The unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Michael J. Sandel's What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, read by the author himself. Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars, outsourcing inmates to for-profit prisons, auctioning admission to elite universities, or selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay? Isn't there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? 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. In What Money Can't Buy, Sandel examines one of the biggest ethical questions of our time and provokes a debate that's been missing in our market-driven age: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic society, and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy?
"One of the most popular teachers in the world." (Observer)
"Sandel is touching something deep in both Boston and Beijing." (Thomas Friedman, New York Times)
"One of the world's most interesting political philosophers." (Guardian)
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Compassionate economic philosophy
Sandel is an antidote to the often dubious and heartless reasoning of mainstream economics. He uses clear language and examples from popular culture to illustrate his points.
Before buying this book, I had listened to Sandel's series on BBC Radio 4, 'The Public Philosopher', and his Reith Lectures. This book is in much the same vein; if you liked the Radio 4 lectures, I'd recommend this book, and vice versa.
Although this book discusses developments in our society that are quite depressing, I found it quite uplifting. It is a relief to hear someone who places compassion at the centre of his economic philosophy. Sandel always reminds me that among all the mercenaries of the world, there are a lot of genuinely decent human beings. We're not completely doomed.
One small thing: At about 3hrs 50mins, Sandel refers to a speech by 'Robertson', as if he has already discussed it. I thought I had missed something, but after checking back couldn't find any mention of it. Later in the book, Sandel does indeed discuss Dennis Robertson's speech. I think that sections of the book were moved around at the editing stage, and this non-sequitur was overlooked. If you have bought this book and have noticed this, I found this summary of the speech online:
Robertson (1954) claimed that by promoting policies that rely, whenever possible, on self-interest rather than altruism or moral considerations, the economist saves society from squandering its scarce supply of virtue. “If we economists do [our] business well,” Robertson (p. 154) concluded, “we can, I believe, contribute mightily to the economizing . . . of that scarce resource Love,” the “most precious thing in the world."
I've listened to this audio book a couple of times because there are so many ideas contained within it that one listen doesn't do it justice. It was good to listen and read the book at the same time. It's a real consciousness raiser.