Market Fairness

Fairness requires that exchanges are voluntary. But what if the exchange is not voluntary? And what if there is great inequality in bargaining power? Are markets fair then? Market critics like philosopher Michael Sandel are concerned about inequality, and about poor people being coerced by desperation. However, Michael Munger argues that if we want to help people who are suffering, our real concern should be poverty, not inequality, and the key to alleviating poverty around the world is allowing markets to work.

Additional Readings and Videos

Here are recommended readings and additional videos that could be added to a syllabus or lesson plan on this topic.

Books and Articles

Andrew Carnegie, “Wealth”

Tyler Cowen, “It’s not the inequality, it’s the immobility”

Steve Horwitz, “Inequality, Mobility, and Being Poor in America”

Denis G. Arnold and Norman E. Bowie, “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons,” in Al Gini and Alexei Marcoux, eds. Case Studies in Business Ethics, 6th edition: Pearson, 2009, pp. 182-199.

Ian Maitland, “The Great Non-Debate Over International Sweatshops,” in Al Gini and Alexei Marcoux, eds. Case Studies in Business Ethics, 6th edition: Pearson, 2009, pp. 199-211.

Matt Zwolinksi, “Sweatshops, Choice, and Exploitation,” Business Ethics Quarterly, Oct2007, Vol. 17 Issue 4, pp. 689-727.

Thomas Carson, “Free Exchange for Mutual Benefit: Sweatshops and Maitland’s Classical Liberal Standard”

Russell McCarthy, “It’s official: Fair trade screws over labourers,” Spiked, May 30, 2014.

Ndongo Samba Sylla, “Fairtrade is an unjust movement that serves the rich,” The Guardian, September 5, 2014; available here:

Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy by Benjamin Powell (book)

“In Defense of ‘Sweatshops’” by Benjamin Powell (article)

“No Sweat: How Sweatshops Improve Lives and Economic Growth” by Benjamin Powell (video)

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel (book)

“What money can’t buy: the moral limits of markets” by Michael Sandel. Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 21, 89-122. (article)

Thomas MaCurdy, “How effective is the minimum wage at supporting the poor?” Journal of Political Economy, April 2015, Vol. 123 Issue 2.

Andrea Werner and Ming Lim, “The Ethics of a Living Wage,” Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 137, no. 3,September 2016, pp. 433-447

Jeremy Snyder, “Needs Exploitation”

Javier Hidalgo, “Do Employers have Obligations to Pay Their Workers a Living Wage?” Business Ethics Journal Review 1.11 (2013): 69-75.

Barry Schwartz, “The Tyranny of Choice,” Scientific American, April 2004; available here:

Deborah Doane, “How a successful collective of smallholder farmers in India is showing the way,” The Guardian, November 11, 2015

N. Scott Arnold, “Why Profits are Deserved”

“What money can’t buy: the moral limits of markets” by Michael Sandel (video)

“What Does Voluntary Actually Mean?” by Michael Munger (article)

Daniel Shapiro, “On N. Scott Arnold’s ‘Why Profits are Deserved’”

Grant A. Brown, “Are Profits Deserved?”

Bertrand de Jouvenl, The Ethics of Redistribution

“Euvoluntariness and just market exchange: moral dilemmas from Locke’s Venditio” by Ricardo Andrés Guzmán and Michael Munger. Public Choice, 158(1-2), 39-49. 2014 (article)

“Euvoluntary or not, exchange is just” by Michael Munger. Social Philosophy and Policy, 28(2), 192-211. 2011 (article)

Liberty, Desert and the Market: A Philosophical Study by Serena Olsaretti (book)