What Money Can't Buy Book Summary - What Money Can't Buy Book explained in key points
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What Money Can't Buy summary

Michael J. Sandel

The Moral Limits of Markets

4.3 (36 ratings)
15 mins
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    What Money Can't Buy
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    Market thinking has spread unnoticed into almost every sphere of social life – this is a challenge for society.

    For over 30 years mainstream economists have had unwavering faith in the free market. However, since the financial crisis of 2008, debates questioning this faith have raged.

    These debates have concentrated too intently on how this market thinking – characterized by traits like deregulating markets and treating everything as mere purchasable commodities – has influenced the economy.

    However, over the past 30 years, market thinking has also encroached into other areas of society. In fact, market thinking has influenced society much more profoundly than most people think. It has had a massive impact on virtually every sphere of life, including our schools, health care and security.

    For example, in the United States you can pay to have a closer relationship with your doctor. For a sum starting at $1,500 a year you can have their personal cell phone number.                                 

    Another example is that in the United States and the United Kingdom, publicly employed police officers are a minority in the provision of security, because private firms run most security details, for example, private firms manage many prisons.

    Yet another example is found in Dallas, Texas, where school children have monetary incentives to read at $2 per book.

    This expansion of market thinking is due to the fact that since the 1980s and in particular since the end of the Cold War, free markets have proven to be the most efficient mechanisms for generating wealth. For example, when stock markets were deregulated, stock prices skyrocketed, particularly in the 1980s.

    Similarly, as more and more countries have liberalized their economies, global economic output has flourished and the total gross world product has more than tripled.

    Because of their proven usefulness in this respect, people have tended to accept free markets without realizing that market thinking has expanded into ever more spheres of our lives.         

    These developments force us to confront the fundamental question of what kind of society we want to live in.

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    What is What Money Can't Buy about?

    The blinks to What Money Can´t Buy (2013) explain how market-driven thinking – like the introduction of incentives and making everything available for a price – has snuck into almost every sphere of our lives. This means we are often suddenly confronted by serious moral concerns when market morality manifests itself in an area where it doesn’t belong.

    Who should read What Money Can't Buy?

    • Anyone interested in economics, morality and the way they intersect
    • Anyone interested in a critique of the market-driven thinking that has gone unquestioned for three decades
    • Anyone who has a view on what kind of society they want to live in
    • Anyone who believes everything should be for sale

    About the Author

    Michael J. Sandel is a professor of government at Harvard University as well as a political philosopher. He has been an influential author in the field of justice and ethics for three decades and is famous for his free online course, Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

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