What Money Can't Buy
The Moral Limits of MarketsBook - 2012
Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Should we allow corporations to pay for the right to pollute the atmosphere? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars? Auctioning admission to elite universities? Selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay?
In What Money Can't Buy , Michael J. Sandel takes on one of the biggest ethical questions of our time: Is there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? If so, how can we prevent market values from reaching into spheres of life where they don't belong? What are the moral limits of markets?
In recent decades, market values have crowded out nonmarket norms in almost every aspect of lifeâe"medicine, education, government, law, art, sports, even family life and personal relations. Without quite realizing it, Sandel argues, we have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. Is this where we want to be?
In his New York Times bestseller Justice , Sandel showed himself to be a master at illuminating, with clarity and verve, the hard moral questions we confront in our everyday lives. Now, in What Money Can't Buy , he provokes an essential discussion that we, in our market-driven age, need to have: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic societyâe"and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets don't honor and that money can't buy?
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Michael Sandel puts forth the argument that there are many aspects of our lives where the free market does not belong. He argues that "efficient markets" are not virtues in themselves, and that as a society it is imperetive that we question whether are not introducting market values into an activity, a good or an institution will improve it or diminish it. The free-market it not value-neutral, or ethically neutral. We need to recognize that the commercialization of many good things (some examples he gives are sports, universities and schools, medicine, public parks) degrades and corrupts those good things.
It was a relief to have my feelings about commercialization and the virtue of the free market put into words. I felt that Sandel did not dig deeply enough into his thesis, however.
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