Walt Cook Law Library Intern Spring 2012

What Money Can’t Buy by Michael J. Sandel

What Money Can’t Buy

Harvard political philosophy professor Michael J. Sandel has done it again. Following on his immensely popular undergraduate class on “Justice” popularized on PBS (and his best-selling book by the same name), Sandel's new book, entitled What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2012) is hot off the press (and is available as an e-book). Sandel takes aim at contemporary culture’s tendency to commoditize virtually every aspect of human endeavor, including those that he believes should not be commoditized. This places him squarely at odds with economic free-marketers such as Judge Richard Posner, who apparently have no such qualms about the value of such matters being settled most efficiently in the marketplace. Sandel identifies a smorgasbord of examples in making his case, including (just to name a few) hired line standers, surrogate pregnancy, paying kids for good grades, carbon offsets, luxury skyboxes, and selling the right to immigrate (which, it turns out, has been codified into law, as Sandel explains). Whether you side with Sandel or with unrestrained free-marketers, chances are that you will never look at the examples Sandel uses of contemporary social practices in quite the same way after reading this provocative book, written with wisdom and brilliant conversational prose. A great summer read that will leave you thinking about Sandel’s case long after you put down the book. Highly recommended.