March 19, 2012

Your body, for sale

Hey, if SXSW can have human hotspots for wireless, why can't people be paid to brand-tattoo their foreheads, etc.?

Well, they already are, and it will likely get worse.

Michael Sandel tells us just what the problems are with that.
Why worry that we are moving toward a society in which everything is up for sale?

For two reasons. One is about inequality, the other about corruption. First, consider inequality. In a society where everything is for sale, life is harder for those of modest means. The more money can buy, the more affluence—or the lack of it—matters. If the only advantage of affluence were the ability to afford yachts, sports cars, and fancy vacations, inequalities of income and wealth would matter less than they do today. But as money comes to buy more and more, the distribution of income and wealth looms larger.
The second reason we should hesitate to put everything up for sale is more difficult to describe. It is not about inequality and fairness but about the corrosive tendency of markets. Putting a price on the good things in life can corrupt them. That’s because markets don’t only allocate goods; they express and promote certain attitudes toward the goods being exchanged. Paying kids to read books might get them to read more, but might also teach them to regard reading as a chore rather than a source of intrinsic satisfaction. Hiring foreign mercenaries to fight our wars might spare the lives of our citizens, but might also corrupt the meaning of citizenship.
That said, Sandel says the problem is more that of making things into "markets" (that would include the Internet, too) that shouldn't be, than the normal greed of capitalism.

Well, I'd partially beg to differ. It's that greed of capitalism, put on steroids, that LED to the marketizing of things that shouldn't be.

Beyond that, Sandel talks about markets becoming detached from morals. Well, capitalism by itself is at best a-moral in the sense of not being an issue of morals, and, at worst, because it's based on greed, fundamentally immoral.

Rather, one could say that modern capitalism is getting in touch with the base-level immorality that was camouflaged for all these years.

Camouflaged by what? In part, per Antonin Scalia, civic Christianity? But, we still have many conservatives proclaiming civic Christianity today, with a greed-based success gospel no less immoral than capitalism in general.

A sense of noblesse oblige? But, the one GOP presidential candidate who should have that, Mitt Romney, doesn't.

By a pre-technological society in which societal pressures counted for more? Perhaps.

Maybe it's the simple doubling of the world's population in the past half-century or so, that's continued to erode a sense of community, whether within a nation or globally.

If so, on either of the last two, we're in trouble.

No comments: