the moral limits of market
The Moral Limits of the Market
The article “What Money can’t buy” by Michael J. Sandals is a very debatable article which talks about how the American society has transformed from being a vibrant market to a market society. He clearly explains how the market these days has changed from selling ‘real commodities” to selling services or commodities that are not worth selling in his perspective. The novel portrays his disappointments with the current system of marketing and the effects it has impacted to the morals of the society. He is more concerned with how corruption has tarnished the sense of hard work as a virtue in the society and how it has made people “crazy” for money. However, he also tries to make sense of the insanity in the world today by providing simple yet convincing illustrations of how the world has turned to worship money. In this paper, we shall analyze different perspectives of his argument that the market system in the world today, especially in America has changed from being sane and reasonable to the level of pure insanity (Sandel, 2012).
Thesis statement: The marketing system may have transformed into a market society from a vibrant free market that was morally acceptable.
Background of the current market situation
The argument about the current market structure can be quite debatable in the sense that both sides can justify their stands. From the author’s perspective, the current market structure is going insane and to the wrong direction (Sandel, 2012). According to him, there are things that are sold in today’s market that are not supposed to be even offered in the market. Such commodities include examples like the fees or payments made to see the pope and other insane examples that he gives in the book. He believes that these commodities are supposed to be offered free and not to be sold to people as it currently is. In his arguments, he insists that in today’s world everything is put on the market. Everything including basic things in life such as friendship is sold in the market or, at least, some monetary value is attached to it.
On the other hand, opposers of this argument think that the market system is correct. They believe that it does not harm to indulge into immoral behavior to get money because the current economic situation forces them to do so. A good example is the increase in the number of prostitutes as the author mentions. They clear understand that prostitution is an immoral act in the society, but they have no other option to make money other than indulging in those acts. Besides, their attitude is that nobody cares whether what they are doing is right or wrong. Therefore, it can be concisely seen that the hard economic circumstances are the driving force of the current market situation that the author is complaining about.
The current market system
The author complains that marriages and relationships these days are based on money, and if a person has money then he can afford to have them. He also goes ahead and complains how sales and buying of love is in the market today. Other examples that the author gives include things like civil institutions and death are commercialized in the market today. In other words, he argues that the death of a rich person today has become the source of wealth to the beneficiaries. The assertion is relevant since wealth beneficiaries are the people associated with murder in most cases to obtain others individuals wealth. Civil institutions such as families and marriages today have been built based on money and contracts so that there is a mutual benefit attached to each party involved.
What makes it, even more, insane according to the author is that even the constitution allows and protects this ill behavior. In his perspective, the actions have undesired impacts to the morals of an individuals and the society as a whole. This is because people have valued money more than life and virtues as opposed to the older days where the morals of the society were held with a tight grip. He adds that this form of market society where everything has been put on the market has a negative effect to the societal orientation in the society. He warns that people have forgotten who they are and what life means to them. He also adds that people are respected in regard to the amount of money they have and not their ages. This has changed the way the society was oriented where older people were respected due to their ages.
The political system has also changed due to this form of market. In the older days, people used to vote for leaders because of the visions and manifestos that they had for them but in the modern world today, people vote because of the “small pieces” of money they are given as a bribe to vote for their respective politicians (Sandel, 2012). This means that if a political candidate does not have lots of money or rich in this case, then it is hardly possible for that particular person to win that election. The society has transformed, and bribe has become our part of life (Davis, 2011). People are now interested with people or politicians who have money and not visions. The politics of the white have also encouraged these conditions since their politics only favor the white and rich. As a result, laws which favor these acts are formed and passed by the white politicians.
On top of this, the market system has transformed people to be like machines or robots with no feelings. Due to religion, people have become heartless with no sympathy because they only think of how they can extort money from others. Churches today are using religion to get money from their congregation encouraging them to get more money without insisting on the proper way to get the money. Thus, people only focus on getting money without thinking of the consequences of their actions and these results to the insanity that the author is complaining about. The author gives an example of how people perform “actions” shamelessly without any feelings attached to them because the need of money. He also gives another example of how counterfeit products are flooded in the market today just for the selfish interest of people to get money for themselves without the interest of the feelings of the buyer. This has created the world full of emotionless people with each of them striving to become rich, as they believe that being rich is the only way to make it in life and live a joyful life.
