Michael J. Sandel through his essay, “How Markets Crowd out Morals” brings forward the issue of how overcrowding of market effects the market ethics. It is commonly thought that markets are made to provide benefits to the people in all walks of life. According to Sandel’s claim that in the present era we can buy and sell anything, but there are things that money should not be able to buy or should not buy and at times money cannot buy everything. His entire essay revolves around what can or should be bought and how some marketing strategies tend to over crowd the market and hence giving birth to corruption. Anything taken in its extreme tends to bring corruption. In order to prove his points he gives many examples or market situations that produce discussions and evokes the readers’ feelings regarding such issues as overcrowding and corruption of the market. Mostly through his essay he is complaining about economists and the thought that the contribution of humane enthusiasm is restricted. Either the consumer should be forbidden to buy the product or should the product not be sold in the market is an issue to be solved. Hence unselfishness, generosity, harmony, and civic spirit will help to reduce the corruption and overcrowding of the market values.
It is considered immoral to buy and sell organs as it is something that shouldn’t be bought by spending a large sum of money. Sandel says that some goods that can be bought with money but considers their buying and selling morally controversial, for instance he gives an example of marketing a kidney. This is totally immoral because the main criterion is that kidney will be transplanted not considering the amount of money paid for its purchase. Body organs are not something to be purchased or sold; however, they can be donated to someone in dire need. Matt Welch suggests that according to his research approximately eighteen people die daily because of a need for a kidney transplant. He further says that more than 380,000 people are on dialysis which is an extremely expensive and painful procedure to postpone death. So the only way to save people from going through dialysis or dying is a transplant of the organ which could be donated by someone instead of being sold or purchased. Whatever be the case, the debate is not necessary, because to save a life of a human is priceless. Once a person is alive due to the transplant of the organ, no one considers whether the organ was purchased or donated.
It is believed that a real friend is always your companion who would be beside you at times of need- he is there on his own will and because he has love for you. However, a hired friend will not be as sincere as the real friend. Hence, Sandel is right about friendship that it cannot be bought, because it will not be genuine and true. If you hire someone for a task he will perform only because he will be paid for it or is assigned to do so. For example, a neighbor who is asked to check your mail when you are not in town will only do so because you have asked him to do so, moreover, a psychiatrist will listen to your problems and worries and advice you accordingly and so on. Hence they will not be expressing any true feelings but will go by the book. According to Sandel, ‘money that buys friendship dissolves it or turns it into something else.’ Hence people who are as advisors to you or help you out with certain issues just because they are paid to do so, cannot be considered as your real friends. Debra Satz also agrees with Michael on the point, that friendship is not something that can be put on sale otherwise the goodness in it is destroyed.
Wedding toasts hold a special place and is very important for the person making the toast and to the bride and the groom. It is a way of expressing feelings in depth for the groom by his closest friend hence should not be purchased from an online firm rather it should be written as ones personal feelings to show love and affection for their friend. Michael suggests that this is like deceiving the person and hence reflects upon a corrupt version of the real speech. However, there are people who have sincere feelings and emotions for their friends but just do not have the words to express them in a heartfelt way, so if these writers can write down their feelings for them, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Sometimes what you want to say is misunderstood because of the choice of words and it takes a long time to clarify your thoughts so why not get help from an experienced person who can correctly write down your feelings for you. They would ask you questions regarding your feelings and then develop a letter for you to share it. Debra Satz also brings this point to notice by saying even when an inferior method is adopted by selling goods which affects the value of the product. There is no evidence which shows that we need to sell this product or should the consumer be forbidden to buy the good or should it not be sold at all. Should the people buy wedding toasts or opt for cash presents?
These ways appear to be impolite and unattractive, yet the people go for it at their own will since we live in a liberal society everyone has a right to choose whichever way is suitable for them/ Sometimes even paying a large sum for a certain behavior will get you even less value than getting you more. Sandel suggests that even when economists increased the monetary payments being offered to the residents of the country it was not enough for them as it was merely coming up to the median income they had. Sandel is right in saying this because even if you are paying more to the people to accept a burden for example the offering of cash to the villagers to store nuclear waste was not only economically expensive but was morally corrupt because it was a hazard to health but they did it for the sake of money. Samuel Bowles agrees with the point that such kind of offering would not always be beneficial. He further acknowledges that Sandel is right, overcrowding of the market with such offers happens when the importance of fundamental and moral intention is reduced. He further adds on that such market incentives lead the way towards social interactions that are more self-centered than ethical. For instance he gives the example of the past when children were given money for making paintings, and then they later on started new kinds of play, hence kind of replacing the acknowledgement of a child’s creativity with monetary benefits. We need to see as a society that does everything has to be priced for showing acknowledgement or liking. Moreover, should people be allowed to purchase all that they want for their benefit overlooking the benefits of others? I don’t think so because just having incentives for things that are not required to be done but are followed by monetary benefits to promote unethical actions is not appropriate.
