Chapter 1 – When is it OK to Jump the Line: What Money Can[‘t] Buy, Part 1

I recently read a post from somewhere (I want to say that it was Farnam Street or Barking Up The Wrong Tree, but I’m not sure), that talked about “how” to read. That is, the essential point was that most of us don’t remember most of the things that we read. Instead, we read them and forget about them. To rectify this, the research shows that we need to engage with each chapter to really register the material with our memory. So, I thought what better way to experiment with this than to start a new series!

One of the books that I’ve started reading: What Money Can’t Buy. I already wrote something a few weeks ago about a passage from the introduction. Let’s call that the prelude or maybe the foreword? Today, however, I’m going to share thoughts on Chapter 1. In the coming weeks/(months?) I’ll share thoughts on the remaining chapters when I finish reading them.

The first chapter was all about jumping the queue. When is it fair to jump the line? Is budding never fair? There were some intriguing examples put forth about some people who purchase the services of people who are ‘handicapped’ to be their tour guide when they go to amusement parks, so that they can head straight to the front of the line. Is that ethical?

What about those towns/counties/states that allow cars to purchase stickers that permit them to drive in the carpool lane even though they’re driving solo? Is that ethical? How about doctors that sell their services to the highest bidder?

The first chapter was a good introduction to differences between markets and queues. I don’t know that I have anything profound to say about the first chapter, but some examples sure made me think about what I thought was right and wrong and what other people might think is right and wrong. It reminded me of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. I wondered how people who were at different stages might react differently to the perceived injustices.

If I had to summarize chapter 1, it’d be that some “goods” are better suited for markets and others are better suited for queues. Though, I don’t know that it’s easy to tell the difference. That seems to depend on the person and the person’s philosophical bent. I presume that in future chapters, Sandel might help guide us to a solution.

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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