What Money Can't Buy: Book summary and reviews of What Money Can't Buy by Michael J. Sandel

What Money Can't Buy

The Moral Limits of Markets

By Michael J. Sandel

What Money Can't Buy
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2012,
    256 pages.

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Book Summary

Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Should we allow corporations to pay for the right to pollute the atmosphere? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars? Auctioning admission to elite universities? Selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay?

In What Money Can't Buy, Michael J. Sandel takes on one of the biggest ethical questions of our time: Is there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? If so, how can we prevent market values from reaching into spheres of life where they don't belong? What are the moral limits of markets?

In recent decades, market values have crowded out nonmarket norms in almost every aspect of life - medicine, education, government, law, art, sports, even family life and personal relations. Without quite realizing it, Sandel argues, we have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. Is this where we want to be?

In his New York Times bestseller Justice, Sandel showed himself to be a master at illuminating, with clarity and verve, the hard moral questions we confront in our everyday lives. Now, in What Money Can't Buy, he provokes an essential discussion that we, in our market-driven age, need to have: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic society - and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets don't honor and that money can't buy?

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Media Reviews

"The shift from having a market economy to being a market society, as Sandel would have it, seems to have coarsened our sensibilities and raises real ethical issues. Perhaps the publisher's top nonfiction title for the year; great book-club discussion." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. An exquisitely reasoned, skillfully written treatise on big issues of everyday life." - Kirkus Reviews

"Starred Review. Noah makes a convincing and passionate case for why rising inequality harms a working democracy, and suggests sensible, though not always politically viable, solutions." - Publishers Weekly

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Author Information

Michael J. Sandel Author Biography

Photo: Kiku Adato

Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1980, and the author of many books. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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