Markets and Desires

According to Joseph Heath, a liberal view of markets makes no judgement about the desires a market tries to satisfy.

The fundamental problem with markets, in Pope Francis’ view, is that they cater to people’s desires, whatever those desires happen to be. What makes the market a liberal institution is that it does not judge the relative merits of these desires. The customer is always right.

Pope Francis rejects this, describing it as part of a “culture of relativism.” The customer, in his view, is often wrong. He wants an economic system that satisfies not whatever desires people happen to have but the desires that they should have — a system that promotes the common good, according to the church’s specification of what that good is.
- Joseph Heath, Pope Francis’ Climate Error, June 19, 2015

Willingness to give the market free reign, to resolutely support free markets, might seem more conservative or libertarian than liberal. But regardless of whether it's liberal or conservative, such an extreme laissez faire approach leads to problematic results. If we refuse to judge the merit of a desire for heroin, or any addictive drug, we should allow the free market to satisfy that desire. Allowing the market to maximize satisfaction of people's desire to consume sugars and fats leads to obesity and diabetes. Ignoring the merits of desires results in a market that preys on people's weaknesses, creating products and services that are as addictive as possible, and maximizing their consumption regardless of the consumers' well-being.

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