Thursday, July 03, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Markets and Civic Life

Are there some things that money cannot (or should not) buy? This is a very succinct and thought-provoking talk from Michael Sandel. He raises some very good questions about markets, values, incentives, and meaning. If you've never seen Sandel before, I think you will find him to be a very effective communicator and teacher. I encourage you to watch the video and would appreciate any comments you might like to share in response.  Thanks.

An Excerpt from this TED Talk...
Over the past three decades, we have lived through a quiet revolution. We've drifted almost without realizing it from having a market economy to becoming market societies. The difference is this: A market economy is a tool, a valuable and effective tool, for organizing productive activity, but a market society is a place where almost everything is up for sale. It's a way of life, in which market thinking and market values begin to dominate every aspect of life: personal relations, family life, health, education, politics, law, civic life.

Now, why worry? Why worry about our becoming market societies? For two reasons, I think. One of them has to do with inequality. The more things money can buy, the more affluence, or the lack of it, matters. If the only thing that money determined was access to yachts or fancy vacations or BMWs, then inequality wouldn't matter very much. But when money comes increasingly to govern access to the essentials of the good life -- decent health care, access to the best education, political voice and influence in campaigns -- when money comes to govern all of those things, inequality matters a great deal. And so the marketization of everything sharpens the sting of inequality and its social and civic consequence. That's one reason to worry.

There's a second reason apart from the worry about inequality, and it's this: with some social goods and practices, when market thinking and market values enter, they may change the meaning of those practices and crowd out attitudes and norms worth caring about.
View Complete Transcript Here

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