What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Market

Actual Text #1: "The reason gift giving is not always an irrational departure from efficient utility maximizing is that gifts aren't only about utility. Some gifts are expressive of relationships that engage, challenge, and reinterpret our identities. This is because friendship is about more than being useful to one another. It is also about growing in character and self-knowledge in the company of others. As Aristotle taught, friendship at its best has a formative, educative purpose. To monetize all forms of giving among friends can corrupt friendship by suffusing it with utilitarian norms." -p. 102

Response #1: Gifts have long been given and are given at any time of the year, specially for birthdays or Christmas. For children, these holidays are all about the presents. However, as adults, we know that there is more to gifts. Thoughts put into gifts not count as Sandel has said before. Although gifts can be bought with money, the amount of thought put into it is all you - no money. Money is simply used to display your thoughts. As Sandel said with the wedding toast, it means far more to actually write the toast to your best friend yourself than to have someone else write it and you try to pass it off as your own.

I think the thoughts related to gift giving and nice gestures have changed over time as more services are being available for people to buy. People now assume that anything can be bought. However, I strongly disagree here. Happiness for one, can definitely not be bought. Families in third world countries who have absolutely nothing, still find some way to be happy, yet they have no money. They may find happiness in their family or a idol. As more people became able to get money and as more goods and services became available, happiness being a priceless emotion began to have a price tag on it. I'll admit that even I find happiness in some material object that can be bought for whatever it says on the price tag. However, I often think back to when my parents took me to visit the orphanage the Guyana. I saw so many little kids, who were abandoned by their parents or who's parents died or some other unfortunate event occurred that landed them in the orphanage. Yet these children were able to run around in torn and dirty clothing with true, genuine smiles on their face. Maybe it's because they're children and don't quite know what the outside world is like yet or because the ones with nothing are the ones who have true happiness.

The beauty of gift giving is it does reveal of pieces of ourselves to others. Only those that really do know you will be able to buy the perfect gift, even though Sandel says such gifts don't exist.

Actual Text #2: "The fairness objection points to the injustice that can arise when people buy and sell things under conditions of inequality or dire economic necessity. According to this objection, market exchanges are not always as voluntary as market enthusiasts suggest." - p. 111

Response #2: When I read this paragraph in the article, I thought back to the countless Bollywood and Hollywood movies I've seen where one character must give up, or sell, something so that they may put food on the table for their family or save someone they care about. One such movie was The Hunger Games where the protagonist sacrificed herself and entered the dangerous hunger games so that her sister may be saved and not have to enter it. Although, I find this brave, I do think society is to blame for people having to do this. I see society as being more concerned with the wealthy than the poor because to them, the wealthy occur far more than the poor ever can. This brings about the topic of fairness that Sandel was talking about. Society is not being fair to those less fortunate.

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