Ethical Thinking to What Money Can’t Buy
Micheal J. Sandel, an American political philosopher and a professor at Harvard University, is famous for his course “Justice”. This course is available online, for which I had the opportunity to know Sandel and study his theory when I was studying undergraduate major. When I found “What Money Can’t Buy” written by him in the book list for the paper materials, I decided to write something about this topic without hesitate.
Obviously, from the title of this book, it talks about what money can’t buy. According to our common sense, there must be some things money can’t buy. But unfortunately, there are not many, and which probably becoming fewer and fewer. Nowadays, almost everything could be put a price on. Here are some examples listed on the book:
Skip the Line: Front of Line Pass at Universal Studios Hollywood: $148.99. Go to the front of the line and get the best seats in the house at all the Universal Studios Hollywood rides, shows and attractions.
Stand in line overnight on Capitol Hill to hold a place for a lobbyist who wants to attend a congressional hearing: $15–$20 per hour. The lobbyists pay line- standing companies, who hire homeless people and others to queue up.12
The cell phone number of your doctor: $1,500 and up per year. A growing number of “concierge” doctors offer cell phone access and same- day appointments for patients willing to pay annual fees ranging from $1,500 to $25,000.
Admission of your child to a prestigious university: Although the price is not posted, officials from some top universities told The Wall Street Journal that they accept some less than stellar students whose parents are wealthy and likely to make substantial financial contributions.
The right to shoot an endangered black rhino: $150,000. South Africa has begun letting ranchers sell hunters the right to kill a limited number of rhinos, to give the ranchers an incentive to raise and protect the endangered species.
You may have ever heard about examples listed above, and also feel comfortable with these facts existing in our market economic world, in which, you can put a price on anything, including an object, or behavior, so long as someone can afford it and be willing to buy it. Below are some more ridiculous examples you may never heard before:
A prison cell upgrade: $82 per night. In Santa Ana, California, and some other cities, nonviolent offenders can pay for better accommodations—a clean, quiet jail cell, away from the cells for nonpaying prisoners.
Rent out space on your forehead (or elsewhere on your body) to display commercial advertising: $777. Air New Zealand hired thirty people to shave their heads and wear temporary tattoos with the slogan “Need a change? Head down to New Zealand.”
Serve as a human guinea pig in a drug safety trial for a pharmaceutical company: $7,500. The pay can be higher or lower, depending on the invasiveness of the procedure used to test the drug’s effect, and the discomfort involved.
Buy the life insurance policy of an ailing or elderly person, pay the annual premiums while the person is alive, and then collect the death benefit when he or she dies: potentially, millions (depending on the policy). This form of betting on the lives of strangers has become a $30 billion industry. The sooner the stranger dies, the more the investor makes.
We surely familiar with the last example of insurance, the ethical reasoning, however, is quiet unfamiliar to us. To explain those moral dilemma that everything is put a price on, Sandel raise two reasons: one is about inequality; the other is about corruption.
When the wealthy person is able to buy Porsche, Hermes, or any other luxury goods, inequalities of income and wealth will not matter very much. But when money is used to buy those essential things, political influence, priority medical service, better education...
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