13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars
disappointing, dull, 23 Jun 2012
Having found Sandel's book "Justice" educational and thought provoking, I was disappointed by this one. I had hoped for an insightful discussion of arguments for and against the creeping commodification of modern life. Instead there is a long, and at times repetitive and dull, list of examples of areas where markets have encroached. Most of these are not surprising for anyone who lives in a modern democracy.
He describes the vague feelings of unease that many of us do have, but does little to explain them other than citing unfairness, and the damage to and replacement of non-market values. He offers no suggestions as to how a society or an individual could raise cash in other ways, or live without the need for that extra cash.
Selling kidneys can seem repugnant, but if a man sells his kidney so that he can pay for life saving heart surgery for his daughter, it is hard to morally condemn him. Better to condemn (and try to change) the world where poverty can leave a man with no other options.
What about health care? Some countries - Norway, Holland, and Canada I think - provide universal free health care and do not allow a parallel private health system. Disparities in income may well affect one's chance of becoming ill, but at least won't affect the standard of treatment one receives. Is this an area that should be free of markets? Sandel does not comment.
I grew up in Australia and went to a state primary school, and then a private secondary school. That school was run by a board of trustees and was not a profit making business. I was surprised to find in Kenya that private schools were businesses. it seemed outrageous that someone could profit from a basic right to education. Now I am used to it, and pay up, because unfortunately I know I will only get what I pay for.
There are no examples from the developing world. In countries like Kenya, social services and free education and health care are rudimentary. There is a huge gap between poor and rich and this inequality is exacerbated by the fact that there are high standard private, and thus market driven, schools and hospitals. In fact there is little incentive for local councils or the government to provide infrastructure and services, because the private sector provides a parallel service in almost every area - water, sanitation, security, power, telephones, education - and many politicians are on the boards of these companies. Roads are a stumbling block, no transit lanes to sell, so overcoming traffic is an area businessmen must be eyeing. Helicopters and gyrocopter taxis perhaps?
I'll keep looking for a more insightful book. I might try Diana Coyle's 'The Economics of Enough'.