What Money Can't Buy

What Money Can’t Buy is a six part series exploring the role of money and morals in today’s world.

Series Featuring

Also with


From the collection: s Education, Learn Economics at Home


From the collections Education, Learn Economics at Home

Register for the Expanded Harvard Course on edX

Watch Full Episodes Below

Should you be able to sell your kidney? Should we auction off the right to immigrate? What about paying people to vote? Is there anything wrong with profiting from a stranger’s death? What about scalping tickets to a rock concert — or to a doctor’s appointment?

Harvard Professor Michael Sandel leads twelve exceptional college students from around the world in asking where markets serve the public good, and where they don’t belong. Sandel and his students look at different types of markets—from selling kidneys to selling votes—to better understand a society in which everything, it seems, is for sale. Insights from Joseph Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Minouche Shafik, Greg Mankiw, Dambisa Moyo, Richard Posner, and Robert Barro feature in the debates, which are alternately heated and humorous.

In six original episodes we explore what kind of society we truly are, and begin to define what kind of society we hope to be.

Sex Sells, But Should It?

Are there legitimate grounds for discrimination in the business world? This episode explores the hiring practices of Abercrombie & Fitch, Hooters, and even OBGYNs. Is it okay to hire attractive sales clerks and flight attendants, or is "lookism" comparable to racism and sexism. Larry Summers thinks our workplace must reflect society's commitment to civil rights, but has no problem with "the Boston Celtics hiring tall people." Robert Barro goes further, suggesting that physical attractiveness, like intelligence, is a legitimate basis for discrimination.

The Body Market

Should you be able to sell your organs, or sell your body for sex? “The Body Market” explores the markets for selling your body parts and potentially your dignity. The director of the London School of economics Dame Minouche Shafik doesn’t think there is a fixed amount of altruism in people. Will a kidney market save more lives, or will it crowd out the idea of altruism, donation, and community? Nobel Laureate Joe Stiglitz and Harvard economics chair Greg Mankiw seem to disagree.

The Walrus Quota

Market mechanisms may be efficient, but they may also change the meaning of the goods exchanged. Should we pay children to read, or pay countries to take our share of refugees? Does having tradable refugee quotas commodify people? Introducing cash incentives or market mechanisms can serve or harm society. Sandel’s panel of students—as well as INET President Rob Johnson, LSE Director Minouche Shafik, Judge Richard Posner, and economist Dambisa Moyo—weigh in.

Supply Shock

Is the purpose of markets to be selfish? Are goods appropriately allocated by markets? Does the study of economics make you a more selfish person? Utility, fairness, and virtue are issues debated using examples like price gauging laws and scalping tickets for doctors’ appointments in China. Featuring Joe Stiglitz, Greg Mankiw and more.

The Golden Door

What is democracy for? Democracy requires voting, but many don’t vote. Should we pay people to vote or fine people if they don’t? The students also debate whether we should sell citizenship. Does money symbolize your value as a person?

The Death Pool

Should profiting off of suffering or death be legal? Should companies be able to take life insurance policies out on janitors without their knowledge? Do the people who profited off of the mortgage crisis have blood on their hands? When things are morally objectionable and legal should we as a society pause?

Sandel is a philosopher with the global profile of a rock star. He’s a Harvard professor who doesn’t just lecture in halls, but in stadiums.

Tim Franks, BBC News Hardtalk

Sandel is currently the most effective communicator of ideas in English.

The Guardian

The best Socratic dialogue since Socrates.

Lord Patton, Oxford University

Inquire about broadcast opportunities

Share your perspective

The Interviews

Praise for What Money Can't Buy

The INET original series has garnered praise from economists, journalists, and students for its incisive take on markets and morals. Check out coverage in:

Democracy Journal

The Minskys

Why We Argue



The Boston Globe

Michael J. Sandel

Michael Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard University. He has been described as “the most relevant living philosopher,” a “rock-star moralist,” (Newsweek) and “currently the most popular professor in the world.” (Die Zeit)

His writings—on justice, ethics, democracy, and markets—have been translated into 27 languages. His legendary course “Justice” is the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on television. It has been viewed by tens of millions of people,including in China, where Sandel was named the “most influential foreign figure of the year.” (China Newsweek)

Sandel’s recent books, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets and Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, have sold millions of copies around the world and inspired public debate about the big moral and civic questions of our time.

Sandel’s lectures have been the subject of television series on PBS, the BBC, NHK (Japan), and NDTV (India). He has appeared on The Colbert Report, the Today Show, Morning Joe, and Charlie Rose, and currently hosts “The Public Philosopher,” a popular BBC series that explores the philosophical questions lying behind the headlines.

Described by the Guardian as “the man who is currently the most effective communicator of ideas in English,” Sandel’s lively, down-to-earth way of engaging audiences has brought him “the kind of popularity usually reserved for Hollywood movie stars and NBA players.” (China Daily)

Sandel’s lecture tours have taken him across five continents and packed venues such as St. Paul’s Cathedral (London), the Sydney Opera House (Australia), and an outdoor stadium in Seoul (S. Korea), where 14,000 people came to hear him speak.

Learn more about Professor Sandel