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The sale of organs and gametes, the use of commercial surrogates, and trade in blood and plasma are examples of what have been termed "contested commodities" or "taboo trades." These transactions, and others, have been the subject of long-running debate regarding their moral propriety. Although these disagreements about the nature of market boundaries are not new, there has been renewed interest in recent years in the ways that attitudes about the proper scope of commercial exchange shape markets—and, in fact, determine whether exchange for money takes place at all.
This article contends that the extent to which participants in and outside observers of ethically contentious exchange have discussed, adjusted, and managed such exchanges undermines claims made by some scholars that "market creep" has occurred in these areas without public awareness or debate. A given transaction is not moral simply because it is accepted socially, culturally, or legally. But the actual functioning of values and relationships within those transactions is crucial when moral objections rely on the corruption or undermining of shared values or relationships. Although it is possible to organize contested markets in a way that confirms market skeptics' worst fears, to do so would be contrary to the self-interest of both the parties to such exchange and other relevant market participants, such as intermediaries.