Mainstream Health Economics and Dignity: The Commodity Narrative as a Debilitating Solecism?


  • Robert McMaster

  • I am grateful and indebted to John Davis, Irene van Staveren, two anonymous referees, and the editor of this journal for their critical insights. The writing of this article benefitted enormously from the financial support of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which is gratefully acknowledged. I am also grateful to the participants of a session of the 2007 Association for Social Economics World Congress, where an early version of the over-arching arguments was advanced. The standard disclaimer applies.


Mainstream health economics conceives health care as a commodity, at least metaphorically, and also attempts to quantify health, both of which, this article contends, lead to the objectification of the individual. Consequently, the standard approach distorts the nature of health care and does not furnish a sufficient basis for the promotion of human dignity; indeed, there is much to suggest it is a source of debilitation.