Philosophy and Public Affairs 50 (2):202-38 (2022)

Hayden Wilkinson
Oxford University
Our actions in the marketplace often harm others. For instance, buying and consuming petroleum contributes to climate change and thereby does harm. But there is another kind of harm we do in almost every market interaction: market harms. These are harms inflicted via changes to the goods and/or prices available to the victim in that market. (Similarly, market benefits are those conferred in the same way.) Such harms and benefits may seem morally unimportant, as Judith Jarvis Thomson and Ronald Dworkin have argued. But, when those harms or benefits are concentrated on the global poor, they can have considerable impacts on wellbeing. For instance, in 2007-2008, commodity traders invested heavily in wheat and other staple foods, caused a dramatic price rise, and thereby pushed 40 million people into hunger. In such cases, intuition suggests that the traders act wrongly. In this paper, I argue that market harms and benefits are morally equivalent to harms and benefits imposed through other means (contra Thomson and Dworkin). I also demonstrate that, in practice, these harms and benefits are often great in magnitude. For many common products, buying that product results in a considerable financial loss for one group and a considerable gain by another. For instance, for every $10 we spend on wheat, we cause the global poor to lose between $5 and $67 (in expectation) and the global rich to gain the same amount. In light of these effects, I argue that we have moral duties to adopt certain consumption habits.
Keywords market harms  ethical consumption  pecuniary externalities  ethics and economics  externalities
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Reprint years 2022
DOI 10.1111/papa.12210
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References found in this work BETA

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
Justice for Hedgehogs.Ronald Dworkin - 2011 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Risk and Rationality.Lara Buchak - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
The Limits of Morality.Shelly Kagan - 1989 - Oxford University Press.

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