What’s a euvoluntary transaction?

According to standard economics, a voluntary transaction benefits both the buyer and the seller (in expectation, anyway). Yet there are many transactions that are widely condemned, and even banned–if they occur at the market price. Consider the following examples:

  • vote sales
  • organ sales
  • blackmail
  • prostitution
  • low-wage labor
  • emergency resources, e.g., ice during a summer blackout
  • adoption

In each of these cases, people don’t object to the transaction itself–it’s admirable to donate a kidney–but when it occurs at the market price, the transaction becomes objectionable.

Rochester economist Mike Munger, in an attempt to understand opposition to such apparently beneficial transactions, has invented the term euvoluntary to describe transactions that people generally have no objection to. I hope to go over his ideas more later, but I want to get the conversation started now. What do you think the transactions mentioned above have in common? Are there more that should be added to the list?

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