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Coercion, Contract and the Limits of the Market

  • Kaushik Basu

A central proposition on which much of normative economics is founded asserts that if two or more adults voluntarily agree to an exchange or trade and this does not have a negative fall-out on others, then government should not stop this exchange. Yet, on a variety of matters (hazardous work, the right to give up trade union rights in order to work in an export-processing zone) we tend to justify government or international interventions banning seemingly voluntary exchanges. This lecture will explore the meaning of coercion and voluntariness and try to articulate general principles for describing certain markets as 'obnoxious'. The principles will be applied to different labor market problems, ranging from sexual harassment to hazardous work.

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Paper provided by Econometric Society in its series Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings with number 355.

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Date of creation: 11 Aug 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ecm:ausm04:355
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  1. Sen, Amartya Kumar, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Scholarly Articles 3612779, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Ashwini Deshpande, 1999. "Loan Pushing and Triadic Relations," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(4), pages 914-926, April.
  3. Sen, Amartya & Pattanaik, Prasanta K., 1969. "Necessary and sufficient conditions for rational choice under majority decision," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 178-202, August.
  4. Basu, Kaushik, 2000. "Prelude to Political Economy: A Study of the Social and Political Foundations of Economics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296713, March.
  5. Neeman, Zvika, 1999. "The Freedom to Contract and the Free-Rider Problem," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 685-703, October.
  6. Arrow, Kenneth J, 1994. "Methodological Individualism and Social Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 1-9, May.
  7. Akerlof, George A, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617, November.
  8. Sen, Amartya, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(1), pages 152-57, Jan.-Feb..
  9. Gaertner, Wulf & Pattanaik, Prasanta K & Suzumura, Kotaro, 1992. "Individual Rights Revisited," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 59(234), pages 161-77, May.
  10. Basu, Kaushik & Van, Pham Hoang, 1998. "The Economics of Child Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 412-27, June.
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