Tag Archives: Market economy

Markets and Morality: Why We Shouldn’t Trust Markets with Our Civic Life

About a month ago, I finished up a series about Michael Sandel’s book, What Money Can’t Buy. I really enjoyed reading through the chapters and chewing on the material. As you may recall, I also highly recommended watching Prof. Sandel’s course: Justice. A few day ago, I noticed that one of Sandel’s more recent TEDTalks was published online. After watching it, I thought I’d pass it along to you as a great way to get a quick understanding of some of the things that Sandel talks about in his book. The talk was filmed this past summer.

As I think about markets and morals, I can’t help but seem to agree with much of what Sandel is saying. I’m also aware that not everyone shares his opinion about markets and morality. Do you agree? Do you think that allowing markets to decide everything is crowding out morals? I’d be really interested to hear your opinions.

I do as best I can to take in opinions and information that is contrary to my opinions, but it can be difficult. Especially in the internet environment, it’s quite easy to get caught up in the echo chamber of your own thoughts and beliefs. That’s part of the reason that I try to write posts that provide a new perspective on issues.

On this matter in particular, I’d like to your opinions on Prof. Sandel’s idea of markets and morality. In fact, I’m hoping that some of you disagree with Prof. Sandel and you think that markets are truly the answer to everything. I’m hoping that you think that markets should operate in every part of our lives. I’m hoping that you think what Prof. Sandel is saying is wrong. Most of all, I’m hoping that you can offer a cogent response that’s at least half as well-sourced as Prof. Sandel’s book.

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.

What Money Can[‘t] Buy – Everything and Nothing

Now that the semester has concluded, I can get to some of the reading that I have put off for some time. One of the books I’ve been excited to read for a while, but wanted to wait until I had time to chew over the issues discussed is a book by Professor Michael Sandel: What Money Can’t Buy. I’ve previously talked about how much I enjoyed Prof. Sandel’s online course “Justice.” This is part of the reason I was excited to read his latest book. I just picked it up from the library yesterday and have already zoomed through the introduction. Here’s an excerpt that I thought was particularly on point for the subject:

If the only advantage of affluence were the ability to buy yachts, sports cars, and fancy vacations, inequalities of income and wealth would not matter very much. But as money comes to buy more and more — political influence, good medical care, a home in a safe neighborhood rather than a crime-ridden one, access to elite schools rather than failing ones — the distribution of income and wealth looms larger and larger. Where all good things are bought and sold, having money makes all the difference in the world. (p. 8).

There are certainly going to be other passages that I’ll want to talk about, so look for other posts on this book in the coming weeks/months.