Book/Article Reviews, Uncategorized

We’re Commodifying Our Book on Commodification

UPDATE 2: As of 2 pm, we’ve sold nearly $200 in sponsorships. Get yours today!
UPDATE: As of 1:oo pm, we’ve sold $150 in sponsorships.

Commodification is a hot topic in recent philosophy. There’s a limitless market for books about the limits of markets. The question: Are there some things which you permissibly may possess, use, and give away, but which are wrong to buy and sell? Most authors who write about this say yes. Peter Jaworski and I say no. There are no inherent limits to markets. Everything you may give away you may sell, and everything you may take for free you may buy. We defend that thesis in our book Markets without Limits, which will be published by Routledge Press, most likely in late 2015 or early 2016. As of now, we have a completed first draft.

We plan to commodify the book itself. We will sell acknowledgements in the preface of the book. (Thanks to Chris Nelson for suggesting this idea.) Our friends on Facebook showed great enthusiasm for this. Our editor likes it and has okayed it. So, here goes.

The Deal:

1. We owe free acknowledgements to certain people, research centers, and universities.* These will all be acknowledged for free.

2. There will also be three tiers of paid acknowledgements. From highest to lowest: Silvermint Tier, Platinum Tier, and Gold Tier (The Silvermint Tier is so named because philosophy and women’s studies professor Daniel Silvermint is paying to have the highest tier named after him.) These will be clearly demarcated as paid-for acknowledgements. We might not mark them as such in the preface, but might instead only reveal that they were paid acknowledgements in the introductory chapter.

3. Gold Tier status costs $1. In exchange, you get our paid thanks and your name printed in the Gold Tier Acknowledgements.

4. Platinum Tier status costs $10. In exchange, you get our paid thanks, your name printed in the Platinum Tier Acknowledgements, and an advanced copy of the introductory section of the book emailed to you one month before the official book release.

5. Silvermint Tier, the highest and most noble tier, costs $25. In exchange, you get our paid thanks, your name printed in the Silvermint Tier Acknowledgements, and an advanced copy of the introductory section of the book emailed to you two months before the official book release. In addition, we will allow you to print a short phrase (about 10 words/50 characters) by your name, provided the phrase is not overly distasteful, not libelous, not racist, etc. (Consistent with our thesis, we can only sell what we could give away for free.)

6. If for some reason the book doesn’t get published, we will refund all money we collect, without interest.

7. All payments via Paypal, or cash if you see us in person. If interested, email marketswithoutlimits@gmail.com, informing us of who you are and what tier you’d like to buy. We’ll send you the Paypal address.

8. We both give money to charity monthly, so any money in our pockets has some chance of going to charity. However, we plan to keep this money for ourselves, split 50-50.

So, the acknowledgements might look something like this:

We’d like to thank our colleagues blah blah blah, the University of Toronto for hosting Brennan, the College of New Jersey for hosting Jaworski, blah blah blah…

In addition, we’d like to thank each of the following… (There will be some brief explanation of the tiers.)

Silvermint Tier: Johnny Appleseed (“Thanks, dad, for showing me how to fish!”), Tom Sawyer (“Who wants to whitewash this wall?)…

Platinum Tier: Bob Marley, Lita Ford, Trent Reznor, Mike Akerfeldt, Jack Bruce…

Gold Tier: Pat Sajak, Alex Trebek, Steve Harvey, Chuck Woolery…

In case it matters to you, Routledge Press is one of the very best, most prestigious publishers in academic philosophy.

Later, we might also sell the dedication page. We’ll post details about that when we’re about to pass in the manuscript to the publisher.

However, we’re not going to sell chapter titles or anything else in the body of the text. We considered doing things like, “Chapter 18 — Baby Buying — Sponsored by the Center for America Progress,” but we decided against it. We’re also not planning to sell any parts of the cover. Sorry.

*You might object: “But are all those free acknowledgements really free? Brennan and Jaworski have gotten thousands of dollars to speak about commodification at various universities. There’s an expectation that if you invite someone to speak at your university, he or she will acknowledge you in the book or the article when it’s published.” Good objection!

  • Ron Jawls

    If only there was a way to buy credibility, seriousness, and maturity.

    • Jameson Graber

      Well, they certainly don’t come for free.

      • good_in_theory

        So you’re only credible, serious, and mature if you’re paid to do so? That’s too bad.

        • Jameson Graber

          Not what I was getting at.

        • adrianratnapala

          Maybe “only” is too strong, but this is true in many everyday situations. Employers are often suspicious of bright-eyed students willing to do some work experience without pay. Just because they don’t get money doesn’t mean they can’t incur a cost. The feeling is sometimes expressed as “if you don’t pay them, you can’t sack them”.

    • Jason Brennan

      This actually improves the book.

  • SamWonacott

    This is a f****** fantastic idea.

    Oh, hey, look at that! I just discovered the short phrase I’ll have printed next to my name. Nifty.

    • Jason Brennan

      “Fucking fantastic idea”. I’m okay with that if the publisher is.

  • Jameson Graber

    Nicely done, Brennan. Although there is a difference between finding something permissible and showing enthusiasm for it.

    • Jason Brennan

      Not my idea, alas.

      • Jameson Graber

        I just really like the line, “There’s a limitless market for books about the limits of markets.”

