Monday, May 14, 2012

Thomas Friedman, Michael Sandel & Sky Boxes

Thomas Friedman considers Michael Sandel's arguments fron Sandel's new book, What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. I write about it for three points:

 1. Friedman points out this observation by Sandel that bears repeating & consideration:
Sandel sees them [intrusion of commercial advertising into almost all areas of life] as signs of a bad trend: “Over the last three decades,” he states, “we have drifted from having a market economy to becoming a market society. A market economy is a tool — a valuable and effective tool — for organizing productive activity. But a ‘market society’ is a place where everything is up for sale. It is a way of life where market values govern every sphere of life.”
This is an important distinction. Markets allow information to travel across diverse & unconnected users and distribute assets with an efficiency that eludes any central planner. (Hayek here.) But this cultural trend goes way beyond that, making us consumers and not citizens. A very big and important difference to my mind.

 2. Sky boxes. When in college, I gave a ride the hometown radio folks from the airport to Kinnick Stadium to broadcast the Hawkeye-Cyclone game, the first such game in about three decades. Anyway, I went to the press box, up high, very nice, but I couldn't stay. The electricity and fun of the game was in the stands with my fellow students. I couldn't scream, curse, chant, or do victory dances in the the press box! Now, they have sky boxes, antiseptic glass booths for the well-heeled to make appearances and schmooze. I don't envy those folks, I kind of feel badly for them. If you come to a public event such as a Hawkeye football game, come for the communal experience, not to be isolated. I think that the commercialization of big-time (read football & men's basketball) college athletics appears to me more and more a mistake. Anyway, my rant seems apropos of Sandel's more sophisticated thoughts. Another book for my reading list.

 3. One more thing: would the United State of America have survived and flourished without civic virtue practices by the Founders? These men were not angels or demi-gods; they had their material sides, but they were motivated by ideals as well, ideals in part from the tradition of civic republicanism. (The book to read to get a sense of this: Garry Wills' Cincinnatus: George Washington & the Enlightenment.)

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