A History of Markets

What is a market? I am sure we have all heard the term used somewhere before. But do we really understand precisely how they work, and why they are so successful? Arguably more importantly, do we understand why they fail and what that failure means to the average consumer? Markets are not perfect, but for the vast majority of goods and services, they are the way to go. Even though they do not have a perfect track record, this does not mean that the capitalist system as a whole is a failure. John McMillan covers all of these questions about markets, starting with the history of how markets began to be implemented in Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets. He touches on the function of auctions, welfare, and competition in markets. The area that McMillan was most able to reach me however, was in the chapters focusing on market failures, patents, and environmental conservation. He poses unique solutions, specifically to over-fishing and pharmaceutical development that really made me stop and think about some of the problems that can arise from markets. Overall, McMillan does a great job of giving us a wonderful lesson in the application of markets throughout history in a very easily to digest way. McMillan’s writing is intriguing, engaging, and thought provoking, something we could all use a little bit more of in our reading.

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