What money can’t buy by Michael J Sandel
The moral limits of markets
[More on ethical discussion and narrates markets where moral seldom exists]
often assume that market are inert, that they don’t affect the goods
they exchange. But that is untrue. Markets leave their mark. Sometimes,
market values crowd out non market values worth caring about. When we
decide certain goods may be bought and sold, we decide, at least
implicitly that it is appropriate to treat them as commodities as
instruments of profit and use. But not all goods are properly valued in
this way. The most obvious example is human beings (Slavery, child
a result, without quite realizing it, without ever deciding to do so,
we drifted from having market economy to being a market society. The
difference is: A market economy is a tool for organizing productive
activity and a market society is a way of life in which market values
seep into every aspect of human endeavor. It’s the place where social
relations are made over in the image of the market.
we have short-cuts of every queue by paying more for the privileges.
First class passengers do have fast track option, amusement parks,
Empire state buildings et al, people can shorten queue time by paying
you ride the Paris Metro without paying $2 fare, you can be fined up to
$60. Recently a group of habitual fare dodgers came up with a clever
way of converting fine into fee and a modest one at that. They informed
an insurance fund that will pay their fine, if they get caught. Each
member pay in about $8.50 per month a month to the fund, far less than
the $74 it costs to buy a legitimate monthly pass.
the 1990, South African government began to consider using market
incentives to protect endangered species. If private ranchers were
allowed to sell hunters the right to shoot and kill a limited numbers of
black rhinos, the ranchers would have an incentive to breed them, care
for them and fend off poachers. The first legal hunt in decades
commanded a handsome $150,000 paid by an American hunter in the
financial industry. Subsequent customers included Russian petroleum
billionaire who paid to kill three black rhinos. Landowners in S. Africa
now have a monetary incentive to devote large ranchers to wildlife, the
black rhino population has begun to rebound. (Black Rhinos are
notoriously dangerous and difficult animals to kill and the chance to
hunt one is highly prized among trophy hunters).
rich trophy hunters from around the world make their way to Artic for
the chance to shoot a walrus. They pay $6500 for the privilege. So why
shoot walrus? Apparently the goal of killing one specimen of every
creature on lists provided by hunting clubs - the African Big Five
(leopard, lion, elephant, rhino, and Cap buffalo) or the Arctic
Grand-Slam (caribou, musk, ox, polar bear, and walrus).
per Paul Samuelson, he identified economics with its traditional
subject matter:”the world of prices, wages, interest rates, stocks and
bonds and credit, taxes and expenditure’. The task of economics was
concrete and circumscribed: to explain depression, unemployment and
inflation can be avoided, to the study the principles ‘that tell us how
productivity can be kept high” and “how people’s standards of living can
There are certain things money cannot buy - friendship, Sport’s MVP titles, Olympics medals, Nobel prizes, etc.
(theperfecttoast.com is one of the leading websites offering ghostwritten wedding speeches).
viatical business - life insurance settlement - is another example
there is a conflict of interest. Insurance company wants the person to
live long & pay monthly fees as long as the insured person lives;
however the one (person or bank or hedge fund) who bought viatical
insurance wants to have the insured person to die fast. If the insurance
industry has the right to lobby for its interest in prolonging life
(through mandatory seat belt laws of antismoking policies), should n’t
the viatical industry have the right to lobby for its interest in
hastening death (through reduced federal funding for AIDS or cancer
closer analogy to viatical is death pools, a macabre gambling game that
became popular on the internet in the 1990s about the same time the
viatical industry took off. Death pools are the cyberspace equivalent of traditional office pools on who will in the Super-Bowl, except that instead of picking the winner of a football game, players compete to
predict which celebrities will die in a given year.There are many such
sites and one of the most popular is stiffs.com which help its first
fame in 1993 and went online in 1996. For a $15 entry fee, contestants
submit a list of celebrities they think are likely to die by year’s end.
Whoever makes the most correct calls wins the jackpot of $3,000.
the mid-2000s, the secondary market in life insurance had become big
business. Hedge funds and financial institutions were spending billions
buying the life insurance polices of wealthy seniors. As the demand for
such policies increased, some brokers began paying elderly people who
held no insurance to take out large polices on their lives and then flip
the policies to speculators for resale. These policies were called
speculator-initiated or spin-life policies. In Minnesota, an 84 old man
bought $120 million worth of life insurance from seven different
companies and then sold the policies to speculators at a handsome
profit. The insurance companies cried foul, complaining that the purely
speculative use of life insurance was at odds with its fundamental
purpose of protecting families from financial ruin, and that spin-life
policies would drive up the cost of life insurance for legitimate
unhappy spin-life client was TV talk show Larry king who had bought and
immediately sold two polices on his life with a total face value of $15
million. King complained that he could not find out who now held a
financial interest in his death. By 2009, most states had enacted laws
banning spin-life or stranger-originated-life-insurance (STOLI) as it
came to be called,. But they permitted brokers to continue trading in
life insurance policies from ill or elderly people who had bought them
on their own, unprompted by speculators.
Sometimes we decide to live with a morally corrosive market practice for the sake of the social good it provides.