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The Analysis Of The Book "What Money Can’T Buy" By Michael J. Sandel

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A book review is a critical analysis and description of the quality, significance, and meaning of a book. It focuses on the book content, authority, and purpose. It is a reaction paper in which sturdiness and fragility of the material are analyzed. A review generally includes a statement of the author’s point of view in the opinion of the reviewer. This involves whether the author has succeeded by presenting evidence to support their evaluation. A book review is personal and usually, reflect the reviewer opinion ((Writingcenter.unc.edu, 2018)). This paper in a wider view will analyze the content, merit, and style of the book what money can’t buy: the moral limits of markets (Book by Sandel, Michael J. 2013).

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Efficiency vs Ethics

Sandel closely examines one of the major ethical questions of our time and causes a discussion that has been missing in our today’s market: what is the genuine purpose of markets in a society that is democratic, and how do we protect the civic and moral goods that markets do hardly honor and money cannot buy? He brings the issue to be discussed in a way that the society feels fully prepared to voice their concerns. The author, one of the best and relevant philosophers of our times, pushes the society to take a closer approach to the moral outlook of our lives. The content of the book forces individuals to reconsider their attitudes, norms, and values which supervises social and civic life. This has happened due to the success of his previous book Justice.

The society seems to be concerned by the commodification of certain aspects of social and civic life. However, individuals have the tendency to accept it in order to avoid public debates. Michael has tried to reform the society from being mere ascents individuals into full contributors in shaping individuals social life. Society at large has been forced to address their debates and concerns without diverting from the substance of morality in any choices individuals make. The book generally analyzes closely at the moral impacts of a society where almost everything is for sale. In addition, the author also analyzes how the market economy is used to administer everything from education, public safety, health, and criminal justice. He gives various examples from the several Unites States. One example is California where a non-violent lawbreaker can pay for a prison to be upgraded. In other states, drivers who are single driver can give cash for them to use carpool lanes.

According to Michael, individuals can pay a doctor $1500 a year and above for them to get full-time access to the doctor. Other services that are being bought involves: getting admission for students to a top US university, fast track at airport among others. This problem is aggravated further when the market become dormant. When such situations occur, the social attitude towards certain products is automatically affected. Moreover, this situation creates a huge inequality and a powerful possibility of corruption by hiking the prices of goods. The books indicate that if the markets in social goods are dormant, some of the favorite things in life are distorted and their moral value is debased. In addition, it also endangers the existence of the orderly society. This lead to the rise of the need to look closely at these products and try to look for various ways to value them without plundering them of their moral values.

The contest set up by this book is forcing the society to recognize that civic commitment may not be treated the private property and such can’t be given monetary value. Where there is commodification, there is a high likelihood of creating greater inequality and corruption. Moreover, it jeopardizes the existent of the orderly society. Sandel claims that the society at large has shifted from having a market economy to being a market society. Having a market economy is about the use of capitalism as an instrument that assists to organize consumption and production. Differently, being a market society means the capitalistic market is a way of arranging the trade and a regulator of almost all socio-cultural practices. This means, apart from money being used as a means of exchange, it is also used as a measure of most kind of goods. However, the book put the weight that despite the financial crisis that happened some years back, the society still believes that the market capabilities are merely one-sided. The erosion of a social discourse on ideas and values of a suitable life is another value. When individuals withdraw from evaluating products on their own, the market emerges and fills up this gaps with its own considerations by putting a monetary value on all products.

According to Michael, the market expansion comes together with the lack of general debate and with economists’ assertions concerning enlarged abilities of the science they constitute. The book cites and analyzes of a professional economist Gary Becker. The economist ensures that economics is the science that refers to buying and selling of products and ordering, supplying and delivering them. According to several representatives of economics, it said to be the science that expounds an individual’s behavior in the market and in general. Particularly, Gary believes that individuals make their decisions depending on the menace calculation typical of the market transactions any time they have to decide on something. This happens despite the individuals are aware or not.The book further raises these ethical question in two arguments.

The first one is fairness. Arguing that the inequalities in the economy generate money and market to be of importance more in present times that in the past. The second argument insinuates that valuing certain commodities in monetary value corrupts their nature by divesting them of some important dignity. Michael confesses markets ability to assign product efficiency, but he further argues that productivity comprises morally caustic and corrupting social costs. The society corrupts a commodity, an activity or a social norm whenever they treat it in line with a lower norm that is suitable to it. Sandel offers several examples of undertakings that were guided by social norms that were long-standing once but nowadays they have become pervaded with market values.

