The Market Society

What role should money and markets play in our society?




What's the difference between having a Market Economy and a Market Society?

Michael Sandel's answer: A Market Economy is 'a valuable and productive tool for organizing productive activity. A Market Society is a ... place where almost everything is up for sale, it's a way of life where market values seep into almost every domain of life.'


What do you think about living in a Market Society? What might be the benefits and what could be the drawbacks?

Before we look at some of the questions that Michael Sandel has framed, let's first consider these questions:

Is a bought friend the same thing as a friend made the normal way? Why would or wouldn't it work?
Is there anything you think money SHOULDN'T buy?
When people discover that money has bought something considered not socially acceptable to buy or sell, the value decreases. True or not? If so, why?


Here are a bunch of real world examples of deals offered to people. Would you take any of these deals? Are there any that offend you morally? Which ones would you like to talk about?

• Kindle home-page ads: Buy a kindle for 70USD, or buy it for 30USD in exchange for having ads show up on the home page everytime you opened it.

• Serve as a human guinea pig in a drug-safety trial for a pharmaceutical company: $7,500. The pay can be higher or lower, depending on the invasiveness of the procedure used to test the drug’s effect and the discomfort involved.

• Fight in Somalia or Afghanistan for a private military contractor: up to $1,000 a day. The pay varies according to qualifications, experience, and nationality.

• The services of an Indian surrogate mother: $8,000. Western couples seeking surrogates increasingly outsource the job to India, and the price is less than one-third the going rate in the United States.

• The right to shoot an endangered black rhino: $250,000. South Africa has begun letting some ranchers sell hunters the right to kill a limited number of rhinos, to give the ranchers an incentive to raise and protect the endangered species.

• Your doctor’s cellphone number: $1,500 and up per year. A growing number of “concierge” doctors offer cellphone access and same-day appointments for patients willing to pay annual fees ranging from $1,500 to $25,000.

• Stranger originated life insurance: Walmart takes out insurance policy on its employees. When they die, Walmart gets a payout. It was 300,000 in one case.

• Viaticals: An investor buys your life insurance policy in exchange for paying all your medical bills until you die. When you die, they get the life-insurance payout. The catch is the longer patients live, the less money the investors make.

• The right to emit a metric ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: $10.50. The European Union runs a carbon-dioxide-emissions market that enables companies to buy and sell the right to pollute.

• The right to immigrate to the United States: $500,000. Foreigners who invest $500,000 and create at least 10 full-time jobs in an area of high unemployment are eligible for a green card that entitles them to permanent residency.

• Sell space on your forehead to display commercial advertising: $10,000. A single mother in Utah who needed money for her son’s education was paid $10,000 by an online casino to install a permanent tattoo of the casino’s Web address on her forehead. In Britain college students wore temporary tattoos on their foreheads for £4.20/hr.


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