Thursday, April 19, 2012

398 The Utopia of the Free Market Michael Sandel

This weekend there was an interview with and an article about Michal Sandel in my newspaper.I insert this lecture in my series to bring him to your attention.

Michael J. Sandel (born March 5, 1953) is an American political philosopher and a professor at Harvard University.

He is best known for the Harvard course 'Justice' which is available to view online, and for his critique of Rawls' "A Theory of Justice" in his "Liberalism and the Limits of Justice" (1982).

I mention this man for two reasons. He is an influential philosopher regarding economic issues and the second reason is, that it proofs that we are not alone in our questioning the free


The title of his latest book is expressive "What Money Can't Buy" (April 2012) and in the interview he questions the introduction of the market in education, healthcare or even in our

private life.

`In recent decades, social inequality has increased, especially in the United States and parts of Europe. It is often seen as unjust relative to the poor.

That is true. But there is another reason to worry about the growing disparity between rich and poor. Too large a gap makes it increasingly difficult to see ourselves as citizens who share a common life. This damages the moral fabric, which our society is made of´, he says.

We live in a period of market-triomfalism. The free market is regarded as the primary instrument to bring wellbeing and prosperity.

The idea of the free market stays so popular because it is related to a sense of freedom. We are the people who may choose, what we want.

And here Sandel touches on the quintessence of my current project. The free market is neutral, a-moral, it is said.

As soon as you question the freedom of choice, you have to take a moral stand and as soon as you do that others will accuse you that you try to restrict their freedom.

Yet you can not deny that issues as redistribution of income, education and healthcare have moral characteristics. It is wrong to do as if you can take decisions in these areas denying the presence of moral questions here.

Against the freedom of the consumer Snadel puts the freedom of citizens, the freedom as a political community collectively deciding on the organization of society. However, the

economic forces have become so strong that citizens have less and less influence on them.

`What I am most concerned about is how this economic thinking dispels other values by introducing the language of free choice, cost efficiency and so on`, said Sandel.

As you see, we are not alone in questioning the sense and nonsense of the ideas behind the free market.

Nor alone with the idea that the overestimation of the free consumer is a threat to the social values in our society.

Nor alone with the idea that we are social and moral beings and not just the homo economicus in our quest for a better world.

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: Thank you....
[13:19] Debbie Dee (framdor): yeah!
[13:19] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Herman....
[13:19] Bejiita Imako: ?
[13:20] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Would you say that today's talk was highly significant in this course?
[13:20] Bejiita Imako: hmm I read recently in a paper how thay even though the companies go + want even more so they close the factories here and lot of people loose their jobs so the

owners can get even more money
[13:20] herman Bergson: least as a confirmation that the topic I have chosen here is debated at other levels as welll
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: Jofa, a manufacturer of Hockey gear closed recently for that reason
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: tragic
[13:21] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Hmm It seems more than that to me somehow
[13:21] Rina (rinascita) is online.
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: Adidas took over and moved it to Poland
[13:22] herman Bergson: In a way I gave an outline of where we will end with this project
[13:22] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): yes
[13:22] Debbie Dee (framdor): The biggest problem I see is that our modern systems are based on consuming our planet. The wealth comes from stored energy, and we use it up so

