Join getAbstract to access the summary!

What Money Can’t Buy

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

What Money Can’t Buy

The Moral Limits of Markets


15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

A personalized look at the morality of markets – or, what would you charge to tattoo a logo on your face?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


In this timely treatise, Harvard professor Michael J. Sandel intervenes in the cultural trend toward expanding the market’s role in society. In a balanced and humane tone – and with exceptionally smooth prose – he calls for a discussion of society’s most profound values. Sandel’s Harvard lectures are popular because he makes the complex accessible. That said, he unfortunately slides past some of the issues: More than once, he writes of ideas and activities that society judges as ethically dubious, without offering supporting evidence in the text. That objection aside, getAbstract recommends this moral investigation to a wide range of readers: It will be particularly useful to economists and to anyone concerned about doing the right thing.


Morality, Markets and Meaning

Today, you can buy almost anything. Whether you’re in prison and want a better cell, or live in the West and want a “surrogate mother” in India (where surrogacy is legal and far less costly than in the US) to carry your child, you can have it...if you have the money. People are doing things for money they never have done before, like renting their shaved heads for advertising space. They take risks, such as serving as medical test subjects. In the last 30 years, “markets – and market values” – have penetrated more aspects of human life than ever before. The end of the Cold War – which seemed a triumph for the free market – explains some of the market’s rise.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, people are less willing to trust the market. And, it seems as if market activities are no longer attached to their ethical foundations. Some blame greed, but that is too simple and incomplete. The problem is that market values have become dangerously pervasive. In realms that were formerly considered shared “social goods”– education, health care, the justice system, the environment and others – market forces now work openly.

If the...

About the Author

Michael Sandel, author of the bestseller, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass professor of government at Harvard University.

Comment on this summary

  • Avatar
  • Avatar
    M. S. 7 years ago
    Das Buch ist populistisch, ignorant, dumm und gefährlich.

    Der Typ kennt grundlegende Prinzipien nicht, appelliert mit dummen Pauschalisierungen an Emotionen, ohne darauf einzugehen, dass es bei den Alternativen viel schlechter kommt.
    Vermutlich will er, dass seine Leser denken, "Ui nei, so schlimm. Wir müssen jemandem wie Sandel die Macht geben"

    Beispiel "Jumping the queue": Er kennt wohl das grundlegenste Prinzip nicht: Knappheit. Dies wird natürlich nie verschwinden.
    Er propagiert, dass Ineffizienzen bestehen bleiben, und Probleme der Bevölkerung nicht gelöst werden, es ist halt gut, in der Schlange zu stehen. Genauso schlecht sind die Folgen, wenn eine "Regierung" die Schlange managed. Zumeist Korruption, Bevorzugung von Gruppen, die der Regierung freundlich gesinnt sind, oder die Widerwahl gewährleisten. Oder bei einer Demokratie: viel langsamere Innovation.

    Nur unternehmerische Innovation, angetrieben durch die Marktwirtschaft und die Belohnung von Lösung von Problemen, wird die Probleme am schnellsten und besten lösen.
  • Avatar
    P. B. getAbstract 9 years ago
    Great summary
  • Avatar
    P. B. getAbstract 9 years ago
    Love it, recommendation to everyone. 

More on this topic

By the same author

Customers who read this summary also read