I want to take these at their face and then think about whether or not there's something behind our reactions.
So, people have very different reactions to child labor, kidney markets, actually education, health care than they do to Apple markets.
And so, one of the things I'm looking at is why is there anything that's going on?
And what I find is that there are a bunch of different kinds of considerations that we can lump all the markets that people find problematic together.
And in all of these cases, we'll find one of these, I have four considerations.
And not every market has all of these considerations, but every market we find problematic has at least one.
And the four parameters.
These are four parameters.
And they're what I consider the defining features of what I call an "noxious market," a market that people react to differently than an Apple market.
And those are extreme harm, very weak agency, inequality, and actually degrading of democracy.
>> A vulnerability.
>> And vulnerability is in the inequality.
So, take an example, child labor.
So, what are some features of a child labor market?
Well, children aren't real agents on the market.
I mean, they don't contract their labor, their parents do.
So, that's one form of weak agency.
They're not really parties.
But they're also weak agency because the parents who contract children's labor in very poor countries often don't know what the long-term consequences are of taking their kids out of school.
They don't have full information.
That's another form of weak agency.
There's harm to the individual children.
They don't develop the capacities to be able to take care of themselves, to be independent.
To stand up for their needs.
And their harms to society to democracy because children who are raised in child labor grow up to be adults who don't demand their rights.
So, I analyze the four parameters.
I analyze these problematic markets in terms of these different parameters.
I say when markets score high, there's a tipping point that makes them what are called "noxious."
And then the question is what to do.
>> Can I interrupt?
>> Can I interrupt?
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but before we get to the question, what can we do?
Okay, this kind of revulsion or this intuitive, this is not good.
Again, like the Rawlsian question, how much of it presupposes a democratic society where we believe that children should be going to school, a podilisor, that child labor laws have existed since the early 20th century.
For the vast majority of our own ancestors in the Western world, children were put to work in the fields in the peasantry from a very early age.
And child labor has always been a kind of reality of agrarian agricultural society.
So, how culture-specific are these evaluations that you're making?
>> Well, so I think you can have a view of harm, and we can defend a view of harm that's not culturally specific.
When people are burned, they're harmed.
When people are absolutely not educated, they're harmed.
Now, of course, we haven't always been able to educate people, and there's an open question as to what extent in the world today, we can achieve full of education for all children.
There's also questions about, you know, can children work and go to school?
And there are also questions, I think, that are cultural about what kinds of labor are permissible or not permissible?
But a lot of the work that children do around the world, I don't think there's a culturally, you know, we should go the cultural relativists root here, because a lot of these kids are working in conditions, which,
undermine, dramatically, their health, their mental well-being, and so on.
>> Well, I'm always looking for ways to avoid cultural relativism, because I would like to find some other ground on which to make absolute statements and categorical statements.
And, you know, Kant's doctrine that a human being is not a means to an end, but is an end in himself or herself is something that I fundamentally believe,
when I'm committed to. On the other hand, I was reading last week or two weeks ago that there's Korean men now can go into Vietnam, and they can be in their 50s, but they can marry young, you know, 20-year-old Vietnamese if they send $100 a month back to the families, the girls that hand them over.
That's not fair. It's not exactly parallel to child labor, but it's a form of unfairness that one finds that it should be addressed to. Is that a marketplace that can be regulated? How much can we extend our fairness across the world?
>> So, I mean, those are lots of really good questions. Just to stay focused for one minute children are different than even 20-year-olds.
I mean, when we're talking about children, we're really talking about there's no volunteeriness here.
We're also talking about often circumstances in which the parents might want if they had any option not to put their kids to work.
I mean, one of the main drivers, of course, of child labor is poverty, and that gets to, I think, the issue of what to do, and my approach to the more limits of markets is even when you see that a market is not just, it doesn't mean that the right policy response is to ban the market.
Because if you ban simply go in and ban child labor, you might wind up with worse harm for children because they're driven underground to a black market where it's better for kids to work in regulated factories than to be child prostitutes or child soldiers.
So, what I think my approach does is help you think about the parameters and you think here are the things that are worrying.
Okay, how can I fix those things?
And if one of the things that's worrying is lack of education or harm, how can I then, if I close off this option of child labor, make sure the kids are in school?
Or, if I close off this alternative of somebody selling a body part, but I give them nothing else and the result is they starve, am I really addressing the problem of harm?
And so, sometimes the problem is, in some contexts, people don't understand what they're doing.