The fairness vs corruption displeasure to markets

Superficial examples of moral corruption are categorized in four heads. The first head is the market opportunity for purchasing individuals ways out of general public queues, where untimely norm pressurize every individual regardless despite their social status to wait for their turn. The second head is incentive payments that supersede voluntary cooperation that compensate persons for behaving as they need (Michael deliberation of “fines verse fees” by coincidence brings to mind the rail against play-or-pay provision of Obamacare). The third head is the insurance projects that have developed into open gambles that involve life and death confines. The final head is the programs that shamelessly grant public and privates awards in exchange for money ((The Independent Institute, 2018)).

These four examples possibly represent a desensitizing American culture. However, according to the author, the compelling productivity arguments can be raised in the defense of each. The author, therefore, is forcing the society to consider whether the productivity gains generated by the invasion of market values overshadow the costs inflicted on the moral sensibilities of the individual’s philosophical denigrators. The book’s most teasing chapter analyzes how markets force out morals. The examples given in this chapter are very interesting as elsewhere. They are provocative and very interesting. The main principle agitates the relationship between the market operation and social gesturing. Human being has unfolded as a species that naturally and logically incur huge expenses to indicate cooperative and trustworthiness intentions. These signs must be expensive for them to be credible. Moreover, the wealth transfer they require is often and easily mistaken for irrational, pure and moral self-sacrifice of the sort Michael prizes.

Signaling disintegrate when human beings have the option of behaving greedily. For instance, when blood can be either donated or depleted and when charitable donations can be solicited either paid worker or volunteers. Signaling is diminished in such cases because the underlying message is arguable. Sandel argues that tasks that can be done on a voluntary basis may be further productive than tasks that can be performed either without cost or with compensation. The distinction between productivity levels is a vicious measure of the signaling esteem that is lost to marketization. Eliminating the signaling potential of a certain task by money-orienting them is scarcely the end of the globe, nevertheless, signaling transpires the myriad ways. Unfortunately, neither the author nor the authorities he cites entirely grasped the nature of the signaling procedure. As a result, the perceived differences in efficiency are accredited undesirably to a loss of self-sacrifice. Michael concludes that moral conduct is a product that needs have economized. Sandal gives an example of another economist Lawrence Summers who believes that individuals at large have much self-sacrifice in them.

Economists like Lawrence think of altruism as a precious and rare product that requires conversing. It can be conversed by designing a system in which the people’s desires can be satisfied by them being selfish and saving the self-sacrifice to their friends, families and many social problems in the society that cannot be saved by the market. Scarcity, definitely constraints kind behavior whatever the motivation. However, this is a distinct matter than asserting as Summers and Sandel do, that quality of self-sacrifice is strained in other methods by overuse. Sandel narrates new methods of making money if individuals are not able to acquire the services mentioned in the book. A person can rent space on one’s body to advertise or deliver as a human guinea pig for a huge pharmaceutical organization.

The author insists that even young kids get paid in nowadays in Texas school about $2 to read a book. In addition, obese individuals are being paid to lose weight in a chosen time frame. A person can even try to benefit from buying life insurance policy of an old person. In this scenario, individuals would pay the premium while the person is alive and when they die, we collect the benefits. The life insurance policy in this scenario was to assist the family survivors but the investors’ benefits more when the person dies sooner ((LSE Review of Books, 2018)). Life insurance as it has been stated is a good example of how market ethics can alter the character of an industry. Michael Sandel indicates how the biggest retail organization in the world (Walmart) took this idea one step ahead. The company insured the lives of many of its employees and in once they die, the company fully benefited from the death rather than the family of the deceased.


It is clear that any service or any product can be bought in this modern society. According to the author, the only list of things that cannot be bought by money is few. Things like friendship, an Olympic Prize of a Noble Prize are on merits. Nevertheless, the fact that the society has adapted to these new practices, the book have seriously questioned where everything has been monetarily qualified. There some observers who believe that the book doesn’t expound enough by embracing a more tyrannical approach. In my opinion, the author fully has achieved what any scholar would have liked to grasp. Scholars can even move a step ahead and bring issues to be discussed and raise them in a way that the society feels totally equipped to air their concerns. As a relevant philosopher, there is no need to question values, norms, and attitudes. In this book, the author has brought all aspects of the society to face the issue, discuss it and stop the entire society from untangling.


  1. LSE Review of Books. (2018). Book Review: What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel. [online] Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2012/06/15/w [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
  2. The Independent Institute. (2018). Book Review | What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael J. Sandel. [online] Available at: http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?id=951 [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
  3. Writingcenter.unc.edu. (2018). [online] Available at: https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and tools/book-reviews/ [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
11 February 2020

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