[13:22] herman Bergson: So Beertje, I hope this cheered you up a little?
[13:23] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): *agrees with Debbie
[13:23] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): no..not yet
[13:23] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie....
[13:23] Debbie Dee (framdor): The shocking figure for me is we;ve burnt half the fuel in just over 100 years
[13:23] herman Bergson: the current problem is the overestimation of the the so called free choosing individual
[13:24] Debbie Dee (framdor): ok. The result is overconsumption
[13:24] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Yes, I think the environment should be the main work of science from now on
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:24] Debbie Dee (framdor): yes
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: and that fully working stuff is thrown away for newer things
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: thats waste
[13:24] herman Bergson: Google on Michael Sandel...interesting person.....!
[13:24] Debbie Dee (framdor): and the economic systems need to make that happen.
[13:25] Ciska Riverstone: how debbie?
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: while they make more and more money of our consumption that they stimulate with comercials all day long
[13:25] herman Bergson: He is one of the people who have the same ideas as I have...or the other way around...whatever
[13:25] herman Bergson: what I want to say is, that there is an ongoing debate.
[13:25] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): I find it very difficult to imagine a change to the system, I will try and read Michael Sandel
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: i dont buy more then what i need, my tv is around 5 years but it works and im happy with it, good pic and so
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: tv
[13:26] Debbie Dee (framdor): I think we need to use the tools that stimulate consumption, to protect the environment and resources
[13:26] herman Bergson: The most important issue is REDISTRIBUTION....
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: im also making sure i buy good quality stuff that lasts
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Yes Bejita but I bet you are not using an old PC
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): a 486 or something lol
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: my pc is as old as the tv except the graphics card
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): ok :)
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: BUT the core 2 cpus are so powerful it works still like a rocket
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: 6600 2.4 gHz
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: really happy with it
[13:27] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): yeah well thats not an old pc then
[13:27] herman Bergson: Ok let's not discuss computers
[13:27] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): Redistribution to make a significant change, cannot be simply within members of a town , or country , but globally. and for that to happen there

