Philosophy@Utah State

Home » Uncategorized » What can/should money buy?

What can/should money buy?

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 106 other followers

Old Main, USU


You need a Philosophy T-shirt! For more information, please click here.


* Interested in presenting a paper at an UNDERGRADUATE PHILOSOPHY CONFERENCE or publishing in an UNDERGRADUATE PHILOSOPHY JOURNAL? You should consider it! To see what options are available, both in state and out of state, click here.


• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

Blog Stats

  • 195,738 hits

Here is an interesting review of a book arguing that the good of using markets to help distribute goods outweighs the sometimes distasteful appearance of buying things that in some intuitive sense shouldn’t be bought.

I’ll explain a bit. Michael Sandel, in his book What Money Can’t Buy, argues (surprisingly) that there are some things money shouldn’t buy. Consider, for example, a service that writes personal, heartfelt speeches for best men to give at their pals’ weddings; or consider the companies that, for a tidy sum, will send someone over to apologize to someone on your behalf. Consider getting out of jury duty by paying someone else to serve in your stead, or selling U.S. citizenship, or selling organs, or blood. In many of these cases, there is a worry that putting such things up for sale corrupts our moral relations to other people, or simply provides unfair advantage to those with more money.

On the other hand, one of the most efficient ways to get goods to those who value them the most is to put price tags on them. The best man who pays a lot for a heartfelt speech is showing how much he cares by paying a lot; same for the person who apologizes by proxy; and so on. It may be that the presence of these price tags offends our moral sensibilities; but if those sensibilities are accidents of evolution or culture anyway, perhaps that offense is a “price” we should be willing to pay for a more efficient distribution of goods. As the authors write, “when there is a clash between [these intuitions] and consequences, consequences win.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: