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Consensual exchanges and contracts are the foundations of a free market; consent makes a free market free and is essential to any moral justification of the free market.

For an act of consent to have ethical merit, it necessarily has certain characteristics: (a) both parties must be fully informed—they must know and understand what they are consenting to; (b) there must be no coercion of either party; and (c) there must be a clearly performed action that constitutes consent. Actions that signify consent are culturally defined; consent, for example, can be signified by a handshake or other gesture, by signatures, or by simple verbal agreement. There is no ethical significance to these cultural variations.

Ethical concerns about consent to business transactions can arise in any of three ...

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