Do free markets cause us to want things that we feel happy about wanting?
By David George
I have a number of current research interests, but the one I remain most committed to involves a very basic question: Do free markets cause us to want things that we feel happy about wanting? Economics is able to show that a market economy is very good at providing us with the goods and services that we most want. If an economy is made up of people who all like cheeseburgers and who all can’t stand tofu sandwiches, you can bet that the market will provide lots of hamburger restaurants and no tofu sandwich restaurants.
But what if people wished that their tastes were different? What if someone wanted very much to lose some weight and thought that having a taste for tofu sandwiches would be great? Would the market be good at creating in such people the tastes that they would be most happy about having? My current answer to this question is that market does a poor job of shaping our tastes. Much of my past work looked at this question, but if I were to get a motivated student who wanted to pursue this question further, I see a lot that remains to be done!