Research Paper

Is Market Society Intrinsically Repugnant?

In Why Not Socialism?, G. A. Cohen argues that market society and capitalism are intrinsically repugnant. He asks us to imagine an ideal camping trip, which becomes increasing repugnant as it shifts from living by socialist to capitalist principles. In this paper, I expose the limits of this style of argument by making a parallel argument, which shows how an ideal anarchist camping trip becomes increasingly repugnant as the campsite turns from anarchism to democracy.


How Smart is Democracy? You Can't Answer that A Priori

Hélène Landemore claims that under certain conditions, democracies with universal suffrage will tend to make smarter and better decisions than epistocracies, even though most citizens in modern democracies are extremely ignorant about politics. However, there is ample empirical evidence that citizens make systematic errors. If so, it is fatal to Landemore's defense of democracy, which, if it works at all, applies only to highly idealized situations that are unlikely to occur in the real world.


Consequences Matter More: In Defense of Instrumentalism about Private versus Public Prisons

Alon Harel wants to show that punishment is a kind of symbolic expression that, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, can only be performed by governmental agents. Contrary to Harel, I argue private agents can in fact realize those features he argues only public agents can realize. I also argue that, even if he were right that only public guards and wardens can punish, it’s unclear why we would have an all-things-considered rather than merely a pro tanto/prima facie duty to punish.


Markets without Symbolic Limits

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 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.


I'll Pay You Ten Bucks Not to Murder Me

James Stacey Taylor offers three interpretations of our thesis, and argues that only one of them goes through. His point is to clarify our view rather than critique our position. In this brief response, we argue that, upon further clarification, we could endorse at least one of the other inter- pretations, though as Taylor notes, we don’t need to for our book’s thesis to go through.