Paul B. Farrell at MarketWatch:
Capitalism is killing our morals, our future
Commentary: In a Market Society, everything is for sale
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?”
Today “almost everything can be bought and sold.” Today “markets, and market values, have come to govern our lives as never before. We did not arrive at this condition through any deliberate choice. It is almost as if it came upon us,” says Sandel.
Over the years, “market values were coming to play a greater and greater role in social life. Economics was becoming an imperial domain. Today, the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone. It increasingly governs the whole of life.”
Yes, it’s everywhere: “Markets to allocate health, education, public safety, national security, criminal justice, environmental protection, recreation, procreation, and other social goods unheard-of 30 years ago. Today, we take them largely for granted.”
Examples … for-profit schools, hospitals, prisons … outsourcing war to private contractors … police forces by private guards “almost twice the number of public police officers” … drug “companies aggressive marketing of prescription drugs directly to consumers, a practice … prohibited in most other countries.”
More: Ads in “public schools … buses … corridors … cafeterias … naming rights to parks and civic spaces … blurred boundaries, within journalism, between news and advertising … marketing of ‘designer’ eggs and sperm for assisted reproduction … buying and selling … the right to pollute … campaign finance in the U.S. that comes close to permitting the buying and selling of elections.”
What is certain: Capitalism is eliminating moral values, as Nobel economist Milton Friedman and capitalism’s philosopher Ayn Rand had been preaching to the generation. As Sandel puts it: “Each party to a deal decides for him- or herself what value to place on the things being exchanged. This nonjudgmental stance toward values lies at the heart of market reasoning, and explains much of its appeal.”
But unfortunately, market capitalism “has exacted a heavy price … drained public discourse of moral and civic energy.”
There is more and you should probably go read it. I was kinda surprised to find that essay in a subsidiary of the Wall Street Journal. Not so much for the point of view expressed as for the poor reasoning and poor use of supporting facts.
Progressives have a strange “love-hate” relationship with morality. They despise traditional morality, especially if it is connected to religion, but at the same time they think they are better people than everyone else. But their concepts of reality tend to be flexible and unevenly applied – for instance they support abortion but oppose the death penalty.
Capitalism is amoral, not evil. Capitalism is an economic system, and only (some) people are capable of moral behavior. But morality should affect the choices we make, including the value judgments we assign to different things.
This may shock some of you but I am actually a believer in objective morality (at least for other people). That objective standard of behavior is in large part been codified into law. Prohibitions against theft and killing are expressions of morality.
I do want to address a couple of Mr. Ferrell’s points:
For the rest of the world, capitalism is not working: A billion live on less than two dollars a day.
How many of those billion people live in industrialized capitalist societies? How many live in pre-capitalist agrarian societies? Hmmm? As for the “examples” he gives, those are not moral issues, they concern the most efficient way to pay for those endeavors.
One last thing: If you