Market universalism refers to the non-metaphorical tendency to use the term market to describe a wide variety of arrangements or processes in the real world. Using institutional criteria, this paper establishes some minimal necessary features of a market, to show that some particular arrangements are not markets. For example, while mechanisms of competition and interaction are ubiquitous, ordinary conversation is not literally a ‘market for ideas’ and much of politics is not literally a ‘political market’. Markets are not and cannot be universal. Yet market universalism overlooks missing markets, the theory of which implies that we are in a world of second-best solutions and that markets are not necessarily the answer to every economic problem. Also, by reducing politics to a form of ‘market’ economics, market universalism downplays the distinctive, non-market nature of the political and legal spheres and corrodes the conceptual separation of civil society from the state. Timeline
This paper argues that the term market has been misused in several instances, including "political markets," "markets for ideas," or "markets for laws." A serious repercussion of this misuse can be in the policy of systems where conceptual dissolution may begin to exist.
Additionally, the boundaries between government authorities, economy, and civil society may become invisible. For instance, in treating democracy as a market, the temptation will be to regard the markets as more important than democracy.