However, in a different perspective, one may think that the current system is the best as they are able to get what they could not afford before. The market should not be judged on the basis of morality as it should not have a limit to morality (Brennan, 2015). The author gives an example of a peasant who wants to sell his kidney. The constitution allows it if the seller is willing to sell that part of his body. In this case, the peasant may put his kidney in the market and sell it for a few dollars so that he can raise money to cater for his other needs. Also, the kidney will help another dying patient in the hospital hence; it will be an act of charity. He argues that this form of a market has not degraded the societal status of the society but has increased the level of economic interacts and economic growth of the society. In addition, the mindset of choosing rich leaders is because rich people already have money so they won’t need to steal from their poor citizens. This reasoning might be true to some extent as it makes clear sense. The opposers in this argument believe in their stand because they believe that the current system defines who they are (hard working in this context) and so a person should not judge, discriminate or hate another person for his obsession for money (Skidelsky, 2012). To them, it is a normal thing today and as Skidelsky (2012) asserts that as the world is changing and people are also changing with it.
Both arguments make sense, but the economic changes have a lot of damage to the morals of the society. The perspectives of both sides of the argument have their advantages and disadvantages, and the author maintains that the current economic dominance has more negative impacts to the morals of the society. In the novel, Sandel uses different forms of evidence from columns of newspapers and other experiences from others news sources to describe scenarios that were good examples of the level of insanity that the market society has brought upon the world today. The author gives different examples that support either side of the argument illustrating how good and justified they are. For instance, the author gives an example of a poor peasant who sells his kidney in exchange of money that the seller would use in financing other businesses such as the provision of water and food to make his life more comfortable.
According to the author, this is a good and a bad thing as well. The current market structure and the constitution allows it and to the seller it a good thing but on the other hand, it is a bad thing as it destroys the morals of the society in that it encourages the exchange of our body parts for money. The author also argues that there should be a limit for the commodities that should be put into the market to safeguard the morals of the society. He also gives examples of parents selling their children and citizens selling their votes. To him, these are actions are not morally upright as this affects our sanity as a society. In another perspective, other people may oppose this notion and see that as a good thing as people are able to get money from these kinds of actions and be able to take care of themselves and their families. These people see themselves as hard workers who are trying to play a brainy game in a very tough economic environment. They view it as a way of survival in which the only way to survive is to pursue any kind of action provided they put a plate of food on their tables.
According to the author, one of the main reasons that he is against these type of action is because he reasons them to be not judgmental and that they encourage bad attitudes in the society. In most chapters in his book, Sandel mentions, at least, one action that is not reasonable and is very dominant in the world today. For instance, the author gives an example of how people today are very comfortable at jumping queues at airports and in hospitals. This to him was inappropriate and that it induced a negative attitude towards perseverance and patience in the society.
On the other side, a person may see this as a normal scenario and that it is also beneficial for those who are in a hurry. In the second chapter, the author mentioned the ill mentality of people wanting incentives in every affair of their lives. He gave examples such as people wanting incentives to be for the hunt against endangered species, money to be paid for their loss of weight, and money so that they could give good grades. According to him, these were different forms of bribery and that people should adhere to their sensitive sides and even offer some services for charity. On the hand, this may also be seen as good deeds that required praise and encouragement hence incentives were appropriate. In chapter three, the author gives an example of how crowd needed to be bribed in order to be in line with individual needs. For instance, people these days pay for friendship in order to be friends with others.
In addition, people pay money in order to apologize to their loved ones. Selling blood and paying for a wedding toast are just but a few of the examples that the author gives of how insane the world has become due to the effect of the market society. In the fourth chapter, the author describes how the market has changed into the market of life and death. He explains how the market has been filled with people who always think about death and placing their bets on the death of others. For instance, he mentions the examples of insurance companies that have emerged providing people with life assurances as if they were to die the next day. He also gives an example of how people have gone to the extent of betting on the death of celebrities and where the terrorist will strike next just to earn money. To him, this was far immoral but to the current world, it was a different and creative way to make money. In his chapter five, the author talks about how naming rights have been violated to the monetization of everything in the world today. He gives an example of how celebrities these days are selling autographs and how sporting arenas and other amenities are named with respect to money. These actions according to him are insane, and the world is transforming into the world that is lost in the jungle of the evil of money. Even though each side of the argument has clear explanations for its stand, Sandel maintains that these actions have escalated to proportions that cannot be tolerated by the dignity of humanity and the morals of the society.
However, based on the examples that the author describes in the novel, it is obvious that the others of the column were cherry picking on the examples of the insanity of what was brought into the market for sale. This is because the examples that they were using, for instance, the betting on celebrity deaths, are very rare news in the media. In fact, most of the scenarios that the authors were describing are very rare. This shows that these authors were very selective on the news that they intended to publish on their columns. Also, it is reasonable for these authors to cherry pick information to write as it is the only way to grasp the attention of their readers. Hence, it was quite clear that this information despite that they might be true, they were cherry picked just to portray how bad the society market situation was worsening day by day.
