Is there anything that money can't buy? Today, apparently not. In this book, Michael Sandel opens our eyes to the unbelievably wide range of things that money can buy. I may be naive, but these following are truly new to me:- Paying for the right to
e right to shoot an endangered black rhino
- Buying the insurance policy of a stranger with a terminal illness, hoping to collect the death benefit when he/she dies
- Renting out your forehead to have an advertisement tattooed on it
The point is, our society has become so commercialized and commodified that it is hard to imagine what still remains outside the market. Sandel correctly identifies two major problems with this trend:
1) the fairness problem – when everything is up for sale, those who sell may not do so under entirely voluntary conditions. Think of organ selling and prostitution.
2) the corruption problem – putting a price on something previously not for sale degrades that thing. Think of college admission and book reading incentives.
Sandel is right in pointing out that we have let the free market rule over our lives. True, market capitalism is inventive and efficient, and it has given us many freedoms and opportunities. But now that a market economy is becoming a market society and seeking to displace age-old social norms, it is time we paused to think if we really want this to continue, if we want our basic social fabric to disintegrate.