Repugnance, externalities and subjectivism: a comment on Krawiec

Originally published in Journal of Institutional Economics

In her ‘Markets, repugnance, and externalities’ (2022), Kimberly Krawiec notes that the so-called corruption theorists fail to provide evidence that the adoption of repugnant behaviours or commodification destroy social values. She adds that, the values repugnant behaviours are supposed to destroy may even be reinforced after a market has been created. The explanation she explores is that the creation of a market never goes without debates that allow the society to ponder the values it stands for. We suggest an alternative view on the lack of evidence Krawiec identifies. Our starting point is Krawiec's interpretation of repugnance in terms of externalities. We claim that an analysis of repugnance based on externalities requires a characterization of what an externality is, which is rarely done. We show that economists use two opposed definitions of externalities, an objective and a subjective one, and then show what it implies for an analysis of repugnance and justify why the corruption thesis is not always verified empirically.

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