Michael Sandel on the Moral Limits of Markets

Tuesday 22 May 2012, 9.14am | The Royal Institution

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Michael Sandel is one of the world’s most acclaimed and popular political philosophers. He has given the Reith lectures, been called “the most influential foreign figure of the year” by China Newsweek, and his online video lectures for Harvard University attract millions of viewers. His book Justice was an international bestseller.

Now he has  turned his attention to the markets. In this special Intelligence² event he discussed his provocative new book, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Should we pay children to get good grades? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars, or selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay? Isn’t there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale?

Sandel argued that market values have crowded out non-market norms in almost every aspect of life – medicine, education, government, law, art, sports, even family life and personal relations. So what is the proper role of markets in a democratic society, and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy?


Michael Sandel Philosopher and author of What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets and international bestseller Justice.