Assignment for What Money Can't Buy by Michael J. Sandel



1) Michael Sandel discusses many instances of where market values have crowded out moral considerations during the era of market triumphalism. Locate one or two areas where markets have infiltrated where previously they did not exist. Argue whether or not the practice, service or commodity has changed (i.e. has the commercialization effect (pg. 120) forced external motivations to supplant internal ones). Focus your argument on describing what kind of change has (or has not) taken place with a single defining term or phrase. [Note: the term can not be "better" or "worse"]

• prisons/prison cell upgrade

• car pool lanes

• surrogate mothers

• rights to immigrate

• hunting endangered species

• concierge/on-call doctors

• carbon emissions

• university admissions

• advertising space on a person's body (and other instances of encroaching advertising)

• human guinea pig in drug safety trials

• private militaries

• line standers

• compensation for children reading a book

• incentives for weight loss

• buying life insurance policy of elderly or ailing individual [COLI]

• blood donation banks

• honorary degrees

• gift cards

• apologies and wedding toasts

• baseball/sports memorabilia

• naming rights for stadiums

• house flipping

2) Use MLA parenthetical citation

3) In the conclusion, with respect to the example(s) above decide and explain why you think market values should continue to displace moral considerations or whether moral considerations should be given more credence. Such a discussion could include where and how the line should be drawn between the two.


with respect to the example(s) above, discuss whether the "skyboxification effect" has fully taken hold.


Summarize the views of one of the commentators in the Boston Review Forum and how they either add or detract from Sandel's main premise of market corruption.

4) Word Limit = 1500+ words

Our Gross National Product now is over 800 billion dollars a year. But that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight riots in our cities. It counts . . . the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud to be Americans.

— Robert Kennedy from "Remarks at the University of Kansas" March 18, 1968

YouTube recording of this speech

Transcript of this speech

Boston Review : How Markets Crowd Out Morals [A Forum on the Corrupting Effects of Markets] with Matt Welch, Debra Satz, Lew Daly, Elizabeth Anderson, Richard Sennett, Anita Allen, Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, John Tomasi]

Publisher's Page [Macmillan] for What Money Can't Buy

Study Questions

Study Questions #1 (pg. 3-52)

Study Questions #2 (pg. 52-96)

Study Questions #3 (pg. 96-144)

Study Questions #4 (pg. 144-179)


Michael Sandel on "What Money Can't Buy"


Justice: What's the Right thing to Do? Episode 1"The Moral Side of Murder"

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? Episode 2 "Putting a Price Tag on Life"

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? Episode 3 "Free To Choose"

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? Episode 4 "This Land is My Land"

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? Episode 5 "Hired Guns"


"How America's Great University System is Being Destroyed" by Noam Chomsky in Counterpunch

"The Slow Death of the University" by Terry Eagleton in The Chronicle of Higher Education