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“How Markets Crowd Out Morals” by Michael Sandel Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Oct 18th, 2020

Michael Sandel’s article “How Markets Crowd out Morals” provoked a set of sharp reactions from the opponents and supporters of his viewpoint. Opinions of Debra Satz and Elizabeth Anderson are examples of sincere attempts to see the situation from other perspectives. Their strategies are in sympathy with Sandel’s position. On the other side, Herbert Gintis employs much pathos in his rhetorical style. By doing so, he is trying to support ad hominem, hasty generalization, and strawman arguments which indeed make his critical reasoning strategy less effective. Gintis fails to provide analysis from different perspectives and acknowledgment of counterarguments. Therefore, the strategies in Satz’s and Anderson’s articles seem more justified and have a better impact on the audience due to the fair consideration of the opposing perspective than the approach of Gintis whose use of pathos relies on some basic fallacies of logic undermining his critical reasoning.

Employing a straightforward argumentative style in Debra Satz’s essay “The Egalitarian Intuition” allows the author to gain a strong effect on the readers while arguing for the position that markets do harm morality. Satz comes up with several strong rhetorical strategies. The first one concentrates on ethos as the author does not comply with the opponent’s argument. Moreover, Satz’s opinion is not dismissive, and she uses logical critical reasoning to support her position. Also, Satz focuses on Sandel’s arguments when mentioning the agreement she has with him. Such a position is a sign of intellectual honesty. One of her agreements is that the market can “impede the development of human capacities” and “undermine valuable forms of human relationship.” Here Satz is appealing to the importance of morality through the use of pathos, just like Sandel is. However, Satz’s next argument is against Sandel’s emphasis on corruption over fairness since they are often connected. She argues that Sandel does not give distinct guidelines. Her rhetorical strategy at this point is effective in asking questions that Sandel has not answered and calling his argument too “simplistic.”

An opinion close to Satz’s but still not entirely homogeneous is expressed by Elizabeth Anderson in her “For-Profit Corruption.” This author also does not contradict Sandel’s views, but she wants to “offer a friendly amendment to his account.” Anderson’s dominant strategy is logos as she attempts to provide a distinction between two types of corruption neglected by Sandel. Anderson’s critical reasoning strategy aims to show that there are occasions of instrumental and constitutive corruption. Her major suggestion is that the actual result of something like health care can be worsened when it values only certain measures of its outcome.

For instance, gaining physical health without realizing the caring concern about patients is not completely beneficial. This example is good evidence for support of Sandel’s view as it is a direct confirmation of his argument about markets crowding out morality. Logos is also revealed through Anderson’s analysis of Sandel’s attitude to value. He puts all goods on a value spectrum of either altruism or self-interest, but he doesn’t acknowledge that there are goods bearing other motivations. Anderson, on the contrary, provides an example of professionalism motivation not suggested by Sandel. Thus, her appeal to logos allows her to show that there are other values apart from altruism crowded out by markets.

While Satz and Anderson notice some drawbacks in Sandel’s article and try to suggest ways of improving it, Herbert Gintis in his “Giving Economists Their Due” goes directly to criticizing the points he disagrees with. Gintis launches into rhetorical devices like ad hominem, belittling the economist by saying that he is obscure and only read because he had his “fifteen minutes of fame.” However, such an attitude makes Gintis’s response gain the look of pathos which is not the best rhetoric tool when used alone. Gintis states that “Sandel’s lack of economic sophistication also leads him to misrepresent a key issue in contemporary economic policy.” Such a crude statement lacks ethos and only presents the author’s opinion. Gintis further relies on emotional language to make his points, declaring Sandel’s position “absurd.” Therefore, though Gintis has a utilitarian view arguing for the good of the society overall, he lacks intellectual honesty which makes his argument not persuasive enough.

Michael Sandel’s article, apart from being a powerful argument about the current position of morals being shadowed by markets, has become a stage for other specialists’ ardent opinions. While Debra Satz, Elizabeth Anderson, and Herbert Gintis all are quite expressive in their articles, some of them are more persuasive than others. Anderson and Satz employ better rhetoric tools, which makes their arguments sound more convincing and solid. Gintis, however, uses too much pathos to express his dissatisfaction instead of a rational explanation of his prospect. Thus, the methods of Satz and Anderson have a better effect on the readers, and Gintis’s aggressive negative tone does not evoke disposition.

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IvyPanda. ""How Markets Crowd Out Morals" by Michael Sandel." October 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-markets-crowd-out-morals-by-michael-sandel/.


IvyPanda. 2020. ""How Markets Crowd Out Morals" by Michael Sandel." October 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-markets-crowd-out-morals-by-michael-sandel/.


IvyPanda. (2020) '"How Markets Crowd Out Morals" by Michael Sandel'. 18 October.

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