A handmade sign promising cash for diabetic strips

Real repugnance

Should some transactions — even between two willing parties — be forbidden?

Koen Smets
6 min readNov 26, 2021

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The other day, I came across a picture from the US, showing a small sign attached to a tree announcing that someone was willing to buy diabetic test strips for cash. The sign suggests there is unmet demand for such products, and invites people who can meet that demand to do so, thus facilitating a market. But some people think this is wrong. Do they have a point?

Diabetic test strips are disposable pieces of plastic used by people with type 1 diabetes to test their blood glucose level, typically four or five times a day. Individuals with health insurance receive these free of charge, but uninsured people will need to buy them at a cost of around $0.50 each (prices in the UK and Europe are equivalent at around 40p and 45 eurocents).

This may sound like a relatively small amount, but the daily cost of $2-$2.50 is considerable for someone on a small budget without insurance. At the same time, for someone on a small budget, but with health insurance (perhaps through their employer), the opportunity to gain extra income by selling some of their strips might be appealing.

Repugnant markets and transactions

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Koen Smets

Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius