Markets without Symbolic Limits

JASON BRENNAN AND PETER MARTIN JAWORSKI
ETHICS 125.4 (2015): 1053-1077

Abstract: Semiotic objections to commodification hold that buying and selling certain goods and services is wrong because of what market exchange communicates or because it violates the meaning of certain goods, services, and relationships. We argue that such objections fail. The meaning of markets and of money is a contingent, socially constructed fact. Cultures often impute meaning to markets in harmful, socially destructive, or costly ways. Rather than semiotic objections giving us reason to judge certain markets as immoral, the usefulness of certain markets gives us reason to judge certain semiotic codes as immoral.