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What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits…

What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

by Michael J. Sandel

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Persuasive that markets distort values, but less clear where the limits should be. ( )
  PhilipKinsella | May 30, 2013 |
I am a big fan of Michael Sandel, Harvard professor of political philosophy. This book is a factual survey of the encroachment of advertising in American culture, and examines questions of ethical and moral considerations involved in determining what to leave to free markets and what to regulate or dismiss as inappropriate excess.

As in his famous lecture series and book on Justice, Sandel gives few if any answers, takes no sides, and leaves it up to his students and readers to do the critical thinking. Corporations bent on covering the country with invasive advertising will not like some of the examples and comparisons, but the answers are up to each of us to decide what we are willing to tolerate and how far we will allow it to go.

The book is factual and heavily documented. It is the type of book that every thoughtful person should read, not for entertainment but for an historical awareness of from where we came and to where we are going in determining the extent of unregulated free markets. ( )
  mldavis2 | Apr 24, 2013 |
There is very little left that money can't buy and the list of things that cannot be bought grows shorter by the day. That is the tragedy. I found myself frequently shaking my head in disgust as I read this book. When everything has a price, there will be nothing of value. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
The book jacket said it so well I'll have to just quote it:
"(Sandel) provokes an essential discussion that we, in our market-driven age, need to have: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic society--and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets don't honor and that money can't buy?"

In this thought-provoking book, Dr. Sandel argues that the U. S. has moved from being a market economy to being a market society and that, in the process, we have allowed many things to be subject to market forces that shouldn't be. He cites two types of reasons, the fairness argument and the corruption argument. He asks: "And so, in the end, the question of markets is really a question about how we want to live together. Do we want a society where everything is up for sale? Or are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honor and money cannot buy?"

Although at first glance it may not seem likely, the book is very readable. It provides a number of examples of things where it is counterproductive to allow the market in to those where the nature of the good is changed in fundamental ways. I found some of the examples to be interesting but not things that would greatly disturb me and others to be things I would care about, but I agree with the author that these are decisions that require some community thought and discussion. ( )
  RebaRelishesReading | Jan 7, 2013 |
This is a book about the general form of some arguments that can guide us to determine the proper nature and scope of commercialism in civic society. The book is quite short and about a quarter of it (on Kindle) is footnotes. Sandel uses repeated examples to illustrate how market forces have encroached on different aspects of life and to show how two counter-arguments might point the way for further discourse. His approach is Socratic and Aristotelian: rather than present absolute answers, his aim is to provoke public discourse, and this is entirely in keeping with his views on the integrated nature of public life. The drawback is that the reader may well be left wanting more guidance. ( )
  freelancer_frank | Aug 15, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
What Money Can’t Buy has an easy charm about it, but it also has structural defects which do not, I think, come from its American focus and do not depend on how many of Sandel’s pet hates you share. It is an exercise in persuasive pamphleteering rather than a systematic exploration.

The irony is that I think Sandel would have written a more powerful book had he not tried to argue the case on free-market economists' own dry, dispassionate terms. It is, as he rightly points out, the language in which most modern political debate is conducted: "Between those who favour unfettered markets and those who maintain that market choices are free only when they're made on a level playing field." But it feels as if by engaging on their terms, he's forcing himself to make an argument with one hand tied behind his back. Only in the final chapter does he throw caution to the wind, and make the case in the language of poetry.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374203032, Hardcover)

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 life—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 society—and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets don’t honor and that money can’t buy?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:01 -0400)

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Sandel argues that we have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society and examines one of the biggest ethical questions of our time: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic society, and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets do not honor and money cannot buy?… (more)

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