Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Michael Sandel on markets and economists

The Boston Review hosts a Forum on Michael Sandel's arguments against markets:

How Markets Crowd Out Morals


Michael J. Sandel

Some economists think markets can benefit all spheres of human activity. But they’re wrong: markets can erode important goods and social norms.

Not only are there some things money can’t buy, but there are also many things it shouldn’t.


Richard Sennett

When the market is everywhere, we lead a socially impoverished existence.

Matt Welch

Because Sandel disagrees with people’s choices, he wants to take those choices away.

Anita L. Allen

Financial incentives are improperly used to induce African Americans to embrace “good” behaviors.

Debra Satz

Debating the place of the market is less about the value of goods than about inequality.

Herbert Gintis

Tolerance, equality, and democracy have only flourished in market societies.

Lew Daly

Making money, formerly an exclusive realm of cosmic evil, is now “doing God’s work.”

Samuel Bowles

Even market enthusiasts know that society can’t function if people are the amoral, self-interested calculators of blackboard economics.

Elizabeth Anderson

The profit motive is corrupting the justice system.

John Tomasi

Free markets are a kind of fairness.

Michael J. Sandel replies

By keeping markets in their place, we can avoid their corrosive effects.

Sandel lays out his views more fully than in the quote at the top of the page (if not always more clearly) in the lead essay of the forum: How Markets Crowd Out Morals, and in his reply to the commentators, some sympathetic and some less so. Bowles and Welch and Gintis all suggest that the level of the discussion could be raised by considering evidence, of various kinds.

See my earlier posts on Michael Sandel's views on markets.

Update: Nicholas Kristof weighs in in his May 30 NY Times column, citing some of the more lurid examples of things bought and sold.

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