Getting education in a reputed University, for some it is merely the matter of how much money can be donated to college funds. This point is brought forward by Michael, where he says that college admissions can be called a good because many alumni are able to make large donations to the college in order to purchase a seat for their young. Michael indicates this as a market with two objectives: one is unfairness, and the second is corruption. Unfairness because this student might be replacing another who well deserved an admission but due to lack of monetary support could not do so. Moreover this is corruption because it is diminishing the integrity of the college as it portrays that higher education can be achieved when one has enough money regardless of talent and aptitude.
Similarly Anita L. Allen agrees with Michael by saying that “Market values risk making some practices unfair (e.g., private school legacy admissions that privilege students from wealthy families) and dissolving or corrupting others”. However, John Tomasi, differs Sandel in the concepts of fairness and corruption. He suggests that fairness is like having a free market where everyone purchases goods according to their wealth. It is not unfair to anyone if a wealthy man can purchase benefits for himself more than a poor. He has the money and he can spend it, I agree with John too because why wouldn’t any rich person use the money to avail comforts for himself. As proposed by John, “Principle of fairness: basic freedoms protected, inequalities are justified if they benefit the poor.” That is if the wealthy alumni can afford admission for his young in the college why wouldn’t he do so. Moreover, there are other opportunities for the students who cannot afford an expensive top class college for themselves.
According to Sandel’s point of view corruption objection brings forth ‘the degrading effect of market valuation and exchange’ on a few items and routines. This diminishes or in other words corrupts the moral and civic goods if they are purchased or sold. However according to Herbert Gintis, he is incorrect in saying so because he is misrepresenting the term corruption according to the modern economic policies. He refers the book of two economists, Daren Acemoglu and James Robinson, named ‘Why Nations Fail’ and explains that corruption is the main obstacle towards economies that are on the path of developments and also the economis that have developed.
Moreover, Sandel’s concept that including monetary incentives with moral values is unethical or leads to corruption of such values. For instance he quotes, “commercialization of blood and donor relationships represses the expression of altruism erodes the sense of community.” However, I do not agree with this because if people are not volunteering for blood donation, which is a dire need of the country in which they are residing in, then I do not see anything wrong in that the blood banks try to motivate people to donate their blood in exchange for a lottery ticket or any other monetary benefit. At least this can help in fulfilling the needs of the people in need for blood immediately.
This I don’t think is eroding the sense of community; however, it is a way of showing the people the seriousness of the situation where there is need of blood. Furthermore, Gintis also lays stress on this point by saying that such monetary incentives do not over crowd moral incentives. He refers to the field experiment conducted by economists, Lorenz Goette and Alois Stutzer, in Switzerland. They came to the conclusion, that when lottery tickets were offered by the blood banks the turnout was elevated. Hence economists are not wrong when they declare that “voluntary contributions do not elicit enough participation, then monetary incentive may do so, even though they completely drive out moral incentives.” Hence Sandel disregards this point in his suggestions about evilness of the society.
Moreover Michael Sandel lays emphasis on corruption that he considers as a good reason for limiting market arrangement. This is going past the standard concerns of distributive fairness. As suggested by Elizabeth Anderson that there are two ways by which corruption of goods can take place in a market: constitutive and instrumental. Corruption is said to be constitutive when goods whose significance is to some extent an articulation or embodiment of the causes and intentions for offering it in the first place. She gives example of the award that is dishonored as it was not given on the basis of merit that it claims to be awarded for. Similarly gifts, also, express feelings of the sender towards the recipient and are not merely a customer item. Whereas instrumental corruption takes place when the intention of giving the good, and the cause are independent on the worth of the good. She gives the example of the need for enough blood supply with looking at the reasons why the donors donated blood. Moreover she suggests an instrumental corruptions escalates when the suppliers are offered monetary incentives in order to ignore the condition of the goods, or to raise its cost needlessly. Hence Micheal Sandel’s proposal is more of an instrumental corruption, and I agree with the point that motivation other than monetary benefits can be used to obtain improved outcomes, as proposed by Anderson as well. For instance, Professionalism, which is the wish to do a job well, can be because of past standards set by others in the same area, is another form of motivation which leaves out the fact of monetary incentives.
Sandel, Michael J. “Lead Essay: How Markets Crowd Out Morals”. Boston Review. May/June 2012. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.