o I’m a socialist and my best friend is a libertarian. It makes for interesting weekly phone calls. However, What Money Can’t Buy, the new book by Michael Sandel, expresses everything I find wrong with the world (and can’t often articulate). Centrally – that market culture is replacing civil culture.
Sandel tracks this across the last thirty years (and before), how often we allow money to determine what’s right and how goods will be distributed (strike that – right has nothing to do with it). Where theme parks used to have lines so everyone would join up in egalitarian fashion, now you can jump the queue with a special pass. Worse, if we are serious about a war on terror, again, you can skip the security line if you pay for the privilege. Are we all in this fight or not?
Sandel makes countless cases for things that have changed in the last three decades, such as janitor insurance (corporations insuring their employees life insurance without their knowledge), incentives for everything from blood banks to sterilization, the idea of giving cash (and now credit and store cards) as gifts, all this. He looks at the corruption of the ideal and the unfairness of the new system. And as the book thunders towards its conclusion, the hits come faster and faster – focusing on the renaming of stadiums, the commercialization of sports, advertisements in schools, all this. In the end, you realize just what a world we are in, one where you no longer can find a place to get away from it (even recreational trails are being targeted by marketing).
Interestingly, once I finished this, I happened to read an article in Time Magazine in the doctors office (totally unrelated) where a person notes that they are not on the same planet they grew up on, that this is a different planet. I’d have to say that’s true. And those under thirty take this as the norm,
Overall, I’m not sure if I’d find the author’s reasoning bullet-proof (I’m sure my buddy would rip it to shreds). It all depends on your take, I suppose, and if you assign value to things in some way outside the commercial. But it’s still worth a read, if only to help crystallize the idea of the changes in the world around us.
Otherwise you are a frog, slowly being boiled in a pot of water.
>>>I TOUCHED ON IT HERE, IN EARLY RETYREMENT, WHERE MY TIME TRAVELING HERO ACTUALLY USES SOME OF THESE IDEAS FOR HIS OWN BENEFIT. I’M FEELING A LITTLE GUILTY NOW. STILL, JUDGE FOR YOURSELF. DIRT CHEAP, RIGHT HERE!<<<