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- 32 drawings, 1 table.
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The popularity of the free market rests largely on its demonstrated ability to best fulfill our desires. Preference Pollution takes the position that, while goods are indeed well served by market forces, such forces fail to create the desires that we wish to have. Further, David George argues, economists' definitions of efficiency can be used to demonstrate that the market in fact disregards people's desires about their desires—otherwise known as second-order preferences. The success of fast food is one example: many people know that it is not particularly healthy, but they eat it anyway.
Often critiques of market forces begin by dismissing the presuppositions of mainstream economics. In contrast, Preference Pollution recognizes the powerful attraction of the standard model and carries out its critique of the market without discarding this tradition. Combining theoretical and historical evidence, George focuses on the subtleties of second-order preferences and concludes that markets perform poorly with respect to these desires, thus worsening the problem of undesired desires. Additionally, George investigates changes in perceptions and public policy regarding such areas of life as gambling, credit, entertainment, and sexual behavior.
Preference Pollution is required reading for economists concerned with the normative question of how well markets function. In addition, it will appeal to psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, and the general reader who is seeking ways to better articulate the sense that the spread of markets is having some unrecognized damaging effects.