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

The Moral Limits of Markets

4.3 (46 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

What Money Can't Buy by Michael J. Sandel explores our society's over-reliance on market values. It questions whether everything should be up for sale and uncovers the consequences of this trend.

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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.

    What Money Can't Buy Review

    What Money Can't Buy by Michael J. Sandel (2012) delves into the moral and ethical implications of the pervasive marketization of society. Here's why this thought-provoking book is worth your time:

    • Offers compelling examples of how money can shape social norms and values, challenging us to question the limits of market reasoning.
    • Raises crucial questions about the role of money in domains such as education, healthcare, and the environment, sparking important discussions about justice and fairness.
    • With its accessible language and engaging storytelling, it manages to grip the reader's attention throughout, making complex ideas accessible and relevant.

    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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    What Money Can't Buy FAQs 

    What is the main message of What Money Can't Buy?

    The main message of What Money Can't Buy is that there are certain things that should not be bought or sold.

    How long does it take to read What Money Can't Buy?

    The reading time for What Money Can't Buy varies, but it usually takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is What Money Can't Buy a good book? Is it worth reading?

    What Money Can't Buy is worth reading. It provides insightful perspectives on the ethical and moral implications of markets.

    Who is the author of What Money Can't Buy?

    The author of What Money Can't Buy is Michael J. Sandel.

    What to read after What Money Can't Buy?

    If you're wondering what to read next after What Money Can't Buy, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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