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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful study of the moral limits we must put on markets, 7 Jan. 2014
This review is from: What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (Paperback)
Michael Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University. In this remarkable book, he argues against the commercialisation of society. "These uses of markets to allocate health, education, public safety, national security, criminal justice, environmental protection, recreation, procreation, and other social goods were for the most part unheard of thirty years ago."

He distinguishes two kinds of arguments against markets - the fairness argument and the corruption argument. "The fairness argument does not object to marketizing certain goods on the grounds that they are precious or sacred or priceless; it objects to buying and selling goods against a background of inequality severe enough to create unfair bargaining positions. It offers no basis for objecting to the commodification of goods (whether sex or kidneys or college admissions) in a society whose background conditions are fair.

He continues, "The corruption argument, by contrast, focuses on the character of the goods themselves and the norms that should govern them. So it cannot be met simply by establishing fair bargaining conditions. Even in a society without unjust differences of power and wealth, there would still be things that money should not buy. This is because markets are not mere mechanisms; they embody certain values. And sometimes, market values crowd out nonmarket norms worth caring about."

He concludes, "The crowding-out phenomenon has big implications for economics. It calls into question the use of market mechanisms and market reasoning in many aspects of social life, including financial incentives to motivate performance in education, health care, the workplace, voluntary associations, civic life, and other settings in which intrinsic motivations or moral commitments matter."
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