So, I had a student who wrote an undergraduate thesis on people selling their kidneys in India and went down and interviewed about 80 people who had sold their kidneys.
And one of the things he found out is that lots of people didn't know how many kidneys they had.
Well, one thing you might do, if you thought, if you thought that was the problem, the problem is people, then you'd think, okay, at least we have to have informed consent.
So, let's, we won't ban the market, but we'll actually make sure people understand what we're doing.
Well, if you think, no, the problem is in just weak agency, it's that there's some harm or there's some inequality aspect to this, then we need to address that.
And so, this partly gives you a way of thinking about when do you want to close off a market?
And if you close it off, in virtual wire, you're closing it off, and what do you need to do to make sure the thing you're concerned about doesn't come back.
Well, one question I would have then is, are there objective criteria for determining what is it, anxious market and what isn't?
So, I don't know if you know there's someone reviewed your book.
I came across it and you just talk about contract pregnancy as one of the things that you would not allow a market for.
And the reviewer who is very praising and sympathetic to your book, but nevertheless, she, in your book you say that the reasons that you would, you find it in the office is one.
This quote, "You contract pregnancy gives others increased access to and control over women's bodies and sexuality."
Not good.
Two contract pregnancy contributes to gender inequality by reinforcing negative stereotypes about women as baby machines.
And three contract pregnancy raises the danger that in contested cases of parental rights motherhood will be defined in terms of genetic material in the same way as fatherhood failing to recognize the unequal contributions of men and women to the birthing process where women's gestational labor is not equivalent to a man's genetic contribution."
Thank you.
Yeah. And the reviewer then says, "In response to these concerns, I would suggest one.
Contract pregnancy gives women a specialized medium for reclaiming control over their own bodies and its reproductive abilities despite social gender equality.
Two reproductive labor in certain forms reinforces negative stereotypes of men as sperm donors rather than active parental figures.
Every all cases of contested parenthood for both fathers and mothers should consider more than just the genetic relationship to the child."
So here you have your sense that it's bad for gender equality in the society, and here's another one of saying, "Well, no, maybe it's actually very good and it's correcting the stereotypes, not reinforcing it."
So are there objective criteria of evaluation when it comes to disagreements of this sort?
So my argument about contract pregnancy and prostitution is much more in the form of if these are the effects than we have reason to be concerned about these markets.
If they're not the effects, then we don't have reason to be concerned about those markets.
And I think we have social scientific ways imperfect, but of trying to measure what are the effects of allowing these kinds of markets.
I don't actually in the contract pregnancy case say that we shouldn't allow it. I say we shouldn't enforce it.
And enforcement has to do with if a woman enters into one of these agreements and changes her mind, should we enforce the delivery of a baby to the contracting parties?
And there I think that the weak agency argument has some hold, which is that before somebody is surrendered a child, and before they've been pregnant and had a child and had to surrender it,
they can't really know what it is that they're agreeing to.
So, and many people, I mean, not that many people change their mind in these contexts, but those who do actually, that's what they say, is that I had no idea I would bond with this child that I was carrying.
So again, you might think, well, the right response then is to really increase agency and make sure people know, or you might think we just should regulate it because the potential harm is so great.
That's great. The books have been out for a year at least now, and it's gotten a lot of attention I know, and you've been on the circuit for it, and is it having an impact there where it counts the most, namely in policy legislation and so forth?
I don't think so. You know, it's a book.
Is this a book more? You think it's more directed to philosophers or political theorists or words? It's a bit of a hybrid.
It's, you know, certainly gotten some reviews in economic journals, which has been great, and I've been very happy about that.
It's not, I think, I haven't seen anybody cite it in the legislature, but...
So the Supreme Court's not going to call you in as an expert counsel.
I don't think I'm going to be an expert witness, but, you know, I'm hoping that it complicates the way people view markets.
There's been a tendency to be very abstract in the way we think about markets and to think they're all the same, and to just think of them as represented by equations on a blackboard, and I want to recover an older tradition of really thinking through the heterogeneity of different kinds of markets and the heterogeneous effects they have.
Well, that's great. The book is Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale by Deborah Sats, Oxford University Press. You can go and get that.
We've been speaking with Professor Deborah Sats here on entitled "Pinions." I'm Robert Harrison. You can access all our previous shows, either from our website or on our iTunes podcast.
Thank you very much for coming on. Deborah, it's been a pleasure to have you, and to talk about both John Rawls and the moral limits of markets.
It's been great. Thanks. Bye-bye.