will be losers as well as winners
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:27] Lizzy Pleides: the media are part of the system, even the babies are bombed with commercials when they watch tv
[13:27] herman Bergson: Let's discuss what is going on in the world...
[13:27] herman Bergson: and what you see is that richer get richer and poor people get poorer...
[13:27] Debbie Dee (framdor): Having a forest or an unpolluted river needs to be the desired outcome, promoted on tv. And the price of stored energy should be radically escelated.
[13:27] herman Bergson: Look at Russia and China....
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: yes not a good development
[13:28] herman Bergson: all of a sudden there is a small upperclass of capitalists...
[13:28] herman Bergson: an amazing development for a communist country...
[13:28] Friend (friend.oliva): ...a bunch of criminals
[13:29] Debbie Dee (framdor): why criminals?
[13:29] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): *laughs
[13:29] herman Bergson: The weirdest things happen overthere indeed Friend :-)
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: cause they threat the rest of the people like crap
[13:29] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): here we go
[13:29] herman Bergson: That is waht the future demands....
[13:30] herman Bergson: not absolute frree choice consumer individualiasm.....
[13:30] herman Bergson: but good arguments for redistributing the wealth of this earth...
[13:30] Friend (friend.oliva): need to have money, to feel free in that market system
[13:30] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Does this challenge democracy?
[13:30] Lizzy Pleides: but this won't work in a democratic system
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: and without money you as human is worthless
[13:31] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): So long as everyone here understands that initially at least they will be significant losers.
[13:31] herman Bergson: It has worked in a democratic system.....
[13:31] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): If we are prescribing something different from what democracy has given us....
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: everything have a price it seems
[13:31] herman Bergson: We have a wellfare state....
[13:31] Debbie Dee (framdor): I am not sure that we have a democracy these days. no one seems to vote any more .
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: but can you set a price on a life?
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: no
[13:31] herman Bergson: But for some reason there is a political movent putting much energy in breakin git down
[13:32] herman Bergson: and drive us in the direction of Randian Individualism
[13:32] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): As far as democracy goes I ask 'Would turkeys vote for Christmas'
[13:32] Lizzy Pleides: the politiciand only get votes when they promise welfare and growth and richness for everybody
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Lizzy.....
[13:32] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I think that agrees with what Im saying (?)
[13:33] herman Bergson: And the result is that all democratic countries face enormous national debts....
[13:33] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): Herman would you not agree that in redistribution of wealth the West will be significant losers. they will be Merlin's Turkeys
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: the prob in sweden is that the politicans promise so much and after the election
[13:33] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): *smiles
[13:33] Lente (lentelies.anatine) is offline.
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: its clear it was just lies
[13:33] herman Bergson: I don't think so Annie....
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: ment nothing
[13:33] Ageliki Mekanic is offline.
[13:34] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): So you have to raise the standard of living in South America, Africa and the far East without in anyway affecting the West?
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: and the party wwe have now do all fpor the rich
[13:34] herman Bergson: It seems that every government is the past decades ahs thought...ok we spend some extra money..the next elected governemtn will clear it up
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: and hide it under a lot of bullshit talk
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes Annnie and that is very well possible....
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: as long you have a job its ok but if you loose it god heltp you
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: they only think from one election to the next
[13:35] herman Bergson: Those continents have enormous resources
[13:35] herman Bergson: which are not yet used
[13:35] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): True
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: thats how it is here nowadays since they came to the power
[13:35] herman Bergson: Agricuture in Aftrica is at a low level...
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: the Moderates they are called
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: a blue party
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: = capitalist
[13:36] Debbie Dee (framdor): There is not much water in africa...
[13:36] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): True again but we like that
[13:36] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): We like Africa to be aplace we can visit to look at wildlife
[13:36] herman Bergson: Well...let's not get stuck in discussing details...
[13:36] Debbie Dee (framdor): Yes ;)
[13:36] Lizzy Pleides: but they have mineral resources
[13:36] herman Bergson: but this world still has lots of possibilities
[13:37] Debbie Dee (framdor): we do. and they get ripped out of the earth and sent overseas, with the profits, by the gloabal corps.
[13:37] herman Bergson: But not when all is in the hands of a small rich upperclass....without any democratic control on their actions
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:37] Debbie Dee (framdor): Ant the africans stay poor while the wealthy get new stuff
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:37] Lizzy Pleides: it seemes we have reached that point already herman
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: thats so tragic i cant believe it
[13:38] herman Bergson: What point Lizzy?
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: the inhabitants of africa get nothing or even get murdered by the companies
[13:38] Lizzy Pleides: a small rich upperclass owns everthing
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: then they take all
[13:38] Amera Hansome (amera.pomilio) is online.
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: modern times slavery
[13:38] herman Bergson: Yes Lizzy....but that doesnt mean it can not be changed....
[13:39] herman Bergson: It also involves a philosophy on private property....
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: do you think its possible to step back to social economy?
[13:39] Debbie Dee (framdor): It is vital to find a way
[13:39] herman Bergson: A discussion on the sense of making someone earn 21 million a year
