Some thinkers oppose the exchange of money for human organs and tissue, surrogacy services, and works of art, and the “commodification” of many areas of cultural life. One source of concern is said to be the alleged “incommensurability” of money with the relevant value-bearers, sometimes put in terms of their “incomparability,” “nonsubstitutability,” “nontradeability,” “(market)-inalienability,” or “irreplaceability.” Whichever term is used, the objection may be summed up as follows: the fact that value-bearers A and B (e.g., a kidney and $10,000) are incommensurate (or incomparable, nontradeable, and so forth), or that they are perceived as such, provides a sound, powerful reason to ban or at least to refuse trade between them. Let us refer to this type of objection to certain exchanges as the incommensurability objection. This article’s main contention is that the incommensurability objection fails. We believe that even if value bearers A and B are incommensurable (or incomparable, and so forth), or widely perceived as such, that does not provide a sound, powerful reason against trading them for each other. Our argumentative strategy is as follows: We present seven conceptions of incommensurability (and the like), which we call (a) “no betterness and equality,” (b) “no common scale,” (c) “no ground for comparison,” (d) “occasion for reasonable regret,” (e) “betterness regardless of numbers,” (f) incompatibility, and (g) and “status difference.” We then review candidate rationales for banning or avoiding trade of one value bearer for another on grounds of their incommensurability (and the like), and show the failure of these accounts on each of these conceptions of incommensurability (and the like). Our discussion also sheds light on contemporary cultural conservatism. Unlike economic conservatives like Law and Economics thinkers, contemporary cultural conservatives such as some members of the Committee on Social Thought often raise incommensurability objections to extending the market and its logic to various areas of life. We believe that this characterization of contemporary cultural conservatives capturers a deeper feature than a prevalent characterization among philosophers as clinging to a perceived past. We also believe that our case against the incommensurability objection exposes a weakness of contemporary cultural conservatism.

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