        • Sean II

          Said the books, by way of defending themselves: “Oh no! We weren’t produced by the market.”

        • Jason Brennan

          Thank you–that line is mine.

  • Salem

    How much do I have to pay to get thanked in the “for free” section?

    Or are some things truly not for sale?

    • Jason Brennan

      $15,000 summer fellowship should do it. Or invite me out to speak somewhere and pay $1500 honorarium.

  • Theresa Klein

    I really hate the term commodification, and not only because it’s a silly leftwing buzzword.

    The word “commodity” does not really mean anything commercially available in the market for sale. “Commodity” has a specific meaning in economics. It refers to a type of good which is of uniform quality regardless of source, and is sold interchangably in (usually) international markets.

    For instance, Light sweet crude oil is a commodity, because light sweet crude is pretty much considered the same product regardless of whether ot comes from Venezuela or Saudi Arabia. A barrel of light sweet crude costs the same no matter where it is from. Wheat is considered a commodity, because wheat from ADM farms in Nebraska is considered the same as wheat from Canadian farms in Alberta. The price of wheat is the same everywhere.

    “Commodification” as such therefore refers NOT to making stuff available for sale. It refers to an economic process by which certain types of goods become standardized to the point that brand labels and origins become meaningless. This allows one equilibrium price for that good to be established across a large market.

    Now, there may be some reasons why one might dislike “commodification”. Maybe it causes a degree of genericness and dumbing down of products. But it’s not a general term for referring to making stuff available for sale.

    • jtlevy

      There’s a different word for that: “commoditization.”

      • brianS

        I assumed the antecedent was “commode” not “commodity”. 😉

    • good_in_theory

      “Commodity” has different specific meanings, depending on the context, even within economics. Best not to be too parochial and act as if the definition with which you happen to be familiar is the correct one.

      For example, this is rather famous and influential:

      https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm

  • M Lister

    The Silvermint Tier is so named because women’s studies and philosophy professor Daniel Silverment is paying to have the highest tier named after him.

    I find this very disappointing. Not because Silverment (is it MENT or MINT?) is paying for it, but because I thought that a Slivermint was perhaps an especially fine and new sort of mint, and as a lover of a good mint, I was getting excited about checking it out.

    • Jason Brennan

      Mint, not ment. Good catch!

      • Scott Jacobs

        Wouldn’t THAT have been embarrassing to get wrong in the book…

  • Walter Clark

    At the end of the article you say you don’t want to add anything; we only get to buy a place for our name in your book? That’s called vanity press isn’t it? Is there a place I can go where I can buy a paragraph or indeed a whole chapter on the market for nuclear weapons? If we libertarians don’t like the idea of banning weapons that can be used to defend against government oppression, does the government have the right to outlaw machine guns, poison gas or nuclear weapons?

    • Jason Brennan

      We don’t want to do anything that would mess up the flow of the book.

      But that’s not because the market per se is the problem. I wouldn’t allow strangers to insert random paragraphs into the text for free.

      • Tom W

        If it’s anything like The Ethics of Voting (only other book of yours I’ve read), it’ll have a decent number of thought experiments. Philosophers often name the characters in their thought experiments; you could sell that easily.

        • jdkolassa

          Pretty sure he’s going to name all those characters after philosophers he dislikes.

          • Jason Brennan

            I usually name people after my wife’s friends.

          • jdkolassa

            Living dangerously, I see.

          • Jason Brennan

            The opening of Against Politics starts with “How Democracy Ruined Desmond,” but Desmond is actually her parents. I wonder if they’ll catch on.

          • jdkolassa

            I hope for your sake your wife doesn’t read BHL comments.

          • Somebody’s Wife

            They’re all for sale anyway, I suppose.

  • jdkolassa

    I think you’re going to start a new trend in academic publishing with this. Might be a good way to augment Kickstarters for independent scholarly titles.

    Whether that is a good or a bad thing I will leave up to you.

  • Jimmy

    How about paying a more prestigious press to publish it?

    • Jason Brennan

      They approached us and offered us a good advance.

  • artcarden

    I’ll take a place in the Silvermint Tier if you’ll let my phrase be an ad for my book w/ McCloskey.

  • Stephen

    Would this philosophy also apply to child custody rights?

  • David Sucher

    My comment at MR after somewhat dubious about the value of acknowledgements in an ECONOMICS book:

    I’d like to have A PAGE in that Piketty book to acknowledge me and my favorite hobbyhorses.

    But how much would I pay? How many people will actually open up Piketty to end of book?

    Now there’s a thought. Sprinkle the acknowledgments throughout the book — not just at the end. Best location? Right after intro and right before chapter 1? Hey! What about the back COVER!

    – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/05/against-against-commodification-markets-in-everything.html#comment-158209373

  • Walter Clark

    Jason,
    I did not want to buy space for my text, but to buy “your” opinion on what I think is something of a dilemma: If we libertarians don’t like the idea of banning weapons that can be
    used to defend against government oppression, where do we draw the line on the “kind” of weapon? Machine guns? Nuclear weapons? Is there any way that a citizenry armed to the teeth with hand guns can succeed in a war against whatever the government wants to commit to?

  • Liberty not for sale

    Another example of people who think they can advance liberty by becoming precisely the straw man that the left wants to put its hat on.

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