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Ignorant of Markets, and Proud of It

November 20, 2007

Tags Calculation and Knowledge

From a letter in today's Wall Street Journal:

If we allow ourselves to buy labor services from the poor, we encourage the idea that they are mere instruments to be used by us at will and thereby corrode one of our most central convictions: All persons, including those in poverty, have dignity and aren't simply things to be purchased at the right price.

In other words, to participate in the labor market — to exchange one's labor services for money — is to lose one's dignity. Wage contracts — perhaps all economic transactions — should therefore be banned. Oh, wait, it wasn't "to buy labor services from the poor," it was "to buy organs from the poor." The writers, Samuel J. Kerstein of Harvard's Program in Ethics and Health and Luc Noel of the World Health Organization are arguing against organ markets. My advice to college and professional students: flee from courses with "ethics" in the title as fast as you can.

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