Saturday, April 7, 2012

Michael Sandel thinks more transactions should be repugnant

The Atlantic publishes an essay adapted from his book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets: What Isn’t for Sale?

He is glad that kidneys can't be bought and sold, and regrets many of the things that can be, because he worries that allowing too broad a scope to markets may undermine the moral fabric of society.

He doesn't mention (but I am reminded of)  sumptuary laws that used to enforce the moral fabric by preventing people from wearing clothes above their social station.

Update: here's a review published in the April 20 WSJ:
In Economists We Trust: We are a society built on market-based solutions—but should everything have a price?

"Mr. Sandel is also pointing out another seemingly small but quite profound change in society. As recently as a generation ago, economists viewed their job as understanding prices, depressions, unemployment and inflation. It was dismal, but at least it was science. Somewhere along the way they expanded their portfolio to include the whole of human behavior.
"Proponents of market morality claim that it imposes no belief system, but that's just a smoke screen. Choosing to place utility maximization at the core of your belief system is no different from choosing any other guiding ideological precept. Every problem has an incentive-based solution; every tension can be resolved by seeking the maximally efficient outcome.

"This is a depressingly reductive view of the human experience. Men will die for God or country, kinship or land. No one ever picked up a rifle and got shot for optimal social utility. Economists cannot account for this basic fact of humanity. Yet they have assumed a role in society that for the past 4,000 years has been held by philosophers and theologians. They have made our lives freer and more efficient. And we are the poorer for it.

1 comment:

Alex P. said...

I think the world he thinks of when he thinks of organ markets includes a lot of things like this: