Jane Jacobs (1916-1996) was an expert on urban planning and the economics of cities. She was an activist who helped protect Greenwich Village in New York from being overhauled by an expressway running through Little Italy and SoHo and was arrested in the process. Through her work, she became an expert on the intersection between regulation and business and developed a framework to think about the moral dimensions of each. These were outlined in her excellent book “Systems of Survival”
With the dominance of market thinking, it is hard to argue against the exchange of some good or service between two consenting adults of money. However, Michael Sandel, Harvard Professor of Government, argues in “What Money Can’t Buy” that there are limits.
To give a sense of how pervasive markets are, he outlines the types of things that can now be bought and sold:
A prison cell upgrade ($82 a night)
The services of an Indian surrogate mother to carry a pregnancy ($6,250).
The right to immigrate the US ($500,000)
The right to shoot endangered rhinos ($150,000)
Stand in line overnight in Capitol Hill to hold a place for a lobbyist to attend congressional hearing ($15-$20 per hour)
Buy the life insurance policy for an elderly person, pay the premiums and then receive the death benefit when they die.