Malleable Balance of Market Practices and Fairness Constraints

Andrew Askland

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law


Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 28, p. 285, 2000

Some apologies for market economic systems excuse their various shortcomings as the unavoidable cost of their benefits. Prospering markets entail unfairness. If unfair conditions and practices do not ground a market system, then they inevitably arise as the system develops. This position fuels a reluctance to implement fairness inspired constraints because they contradict an economy’s normal operations. Fairness concerns are rendered optional, pursued when they do not unduly burden market operations. The position of this paper is that markets operate and prosper with significant fairness constraints. Some constraints are grafted onto the market model and function as constitutive components. These constraints mostly represent shared views about impartial procedures. Other constraints express commitments that are independent of the market, grounded in distinct criteria of evaluation. This paper argues (1) that many fairness constraints are consistent with the market model and (2) that those constraints which are not reflect commitments as vital as market commitments. Variable balances of these commitments are sustainable in practice. Conventional practice may tolerate market operations that eclipse specific fairness expectations, but the balance can be recalibrated. Current limits upon market practices are often described as natural fits with the market. These descriptions ignore the many changes that have been gradually adopted by market systems to accommodate fairness concerns. Despite complacency about the prevailing balance, further modifications are sustainable. The crucial elements of a market system, i.e., those which promote efficiency, protect personal liberties, ground stability, enhance outputs, etc., can persist through the modifications.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 12

Keywords: economics, market system, business ethics

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Date posted: November 14, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Askland, Andrew, Malleable Balance of Market Practices and Fairness Constraints (2000). Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 28, p. 285, 2000. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1504676

Contact Information

Andrew Askland (Contact Author)
Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )
Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
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