Markets and Sovereignty
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The past few decades have witnessed the growth of an exciting debate in the legal academy about the tensions between economic pressures to commodify and philosophical commitments to the market inalienability of certain items. Sex, organs, babies and college athletics are among the many topics that have received attention. The debates have often have proceeded, however, as if they involve markets on one side and the state on the other, with the relevant question being the ways in which the latter can or should try to facilitate, restrict, or rely on the former. In this essay, we approach the relationship between markets and sovereign control from a different perspective, and contemplate more radical versions of their relationship. What would it mean for governing authority itself to be market alienable? And what would it mean if the people — rather than the state — were the ones who set the prices and controlled the transfers? Could a “market for sovereign control” contribute to welfare-enhancing changes in governance?