The debate of the controversy has authors on each side defending their sides, and this has widened the gap between the two sides. The authors who are against the modern market structure like the author seemed to be more or less biased as they see nothing “good” in the modern commoditization of the market. The authors on the other side too have not been left behind as they only focus on what is “good” on their side that is the current commoditization of commodities in the market. For instance, the author gives an example of Ellen Goodman, who is one of the authors in support of the modern market structure. Goodman narrated a story of how a doctor in Virginia was accused of inseminating his women patients with his sperms. One of the patients sued the doctor and in while in a case in the courtroom, the woman explained how her daughter resembled the daughter (Sandel, 2012).
According to Goodman, there was probably a mistake or a mix up of the sperms. She does not see anything with sperm donation and that it was just a rare case of confusion. However, she concludes by giving a moral lesson that fatherhood should be something to be done and not bought or donated. This portrays how the author was for and also against the deed. This is one of the few examples that these authors who support the current commoditization of the current market support the current trend but also see the badness of the deed. Even though she did not touch on the moral side of the scenario, she, at least, gave a highlight of the correct procedure that was morally acceptable. Thus, it can be seen that authors on the other side of the argument/debate were biased but not fully biased on the side in which they supported.
In addition, it is also very clear that the authors on the other side of the argument do not engage in moral reading. This is because from the example give above, Goodman only sees the sperms problem as a possible mistake and does not mention anything associated with how the morals of the society have been tampered with. She could have at least mentioned how it was immoral for the doctor to inseminate the woman with his sperms or how sperm insemination itself was an immorality in the society. Instead, she only concentrated on how the problem might have occurred. This shows that she does not read books on morality. Otherwise, she should have seen the immorality in the bizarre scenario.
The relationship between morality and the others authors on the other side of the argument can have a harmful effect to the political and ideological stand of the society of today’s world. People reading the column will not see the moral problems of such scenario hence their minds will be filled by not how immoral these actions are but rather how bad these actions can go. Thus, the ideology that will be created on the readers mind will be that there is nothing wrong if these actions go well. For instance, the readers of Ellen Goodman will think and believe that if the woman had gone to a professional doctor who valued work ethics, then the woman would have been very well inseminated and there would be no problems(Heath, 2014). This ideology is very disastrous to the readers as they will lose their sense of morality and start engaging in acts that are very immoral provided they are accurately done. To worsen the situation, these authors have even a larger effect to the politics of the modern world. This is because, their readers are not taught any morals hence they will spread their immorality to politics. For instance, the readers will believe that it not wrong to sell their votes provided they are not caught on the wrong side of the law.
As I conclude, I would assess the debate as one that is very argumentative and very strong as both sides of the debate have their strong points and weaknesses. In both perspectives, one can be easily convinced to be the correct stand and that is what makes the debate very argumentative. Also, the topic of the value for money in human beings can be very argumentative. In my perspective, I believe that the point of argument in this debate is the value for money versus the morals of the society. As it is well known, money is the root of all evil in the world. On the same time, people need money in order to survive and because humans are naturally greedy, they tend to need more money to help them in solving their problems. Thus, the debate is indirectly related to the greediness in human beings. This is what differentiates the standing points of the controversy surrounding the debate. However, in my stand, I would choose to support Sandel’s stand against the current insanity in the society market today. This is because, we as human are not supposed to value material things such as money than life. Our ability to make sound decisions and judgments are what separates us from animals in the jungle. We should value and embrace morality in whatever endeavors we engage in, in our lives. This is the only way we will be able to bring up a sound and normal generation in the future. Besides, money will always come and go. From various empirical studies, so many people were rich yesterday and today they are poor. Thus, I can conclude that, the market has some moral limits and that there are something in life that are not with being in the market as they are morally unacceptable. Otherwise, we as humans we will be losing our dignity and respect for life as the harmful effects of society market has been discussed above.
Brennan, J. F., & Jaworski, P. (2015).Markets Without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests. Routledge publishers
Davis, J. (2011). Medieval Market Morality: Life, Law, and Ethics in the English Marketplace, 1200–1500. Cambridge University Press
Heath, J. (2014). Morality, competition, and the firm: The market failures approach to business ethics.
Sandel, M. J. (2012). What money can’t buy: The moral limits of markets. London: Allen Lane.
Skidelsky, R., & Skidelsky, E. (2012). How much is enough?: Money and the good life. New York: Other Press.