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   What Money Can't Buy
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
28 Oct 2012
s, Michael Sandel is worried about our having drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. The drift is indeed discerning as people sucked into market economy are rarely conscious of the reasons for their behavior. Simply put, beyond a point market stops short of being freedom of choice and instead creates conditions which exert a kind of coercion on consumers! No wonder, therefore, people rely more on markets and less on morals in making a judgement. Else, why would we pay children to get good grades or pay people to donate organs or pay for lobbyists to favour decisions?

Our reluctance to engage in moral and spiritual argument, together with our embrace of markets, has apparently led markets into the spheres of life where they donít belong. From prison cell upgrade in the US to hiring services of surrogate mothers in India and from the right to shoot an endangered black rhino in South Africa to renting out space on your forehead in New Zealand, each for a price, illustrate the manner in which even criminal justice, family life, environmental protection and personal privacy have been corrupted.

Without taking a moral high ground, the author argues that markets tend to crowd out morals and that there is serious case for us to rethink the role and reach of markets in our social practices, human relationships and everyday lives. In addition to raising moral and ethical issues, the question that marketisation of society widens the already existing divide between people of means and those without is equally crucial.

As market continues to explore new avenues for its expansion, the onus will be on us to analyze that putting a price tag on which things will undermine their function and relationship in society. Neither can friendship be bought nor are children sold, despite both being lucrative from a market perspective. Such transactions, even if feasible and acceptable, violate the moral ground of human relationships and neither is good for democracy.

What money can't buy is all about moral and ethical question of what can be bought and sold in the market. However, it lets the reader ponder over the last question: Do we want a society where everything is up for sale?

What Money Canít Buy
by Michael Sandel
Allen Lane, UK
244 pages, UK£ 20.

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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