Market Economy vs Market Society

John Coleman, S.J. blogs about What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2012). A couple of choice snippets:

Sandel has no problems with markets and the economy. But he laments that “we drifted from having a market economy to being a market society”. He sees a prevailing ideology which underscores faith in markets as the primary means for achieving the public good. But, he argues, “we need a public debate about what it means to keep markets in their place.”

[Many main-stream economists] often argue that, instead of Aunt Sarah giving you a $120 dollar argyle sweater, it would be more efficient if she just gave you the money so you could buy with it what would have been your own preference. This is to be blind to the role of gift-giving as more than some market exchange. It signals love. Gifts are not only about utility (which, in a sense, is the only moral relationship markets know).

He also talks about the ways that market mechanisms not only commodify things, but also instrumentalize our attitudes towards things; and how apparently free, voluntary market transactions are not really all that free if the pressure of poverty is driving the seller’s “voluntary” choice. (I suggest a good example of this dynamic is the USA’s present “all-volunteer” military, because the pressure of poverty, the lousy job market, and the sky-high cost of education are functioning as a selective service.)

But do click through and read the whole thing. There are some interesting related links offered in some of the comments, too.

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