11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Urgent and necessary reading
If I'm right in saying that true erudition lies in being able to make the complex both simple and thought-provoking, then Michael Sandel is on a short shortlist for the wisest man alive today.
The creep of market values to overlay or replace other ethical values is one of the most harmful aspects of the Western world today. Why are we in thrall to markets? Why...
Published on 9 Feb. 2013 by B. Waite
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars LIGHTWEIGHT
The topic that this book addresses could hardly be more important, and the author is Professor of Government at Harvard. There is every reason to have high expectations of the book, and indeed it is excellent in some ways, but it ought to have been a great deal better than it is.
I should also say that Professor Sandel is on my own side of the dialectical fence...
Published 18 months ago by DAVID BRYSON
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4.0 out of 5 stars Money 'n' Morals,
Certainly a thought provoking book from Professor Sandel and it will get you thinking about the meaning of the marketplace. The conclusion I've come to is that money (greed, even) is the driving force for our consumer society, morals end up making a slither of an appearance a long way off in the distance.
I thought it was rather unfortunate that the five chapters are really a series of marketing anecdotes from the popular and trade press (supported by the 338 footnotes in the back pages) that will get any reader thinking: how dare they, don't they have any scruples? Clearly not when huge corporations pay the life insurance premiums for their workers and collect pay-outs when they die or buy advertising space on police cars.
A sentence near the end of the book seems to sum it up: 'It isn't easy to teach students to be citizens, capable of thinking critically about the world around them, when so much of childhood consists of basic training for a consumer society'. In the world of commerce catch them young and you'll have them for life!
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, stimulating,
Michael Sandel has a great capacity for taking the seemingly mundane and making one think about it. Here he turns his legal philosophical mind to the market economy posing a series of interesting questions as he goes. I like his non-judgemental style. He seems to have the knack of asking the questions without preaching the answers. It would be very easy to pontificate in a book like this - letting your reader know that approve or disapprove of the market intervention you are describing. Sandel avoids that inviting the reader to question whether the market is able to act in a morally acceptable fashion.
As a law student I don't think this is actually as good as his astonishingly good book on Justice - but that's probably a reflection of my own interests - and I think that this book would be of interest to economists, lawyers and philosophers as well as a wider public. We should all care about these issues.
Well worth reading.
5.0 out of 5 stars Would some please listen to this man,
While this book isn't as good as Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? it may well be more important. If you've been listening to Sandel's occasional series The Public Philosopher on Radio 4 much of this content will be familiar to you, but the book is well presented and better argued tan the radio programmes which rely on input form an audience. It is best summarised in one of Sandel' own lines: "we have gone from having a market economy to being a market society". Some ideas that might sound great at first - increasing literacy in schools in deprived parts of the country by paying kids to read books for example - are much more complex than they first appear. Should it be possible to get to the front of a queue at a theme park or immigration control if you pay more? It sounds trite but perhaps we need to start behaving as if we care more about the value of things than we do about their price.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good debate starter,
This book, as Sandel sets out in the introduction, is a debate starter, aimed at bringing the moral to the fore the arguments about what areas markets should be allowed to influence. It is a clearly written book and while Sandel does make some judgements he tries to keep the main arguments uncluttered from personal opinions.
Some of the topics are fairly hot potatoes and I guess most people will already have formed opinions on them (human organs for sale, advertising in schools) but Sandel puts these topics along side more mundane issues to show the difficulty of trying to draw a line in the sand where markets should and should not be allowed to operate in. I gave this book 4 stars as, although it was a very good read and I would recommend it to all, I felt I wanted a little more guidance from it on how to approach the moral questions when, as he points out, people's morals are not all the same.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read but get's very repetitive at times,
This review is from: What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (Kindle Edition)
Despite the fact that the author makes no attempt to conceal his ideological background, he still manages to provide a holistic description of the role of markets in modern society.
However, there is no real science behind this book and the author often reaches conclusions that are based more on intuition and ideology rather than actual scientific proof. Also this book appears to be very repetitive, drawing from the same examples over several pages and re-iterating the same points over and over again
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting and insightful read,
This review is from: What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (Paperback)
If you're concerned with the impact that free-market economics, politics and reasoning are having on society and social values then I'd thoroughly recommend this book to you. If you're not then I'd recommend it even more so. Michael Sandel presents his arguments in this book in a very careful, insightful and accesible way. To my mind, I'd even say that the arguments for and against the use of markets in certain areas of life are really balanced (not sure if the free-market faithful would agree with this though). I was rather surprised by the many areas that markets have reached into in recent years and learned a lot about how how proponents on both sides of the for/against markets argument viewed the situation. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in what is going on in the world and which direction we are heading.
4.0 out of 5 stars Perceptive and Thought-Provoking,
This review is from: What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (Paperback)
Market mechanisms are used increasingly in all walks of life so it is appropriate that a thinker like Sandel should challenge our assumptions about them. He argues that in many cases markets are inappropriate because of three potential problems. First they can be unfair (especially to the poor). Secondly they can encourage bribery and corruption. Thirdly markets can change the nature or the services they trade and can 'crowd out' altruistic values. He gives many examples and argues his case well. However, the book becomes a little repetitive and it lacks any conclusion or recommendation on how society can roll back markets and replace them with community values. Still a very good read and highly relevant to today's decision makers.
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosphical look at commodification.,
Michael Sandel is writing a book here that doesn't need to be written as it explores what all decent people hate about capitalism; but doesn't offer any radical solutions. Still it is interesting to reinforce our hatreds of how the market works significantly for the benefit of the rich 10% and holds back the progress of the other 90% of us. The moral arguments speak for themselves as most of us are at the mercy of the money men. Luxury goods are selling as well as ever in the present recession, but not on he high street.
I enjoyed the book and the guy means well but we need a fundamental economic revolution! History tells us that the neo-liberal status quo will continue ad nauseum.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, dull,
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'.
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading,
A book about interesting, topical and relevant subjects. It is written in such a way that you don't need a degree in economics to enjoy or understand the book!
It is an eye opener in terms of how he demonstrates the way in which there is a cost to everything and that cost over rides everything including care for other human beings.
The book really points out the questionable morals of the modern day. The way in which money has a tendency to override everything at whatever cost. How it corrupts into everyone's lives whether they like it or not.
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What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (Unabridged) by Michael J Sandel