During this chapter, we asked ourselves the question: are markets moral?
As profesor Pancs concludes in this chapter we learned that “It is plausible and likely that exposure to markets would influence preferences and social norms”.
Doing some extra research on the topic, I found some very interesting videos and papers from Michael J. Sandal, a Harvard professor, that through his career has studied the growing role of money and market values into our society.
He argues that in the last decades market values have replaced non-market norms in almost all aspects of life (work, education, health, politics, family and even personal relations) and that we have moved from having a market economy to actually being a market society. As he describes it, a market economy is a efficient tool to organize productive activity, while a market society is a way of life in which market thinking and values drive almost everything in our life up to the point where almost everything is up for sale: “there is almost nothing that money can’t buy”.
Accordingly, he believes that there are two main reasons why we should worry about this:
Inequality: “the more things money can buy the harder it is to be poor”, and therefore the inequality gap increasingly grows. This is especially important when money determines access to basic necessities as education, health, justice or even democracy.
When market thinking and values enter into every part of our life they might crow-out values and attitudes of the society that were worth having.
He explains this second concept with a very interesting example: paying children to read books. The main worry is that the cash incentive crowds-out the intrinsic motivation of reading: to learn and to love reading. Actual studies found out that children did start to read more books, but they also started reading shorter books in order to get more money. He concludes that bringing market mechanisms and cash incentives might undermine non-market values and attitudes that are valuable for our moral as society.
Finally, I leave you the link to Michael Sandal’s TED talk which summarizes with very interesting examples his ideas on the topic. Also, if you want to go deeper into this topic I would recommend you to read his paper “What money can’t buy: The moral limits of markets”.
Let me know what you think about this.
- Sandel J. Michael. “What money can’t buy: The moral limits of markets”. Brasenose College, Oxford. May, 1998. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Pag. 89-122
- Ted Tallk - “Michael Sandel: Why we shouldn’t trust markets with our civic life”. Youtube, consulted on February, 2018