Morality in the Marketplace

Michael Sandel wrote in the Atlantic back in April that we as a society have allowed markets to play larger and larger roles in our lives without evaluating whether that role is desirable.  Here is a brief excerpt:

As a result, without quite realizing it—without ever deciding to do so—we drifted from having a market economy to being a market society.

The difference is this: A market economy is a tool—a valuable and effective tool—for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor. It’s a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market.

The great missing debate in contemporary politics is about the role and reach of markets. Do we want a market economy, or a market society? What role should markets play in public life and personal relations?

This series of questions presents an uncomfortable reality.  Michael Sandel gives a bunch of rather benign examples of goods and services available through the market.  As for whether there should be any moral limits on the market, I rather think more unsettling options need to be put on the table. Continue reading