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What money can’t buy. Or: What is your price?

Michael Sandel

The American philosopher Michael Sandel is celebrated like a rock star in the USA. Rightly so. The Harvard professor has an entertaining way of reminding us of our humanity.

What you can buy today!

Paying surrogate mothers to carry a child is no longer a thrill. Human organs are also traded for thousands of dollars.

Cell upgrades are common in US prisons, you can buy first in line, the right to pollute the air with a ton of carbon and a new nose. Blood costs money and terminally ill people find buyers for their life insurance, school supplies, and food are sponsored by companies. Even naming rights for major sports arenas have a price these days.

And what do you think? Is it normal? Or wait. Sounds weird?

In any case, Michael Sandel is amazed at these “new markets” that have emerged over the past few decades.

In the book, Michael Sandel asks where does venality end?

The Harvard professor wants us not to simply accept the new venality as a given, as largely a matter of course. And surrender to her. Much that was unthinkable a few decades ago can now be ordered for money. Whoever has the most money and gives it gets good.

A particularly shocking example of this all-can-buy attitude: In Africa, Europeans will pay up to $150,000 just to shoot endangered species like rhinos.

Michael Sandel has pondered these observations and written a very remarkable book about them.

In it he objectively raises two simple questions: Can everything be for sale? And what does that do to us as a society?

Michael Sandel is concerned with whether the commercialization of our lives is really desirable. Or whether the consequences are not rather devastating, because it empties our humanity, our solidarity, helpfulness, and sacrifice for others. Because our relationships with friends, acquaintances, and work colleagues become market-shaped since they receive some kind of prize.

When do we damage ourselves as human beings?

Do we want to live in such a venal world? And anyway: when did it actually start that everything seems to have a price, and we still consider it normal and not alarming?

Michael Sandel gets to the heart of the social explosives, never raising his index finger in the air like an all-powerful admonisher or moralizing philosopher.

Michael Sandel:

“We need a public debate about what it means to put the markets in their place. […] Because some things are damaged or degraded when you turn them into commodities.”

You must read Michael Sandel!

The book is an absolute must-read. Sandel writes vividly, clearly, without any boxed sentences, as scientists often do.

He got me thinking. Michael Sandel is right when he asks us to be critical of this monetization of our existence. The first counter-movements are already forming. At least that’s how I would see the “new” sharing economy, where people share cars. Borrowing things from each other, exchanging time or craftsmanship.

The philosopher Sandel sharpens our view of the madness and progressive injustices of our time and what money has already done to us. It reminds me a lot of the sorcerer’s apprentice in Goethe’s Faust: The spirits he called…

If you address Michael Sandel’s theses, I would also like to recommend the book by the young German economist Stefan Mekiffer. He wrote one of the most important economics books of our time

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