Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We have transitioned from a market economy to a market society

One of the most agonizing aspects of our current situation is how so many people who consider themselves religious have unconsciously surrendered their religious moral convictions in the arena of political economy. A number of critics have been warning for decades that the unfettered capitalism unleashed by deregulation's dismantling of the New Deal would cause a deep and dangerous moral and spiritual decline. A few years ago I found an interesting debate, from the late 1970s if I recall correctly, between a conservative Protestant theologian, and an acolyte of Milton Friedman. In no way could the theologian be considered a Marxist or a socialist, but he was fervent and unrelenting in his attacks on Friedman's ideas, which he derisively called anarcho-capitalism. Yale political science professor Jim Sleeper has written some powerful articles exploring the tensions between unfettered capitalism and morality, such as his short but brilliant Conservative Contradictions.

Hopefully, it is a sign that even business elites are getting uneasy about the cultural destruction being wrought by their unfettered capitalism, that Paul B. Farrell, writes in, of all places, MarketWatch, Capitalism is killing our morals, our future. The article is about Harvard political philosophy professor Michael Sandel, who argues that our market economy has become so all encompassing in its power and influence that almost literally everything is for sale, including goods that just a few decades ago were seen as belonging firmly in the public sector, such as health, education, public safety, national security, criminal justice, environmental protection, and recreation. We have unconsciously, and without our considered approval, Sandel writes, transitioned from a market economy to a market society.
Yes, capitalism is working ... for the Forbes 1,000 Global Billionaires whose ranks swelled from 322 in 2000 to 1,426 recently. Billionaires control the vast majority of the world’s wealth, while the income of American workers stagnated.

For the rest of the world, capitalism is not working: A billion live on less than two dollars a day. With global population exploding to 10 billion by 2050, that inequality gap will grow, fueling revolutions, wars, adding more billionaires and more folks surviving on two bucks a day. 

Over the years we’ve explored the reasons capitalism blindly continues on its self-destructive path. Recently we found someone who brilliantly explains why free-market capitalism is destined to destroy the world, absent a historic paradigm shift: That is Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, author of the new best-seller, “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets,” and his earlier classic, “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” 

For more than three decades Sandel’s been explaining how capitalism is undermining America’s moral values and why most people are in denial of the impact. His classes are larger than a thousand although you can take his Harvard “Justice” course online. Sandel recently summarized his ideas about capitalism in the Atlantic. In “What Isn’t for Sale?” he writes: 

“Without being fully aware of the shift, Americans have drifted from having a market economy to becoming a market society ... where almost everything is up for sale ... a way of life where market values seep into almost every sphere of life and sometimes crowd out or corrode important values, non-market values.” 

No comments:

Post a Comment