The Moral Limits in the Market


TheMoral Limits inthe Market

TheMoral Limits inthe Market

AnOverview of the Book “What Money Can’tBuy: The Moral Limits inthe market.”

Theauthor of this book “What Money Can’tBuy: The Moral Limits inthe market.” Michael J. Sandel,is a political philosopher in Harvard University. Most of hiswritings were about justice, for example, a book entitled “What’sthe Right Thing to Do” that he published and boomed in the marketback in 2010. In his review onthe moral statements within the judicial systems, he further assessedmorality in the market economy where he noticed a drastic decline ofthe moral values. In his bookthat he published in2012 triesto unfold and examine some social facts and evolutions that have beenhiddenfor the past two to three decades ago.

Heexplains thatthe factshe envisions could be indications of the wrong development ofrelationship ties built by individuals within the society. Furtherexamination points out that the laws of the market are highlyinfluential to the members inthe society.He points out that the current markets have left numerous marks onsocial norms that guide the society.Sandelalso makes a distinction that is established between the things moneycannot buy without spoiling its value such us friendship or maybe thehonorary awards and the things money can buy but should not givingout example of a wedding toast.According to James (1995), the toast will lose its value when itis not written by best manbut rather been bought on online shopping that had premadeit. Indeedthe money can buy the goodbut should not be used to purchase the good in order to maintain themoral standards at par.

TheMain Themes in the book

Thebook writtenby Michael J. Sandel “What Money Can’tBuy: The Moral Limits inthe market.” Point out clearly that there are certain things moneycan buy in the market though do not withstand the moral values thatguide individual’s operation in a given society. The author makean assumption that deregulation of the market which started back in1980s would have result intoderegulation of the market and societal moral values. Consideration,therefore, should be taken to ensure that market do not crowd out themoral values that are essential withincommunities. A reader should possess a global reflection on the roleof money in the market. A society that rely on sale or a society thatcertain morals or civic goods cannot be bought would be suitable.

Implicationsof doing business ethically

Thebook points out that even the economists have a task to do more workthat is philosophical as they embody certain norms, therefore, allmarket research done or reasoning will be incomplete when moralreasoning is not incorporated.Sandel points out various examples. Thegradual growth of viatical industry as discussed in the book is oneof the examples pointed out by Michael Sandel within his book. Theindustry majors on selling of a policy life insurance to a thirdparty at a less amount or net price worth of death. Engaging in suchbusiness that sell such insurance policy to the third party whobenefit fully when the insured person dies is not morally right(Viviana, 1994). However, economistwould view the transaction as profitable since it improves the fateof all partied involved. Conditioning profit upon the ground of deathundermines the moral values that are to be maintained by individualsengaging in business.

Thefirst chapter of the book gives highlight about individuals who arepaidinorderto stand in line at the airports, the gatherings, and those who callthemselves concierge doctors. In the second chapter, variouscharacters are given limits as others encouraged through marketincentives such as accepting refugees in the market or making paymentfor human organs. In the third chapter, properexamination is done as to whether markets can crowd out the valuedmoral norms in the society. The fourth chapterweight the benefits of life and death, and finally, the last chapterquestions on the proliferation of naming rights.

Usingthe same economic reasoning, another focus is based on selling thenaming rights to the public property though at the back they willexperience rise of gift cards that replaces the social meaning to theperson gift by cash transfer.The phenomenal economic factual are that both scenarios findsa way of substituting the offer using the cashand each strive to benefit financially and compromise the moral normsto beheldbetween the parties. Conducting a business that make profitout of an impending death, takingcash as a substitute of the social meaning or to leasepublic property to a corporation do not withstand the morals thatbind the entire society.

Consequently,the book also statethat certain voluntary action that are based on norms are quitefficient than those that are motivated by financial reward.According to the research supported by various sociological places,money corrupts social relation regardless the financial benefits ithold within business sectors. Moneycan be able to sustain social relationship in various forms such asthe dowry that is presented to the bridal’s parents as a way ofappreciation, the inheritance from deceased or even pocket money thatis mostly given to student all form the fundamental role of money tofamily relationship.It is therefore very difficult to make a distinction onthe benefits of money and the moral statutes that are not held firmby individuals or businesses. In fact, the conception got on therelationship between social relationships and money cannot be firmlyestablished (Viviana,1989).

Othercomplex phenomenonarealso pointed in the book that commodification and de-commodificationin most cases go in hand-hand. The growth of insurance, for example,incorporationwith the viatical industry resembles commodification of death andthat of life, though accompanied by sanctificationof lives of children (John, 1986). Norms cannot be swept easilyunder the pressure of money valuation but rather sometimes takedifferentform. The concept of contractualism, which is a core concern duringeconomic exchange, is derived from norms. Similarly, the consumecultures may be linked with the specular growth of gift-givingpractices. However, contrary to these arguments, gifts aredisconnected with from the monetary form or social values as opposedto the traditional views.


MichaelSandel contributeby saying that there should be common good within the society sinceit forms the core cohesive approach in channeling communication. Thesociety do have difficulty when it comes to common goodand a number of individuals have experienced disagreement as aresult. It is true that the federal state has a great role to lay inthe economy. Incase the rules meant to give guideline could invade the society asthey crowd moral values, then it is within the interest of thesociety to demand the state’s intervention in order to preventcorrupt market that undermine the moral values of the society.

Theauthor also makes an assumption that economics does not have any linkwith morality. He state that more markets expand in reaching intononeconomic spheres of life and the more they get involved, they areexistthough with moral question. Hence, when market reaches out beyond thepossession of material goods, morality has to be prevailed because itmaximizes on societal benefits within businesses. To some point,there are certain things that money would not buy the market withoutpartly spoiling it. Relationship,for example, can lose its moral values when bought at a price.Consequently, there are certain things that money can buy but shouldnot since money can corrupt it. Social norms, therefore, becomevalueless since the market itself spoils social norms with economicrules that are not flexible within the market (Leigh, 1995).

Thekey issue that Michael Sandel narrates with is against markets is toquestion whether moral values are to be considered good or rather asnon-corrupt and the judicial ties or law that should back certain setof value. There are explicitly dangers that interlink sets of valuesupheld within a given cultural of religious traditions, and thereshould not be a central conclusion onthe moral values that bind different cultural setups and communities.Therevalidity of legally- backed cultural practices that merge the societywith the moral values should exist. Individuals need to acknowledgethat market setups are moral imagination and that people fromdifferent social background do encounter one another withintheir lives hence merge to a common goal.


JamesC. (1995).&nbspGiftsand Commodities: Exchange and Western Capitalism since 1700&nbsp(London:Routledge.

JohnR. (1986). “The Veins of Wealth,”&nbspUntoThis Last and Other Writings, ed. Clive Wilmer (New York: Penguin.

LeighE.S. (1995). ConsumerRites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays.Princeton: Princeton University Press.

VivianaA. Z. (1989). The Social Meaning of Money: “SpecialMonies,”&nbspAmericanJournal of Sociology.&nbsp95(2) 342–77.

VivianaA. Z. (1994). Pricingthe Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value ofChildren.&nbspPrinceton:Princeton University Press.