Trade in Health

Trade in Health

Economics, Ethics and Public Policy

David Reisman

Once exports and imports meant agriculture and industry. Today, in the global economy and the electronic age, trade is also expanding into the service sector. This timely book closely examines trade in health. Professor David Reisman offers a comprehensive and searching multidisciplinary account of the way in which medical services, patients, capital and professionals make up a global healthcare economy that crosses borders. Combining theory and empirical evidence from economics, tourism, and medical care, scholars involved in health economics and social administration will find much of significance in this authoritative study.

Chapter 10: Conclusion: commodification

David Reisman

Subjects: economics and finance, health policy and economics, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, health policy and economics


Some things are commodities. Some things are not. The social consensus generally accepts that pineapples, motorcars, English textiles and Portuguese wines are economic tradeables that may legitimately cross the frontiers of property and price. The social consensus generally denies that a vote, a verdict, an exemption from military service or a licence to practise polygamy may reasonably be rationed to the highest bidder at an auction sale. People can rent themselves out to a hectoring boss. People cannot sell themselves into slavery by consent. The distinction, as every working stiff will know, is not clear-cut. Borders are conventional ruts. They seem arbitrary at times but they are what they are. On the one hand there is the marketable: ëEconomics really does constitute the universal grammar of social scienceí (Hirshleifer, 1985: 53). On the other hand there is the super-marketable: ëBlocked exchanges set limits on the dominance of wealthí (Walzer, 1983: 100). ëCommodificationí is the term that describes the new boundary-lines that are being marked out by encroaching capitalism. Commodification is an evocation of what happens when uncompromising liberalism contests unaccustomed and unconventional areas of social space. Prisoners purchase upgrades to more luxurious cells. Foreigners buy a ëgreen cardí or a passport. Speculators auction permits that license noxious pollutants. Universities merchant admissions and hawk honorary doctorates.

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