[13:40] herman Bergson: Well...I believe so yes......
[13:40] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): it's not a step back's a step forward to social economie
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes what do you do with that much money? dont get it
[13:40] herman Bergson: The financial crisis brought is at the edge of an abbys...
[13:40] herman Bergson: Governments saved the banking system because they feared a meltdown...
[13:41] herman Bergson: So it is business as usual it seems in that financial world...
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: money itself have no value its what you can buy for it that have an actual value i use tosay
[13:41] Lizzy Pleides: for us its a step forward but not for the rich people
[13:41] Debbie Dee (framdor): The economy is still screwed....
[13:41] herman Bergson: yes...and WE ar ehere discussing these issues....
[13:41] Debbie Dee (framdor): watch as the energy prices keep pushing it
[13:41] herman Bergson: Dont think we are the only people in this world who discuss these issues...
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie..
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: no must be lots that do
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: for sure
[13:42] herman Bergson: We have oilcompany SHell here....
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: this system of today is so unfair
[13:42] herman Bergson: the gazoline prizes are sky high at the moment....
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: perhaps we have a revolution again in some years?
[13:43] herman Bergson: and crisis or no crisis...SHELL achieves profits in billions year after year..!
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: soon we cant afford to go anywhere and the oil companies have bought up and shut down all development of alternatives like battery developmnet and hydrogen
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: i heard about before
[13:43] herman Bergson: How is that possible.....
[13:43] Debbie Dee (framdor): You will. We had one here in 1994 with Mandella.
[13:43] Debbie Dee (framdor): Revolutions can help
[13:43] herman Bergson: yes....
[13:44] herman Bergson: Maybe a revolution agains these market manipulating big companies
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: we need to find a good alternative energy source but how dows it come that battery tech havent developed hardly at all since the first electric car
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: and thats before the combustion engine was even invented
[13:44] Debbie Dee (framdor): The problem is the amount of enrgy we use is too much for a battery
[13:44] herman Bergson: Just remember my previous lecture....
[13:45] herman Bergson: We live in an economy focused ..obsessed by growth...
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: a little start is the ”occupy wallstreet" movement, isn't it?
[13:45] herman Bergson: But for centuries we lived in a subsistence economy
[13:45] herman Bergson: that means....
[13:45] Debbie Dee (framdor): You can draw 3 kw from a electric plug - that needs about 30 sqm of solar panel
[13:45] herman Bergson: we only produced what we needed
[13:45] Debbie Dee (framdor): a big bmw produces 380 kw
[13:46] Debbie Dee (framdor): 100 plugs
[13:46] Debbie Dee (framdor): batteries arent gonna happen
[13:46] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): On square metre lets in 1kw of energy from the sun
[13:46] herman Bergson: You can convert the whole Sahara dessert on on big solar energy p[lant :-))
[13:46] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): *One
[13:46] Debbie Dee (framdor): yep and cells are about 10% efficient
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: but then u have to transport the energy all mover the world
[13:47] Debbie Dee (framdor): so even at 1kw/sqm thats 380 sq m for your car
[13:47] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): That is direct heat but of course I agree the conversion to electricity is much much less
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: you d need to use billions of volts to minimize losses = impossible
[13:47] herman Bergson: yes like we transport all data from here all over the world....
[13:47] herman Bergson: Debbie in South Africa can read this...
[13:47] herman Bergson: and you in Sweden Bejiita
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: data is one thing power is trickier
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:47] Debbie Dee (framdor): absolutely
[13:47] Debbie Dee (framdor): data is easy - low power
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:48] herman Bergson: We transport gas and oil through evry long pipelines across continents...
[13:48] herman Bergson: There still is so much possible...
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: and you can do it with laser and repeathers along the way
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: yues but need huge pumps consuming 100s MW of power
[13:48] herman Bergson: Bu twhat it all boils dow to is politics and ethics,,,
[13:49] Debbie Dee (framdor): I hope that the data revolution is enabling people like us to think better and more globally
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: to pump the oil
[13:49] herman Bergson: and that is the discussion we have to have...
[13:49] herman Bergson: Well a way we do..dont we...
[13:49] Frankie Lonergan is online.
[13:49] herman Bergson: We are from all over this globe...
[13:49] herman Bergson: Look at the map on the wall...
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:49] Debbie Dee (framdor): Yes. Thats why I come to school, Prof :)
[13:49] herman Bergson: every red dot is a reader of our blog!
[13:50] herman Bergson: and that is a good feeling....
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: ?
[13:50] herman Bergson: we may be a tiny drop in the ocean.....
[13:50] Debbie Dee (framdor): I see me on your map ;)
[13:50] Friend (friend.oliva): :9
[13:50] herman Bergson: smiles....
[13:50] herman Bergson: yes!
[13:50] herman Bergson: But I believe that all these tiny drops one day will become an ocean themselves...
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: ?
[13:51] herman Bergson: so...let's get ready for the next lecture ^_^
[13:51] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your inspiring participation
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: nice as usual
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: ?
[13:51] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ?
[13:52] Friend (friend.oliva): Thank you :)
[13:52] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Thank you Herman
[13:52] Debbie Dee (framdor): Thanks Herman, and Co-students ;)
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: nice
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: oki time for me to head back to my swedish friends party
[13:52] herman Bergson: And? some more hope now?
[13:52] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): hmm....not yet
[13:52] herman Bergson: smiles...
[13:54] Annie Brightstar (anniebrightstar): Thanks Herman, its very interesting
[13:55] herman Bergson: thank you Annie
[13:55] Debbie Dee (framdor): Thanks again Herman - I do enjoy these lectures.
[13:55] herman Bergson: You are welcome Debbie

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