One of the arguments that I offered in my Commentary was based on the claim that you couldn’t buy a Nobel Prize, since Nobel Prizes must be distributed on the basis of merit. In response, Brennan and Jaworski give the example of a World Ethics Prize that is given out each year by the Order of the Sisters of the Divine Rose to the person who most deserves moral praise. But there’s a catch: To receive the Prize one must donate $100,ooo to a charity of one’s choice. If this isn’t donated by the potential Prizewinner the Prize just isn’t awarded that year. Since the Prize is conditional on payment, we might say that the Prize has been bought–but is nonetheless still a prize.
I see the force behind this example, and I’m sympathetic to it. But I’m not (yet) convinced that we’d say that someone had bought the Prize, as one might buy a chunk of cheddar. This is because one might hold that one only “buys” a good when the monetary payment for it is sufficient on its own for one to acquire the good in question. To move myself more towards Jason’s and Peter’s position I’ve been trying to think of goods in the real world that people can clearly and unquestionably buy, but whose purchase is conditional upon the buyers meeting certain criteria before being able to buy the good in question. Any suggestions here–from anyone!–would be very welcome!