The noun “market” is flexibly used in various scenarios and domains to explain a whole chasm of characteristics or features. It is the compilation of all markets within an environment that renders a holistic economic picture of the environment itself. The study of economics resides in these markets; How they move, how they perform, what conditions, directly and indirectly, affect outcomes, etc. The democratization of the noun “market” in its usage to define interactions among actors is ubiquitous. The environment, when referred to as a  market, allows the user to concatenate certain behavioral assumptions. The chief among those behaviors is “a buyer” and “a seller” who work in tandem to create balances. Other behaviors include price, incentives, taxes, supply, demand, opportunity cost, utility, etc.

While the participants’ composition determines the deliverables of the “market,” there is the invisible hand of politics that determines the nature of the market, culminating in a “political economy.” In the United States exists a “Market Economy” wherein “the government plays a small role. In this type of economy, two forces – self-interest and competition – play a very important role” [1]. According to the St. Louis Fed, “self-interest” in the motivator and “competition” is the regulator in a market economy [2]. From this point of understanding, it is easy to start evaluating the world’s variety of markets. Understanding that not all needs are equal, and not all markets share the same characteristics, only furthers the strength of this point of understanding so eloquently delivered by the St. Louis Federal Reserve. An argument presented is that more interactions occur on a micro-economic level independent of state dependence that those with state dependence. We do not choose to buy an organic toothpaste that promises to deliver 2% of its profits for the year to a charity they support because the state incentivizes us to do so. We do it to further our moral conscience, participation in a good cause, or just because the toothpaste is that good.

Characteristics of self-interest and competition are well displayed in the animal kingdom as well. An article titled, “The Secret Economic Lives of Animals,” the author Ben Crair, introduces us to female paper wasps. He writes, “A female paper wasp will recruit “helper” wasps to her nest to raise her offspring, and these helpers can usually choose from several different nests in a given area. The wasps are essentially making a trade: The top female offers helpers membership in her nest in exchange for childcare, and she can kick out a helper who doesn’t pull its weight [3].” Similar to how we find utility in our labor to avail services that further our self-interests, the wasps reciprocate such economic behavior for their existence. The recruiter wasps perform in the sole self-interest of the female paper wasp, whereas the recruitees perform for both their self-interest and the self-interest of the paper wasp.  Elements of competition come into the picture when new wasps arrive and look to increase competition. Such an introduction creates a level of dynamism that can help build an interactive society.

The characteristics of “self-interest” and “competition” can be used as criteria to view various scenarios and interactions, and market inferences can be deduced. There is a cavalcade of markets globally, sometimes referred to as trades where actors act in their “self-interest,” and the flexibility in “competition” allows for survival.  The trades being referred to are lumber, steel, intelligence, drugs, sex, and the list goes on and on. Every one of those markets exists a balance between “self-interest” and “competition that furthers the market. Abstinence is one of those hot-button issues that can turn a conversation in over its head. Still, markets for abstinence have taken shape where abstinence is commodified and made available as a product. An article titled, “How Much Is Virginity Worth?” by Claire Gordon for Slate and “Inside Bulgaria’s traditional ‘bridal market’ where teen girls are ‘sold’ for hundreds of dollars” by Victoria Craw for, speak to how abstinence is priced in two different markets. The former speaks to how a 19-year-old New Zealander sold her abstinence to pay for college [4], whereas the latter speaks to how the elders of a family promote their girl’s abstinence bride market to get a higher price [5] .

The three examples of different markets directly contrast to the general understanding of what a market is. This is done with the particular reason that anything can be evaluated as a market. The examples listed are only a sample of the argument proposed by the St. Louis Federal Reserve System of how it is “self-interest” and competition determine a market. Price, supply, demand, opportunity cost, utility, etc., act as parameters to further evaluate a market. Instead of limiting the definition, expanding it to understand other processes surrounding us can help break down and demarcate patterns and practices.