I’ve had a busy week, to say the least. So I’ve only been inching my way very slowly through the very interesting by Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber.
On Monday at the OECD Forum, though, as well as talking about my own book, , I had a very interesting debate with Marie-Laure Djelic and Yves Flückiger about economics and economics education. They were both critical of economics, for familiar reasons – many of which I agree with.
However, Marie-Laure made one really interesting point I hadn’t thought of before. She was talking about Michael Sandel’s . A weakness of the book, in my view, was its failure to answer the question about where those limits lie. Sandel criticises the fact that people pay other people to stand in line for them to pick up free tickets for plays in Central Park. But why is that worse than paying people for their time in other ways, like babysitting? Marie-Laure argued that he should not have tried to specify the limits of the market, however – she sees it as a collective, political decision, not a question to which there can be a technocratic answer.
[amazon_image id=”0241954487″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]What Money Can’t Buy[/amazon_image]
I only partly agree with that. Of course political imperatives should be able to override a market – think of the civic need for rationing during wartime even though it fuels a “black market”. However, it seems clear to me that instincts or political outcomes should be tested from the perspective of what a market outcome would look like. Take the example of emissions markets: there are people, maybe many people, who think markets and the environment shouldn’t mix at all, but that’s just perverse if a market process can lead to a better environmental outcome. And if there is a strong moral instinct not to allow payment for queuing, the moral philosophers should try to explain why it does differ from other forms of payment for labour time.