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Market Reasoning as Moral Reasoning

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ECO 307 Intermediate Microeconomics

Fall 2018

Guidelines for Essay I

1.       Essay II Assignment: Write a review essay of M. J. Sandel (2013). “Market Reasoning as Moral Reasoning: Why Economists Should Re-engage with Political Philosophy,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 27 (4): 121–140 [search the Buffalo Library database to download this article]

2.       Deadline: November 15, Thursday, 6:00 PM (submit through the Turnitin dropbox in Blackboard). Make sure that your submission appears in the Turnitin dropbox. Late submission may be accepted with reduced points, but no later than November 17, Saturday, 6:00 PM. Read the following guidelines carefully.

3.       Purpose of writing an essay: Eco 307 is a writing intensive course. One of goals of this course is to develop critical thinking as well as writing skill. Writing a formal, academic essay requires the following: 1) thorough reading: understanding of the assigned material correctly, 2) critical thinking: making your own argument in a convincing manner by providing supporting reasons and evidence, and 3) clear writing style.

4.       StructureAcademic essays must contain Introduction, Main body, and Conclusion. See the Economics and Finance Department writing guidelines for a review essay here:http://economics.buffalostate.edu/writing-short-essay

5.       Contents:

   A review essay is not a summary of the assigned article. In the introductory paragraph, state clearly and briefly what you are going to write/argue—that is, raise your own questions and outline your essay. In the main body of the essay, pick up a few or several important arguments/issues and then develop your own ideas on those selected issues.

    Keep in mind that “critical thinking” is the most important component of an academic essay, if critiques are addressed in an appropriate manner. Assertions or personal feeling without supporting argumentation should be avoided. Critical argument does not mean the rejection of others’ argument. Critical thinking is a reasoned and educated assessment of others’ ideas and argument.

    Readers (including your professor) are not interested in seeing the repetition of others’ ideas. Readers expect to see your understanding and argument of others’ ideas you are reviewing. Also note that there is no “correct” idea in economics. A good argument is a well-articulated and well-evidenced one.

    Students tend to evaluate academic arguments from a political viewpoint. Although every person has her/his political/ideological value, an academic argument is not about choosing a side, but about developing ideas.

6.       Questions to be considered:

    What’s market reasoning and moral reasoning? What are the problems of market reasoning? Why does Sandel argue that moral reasoning should be given a priority over market reasoning?

    Neoclassical economics supports the view that the market should be free of any regulation so that it can achieve the equilibrium position at which all self-interested individuals (both seller and buyers) achieve maximum welfare (profits and utility). What’s Michael Sandel’s response to the neoclassical conception of the market and of the market price mechanism? What’s your response to the neoclassical argument?

    Some people have long argued that public higher education should be privatized and treated as a commodity—that is, the college is the marketplace where the seller (administration and professors) and consumers (students) exchange knowledge and learning following the rules of the market— in order to improve consumer’s learning efficiency as well as seller’s cost-efficiency. What’s the problem, if any, of this argument from the moral-social perspective descried by Sandel?

    How is Sandel’s argument related to John Henry’s argument in the “Illusion of the Epoch?”

7.       Format

    The paper must be typed in 12 point font, double-spaced, and minimum 1,000 words including title, footnotes, and references; if the word count is significantly lower than 1,000 words, some points will be deducted. There is no upper-limit to the word count.

    Insert a page number on each page.

    No need to insert a separate cover page (only Name, Date, Title on top of the first page are necessary).

    Direct quotation should be kept to a minimum. Use your own words.

    Extra spaces/margins between sentences or between paragraphs are unnecessary.

    Check spelling and grammar carefully before submitting the essay. If necessary, go to Writing Help Center at the Buffalo State Library (see the Center information here: https://academiccommons. buffalostate.edu/writing-center)

8.       Citation and Bibliography: Students are free to use any other resources—books, journal articles, data, and the like, if they are used in a proper manner. But Wikipedia, Investopia, or any similar online site should not be used. All borrowed terms, phrases, or ideas should be cited in text and included in the reference list. When you cite a reference in text, provide: Author last name, year of publication, page number—for example, (Jo 2016, p. 327). In the reference list, provide full information of the cited material in the following format: Author last name, first name, year of publication, title of the article/book, journal title or publishing house. For example, Jo, Tae-Hee (2016), “What if there are no conventional price mechanisms?” Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 327–344.

9.       No Plagiarism: Any form of plagiarism must be avoided. Otherwise you will get zero for the essay. To learn about plagiarism, see here: http://economics.buffalostate.edu/plagiarism



Market Reasoning as Moral Reasoning


Institutional Affiliation


The article titled, “Market Reasoning as Moral Reasoning: Why Economists Should Re-engage with Political Philosophy” was written and published by Michael J. Sandel in 2013. The author provides convincing arguments on how the domains of life that in the past were under the control of nonmarket norms are currently being influenced by market values and market reasoning. For example, money and markets play a significant role in civic life, political campaigns, military services, environmental protection, and so on (Sandel, 2013, p.121). This situation of monetizing every human activity erodes certain societal norms. As a result, the author asserts that it is imperative that the society holds a public debate and decides the extent at which the market mechanisms get to serve the public good.

The market reasoning is often confused for moral reasoning. According to Sandel (2013, p.122), people tend to think that economic efficiency represents the common good in any social setting. This assertion is a mistake because the common good cannot be assumed to be the act of providing goods to individuals with the willingness to buy them. However, market reasoning has certain limitations; for instance, free exchange of a good might be involuntary considering, in reality, the seller is generally in need of money to cater for specific needs. Besides, the author argues that market reasoning only focuses on the valuation of good things in life. An exchange is considered efficient if the parties involved benefit; however, this overlooks the fact that the good can be valued wrongly by one (or both) parties.

Moral reasoning should be prioritized over market reasoning because of the existence of moral objections to certain market transactions. Sandel (2013, p.122) asserts that economics can be described as moral science. Equity and efficiency in an economy guarantee that the society ends up better off after an exchange of goods. To support his argument, the author opines that this situation brings up the question of what is counted as better off. The response often hinges on on the understanding of the public good or overall well-being. Besides, the extension of markets into noneconomic aspects of life casts a shadow of doubt over the assumption that economics is a value-free science. Market reasoning treats goods just as mere commodities however moral reasoning works on the assumption of goods have specific values attached to them hence spearheads the campaign of distributive justice.

Neoclassical economics supports the idea that a market should be free of any form of regulation so that to achieve a state of equilibrium as a way of attaining maximum welfare. However, Michael Sandel believes that the lack of standardization makes markets unfair to the individuals who have no willingness and the ability to buy goods that are being sold in the market. Maximum welfare cannot be achieved through the application of regulations because in certain markets such as refugee quotas they result in the erosion of norms and attitudes resulting in corruption (Sandel, 2013, p.132). Markets influence different domains of life, therefore, possess a significant role in the attainment of maximum welfare. Consequently, it is implausible to assume that the market does not influence the good under the exchange.

An ideal society is made of a market that is free of rules and regulations that threaten to erode or crowd-out the economy to the disadvantage of those without the willingness and...


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