POB Home About POB POB Participation Guidelines POB Archives
MICHAEL SANDEL-What Should Be the Role of Money and Markets in Society
Entry ID: 9b6a-1
Comment Author
Line Count
Propositional Commentary
Observations and Inquiries
Perspective Context (If definable)
Supporting References and Sources

what s/b the role of money and markets in our society
-you can buy a prison upgrade
-you can contribute to a c - cash for sterilization
-marketing drugs directly to consumers


we've drifted, almost without noticing, from having a market economy to becoming a market society
a market economy is a tool for organizing productive activity
a market society is a place where everything is up for sale, a way of life where markets and market values reach in to every aspect of life
-somethings money can't buy even if it tries - friendships
might occur to buy some but would realize it wouldn't work
-a bought friend wouldn't be the same as a real one, somehow the moneys that would buy the friend would dissolve the good you're aiming at.
so, there are lots of things that money can buy that arguably it shouldn't
example of wedding toast = the purchase/marketising of it diminishes its value. changes its meaning, erodes it's value
happens in other areas of life without as much notice
book is not a thoroughgoing commodity- it is defined by other norms and values than market exchange
example of writing novel with paid product placement - Bulgari Connection
some scoffed at the clunky product-laden prose

/001047/ paid product placement in a book is something money can by, but it seems to erode, or dimenish. or corrupt the meaning of the good, the value of the book.      
  /001106/ with the advent of electronic publishing-digital readers, reading will be brought closer to the procsemity of commercial advertising -
last year Amazon offered two versions of it's Kindle reader-one, the standard version and another which is $40 less, exactly the same except you have to accept commercial ads running across the screensaver. Who would go for the deal? Some people would. The younger one's among us I notice.
  /001155/ now these are not standard material goods, these are goods that have to do with human relationships (the wedding toast), the activity of reading.      
  /001210/ they raise a question - What about those things that money seems to be able to buy, but that seem, the goods seem to be corrupted or dimenished by the buying and selling.      
  /001222/ Take an example from education, to move to a more consequential area-
There are many school districts that are struggling with the problem of how to motivate young people, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, to learn to study-to read. And, with the help of some economists, many school districts are trying cash incentives to students for getting good grades, or high scores on standardized tests, or reading books. They've tried this in [many areas]. In Dallas, they pay Third Graders Two dollars for each book they read.
    [After an audience discussion about the idea of cash incentives for grades, test scores, and reading books-the majority of the audience thought the idea was worth trying.
opposing viewpoint - money is better spent on getting them intrinsically motivated by having good books, good teachers, and good experiences that would inspire the actual experience of reading. the money is external to the experience and diminishes intrinsic value of reading.
favorable viewpoint from someone who was paid by his parents to read = to him, reading is a habit and [in] engendering that habit, if you get the boulder started downhill they can learn what's good about it, because it does take a lot of patience to read those first books. I think once you start and you learn how to enjoy it, maybe it starts as extrinsic motivation, but maybe it migrates to intrinsic motivation. He was 8 years old when his parents began paying him for this.
[in summary, he believes in motivating children to read in this way] it catches on-the habit takes. He believes most people learn to love reading, by actually reading.
    /001835/the person opposing the practice believes that any motivational structure would work for families already having the parental structure in place is a more motivating factor. [Parental atmosphere of encouraging learning is advantageous]
gives experience of living the real world
immediately benefit
    /002100/opposed- is education for earning a living - and relationships we intend-value s/b love of learning-versus means to make a living      
    /002316/results of pay experiments were mixed
in NY the money did not lead to improved grades or test scores, in Dallas the money to third graders did lead them to read more books- it also led them to read shorter books
    /002340/larger question-one perspective is to ask "does the policy work"
what counts as the policy working depends on the purpose of the experience is-there are different answers to this.
-get children to do better in school and to read more books
-to teach about the practice of working and being compensated well because this will serve them well in life
-not wholy or mainly instrumental but to inculcate the love of reading -those here worry using extrincic cash incentives rather than incentives more integral to the experience of reading like giving them books or field trips will crowd out the intrincic love of learning
    /002510/we haven't resolved this but we have learned important and striking features about the use of markets and market mechanisms
-one question is do the work and are they efficient, but to answer that question we are thrust into a debate about the purpose of the practice - competing accounts of that purpose - and the possibility that the monetary incentive can dissolve, corrupt, or crowd out certain attitudes and norms that we care about.
    /002620/in similar situations we observe two scenarios of how children may turn out resulting from these monetary incentive practices:
-they'll get in the habit of doing what they're receiving pay for, the habit will take-even when the money stops, and when more mature they will exercise the practice for the generally desired reasons
-or that the lesson they will learn is that the exercise is a chore to be done for money - in which case, when the money stops so will the exercise, the moral education will have been corrupted, and they may find it difficult to learn the values associated with the exercise
it's hard to know which way it will turn out, just as it's hard to know until we try and interpret the results to motivate children to read and learn by paying them
    but if markets do crowd out norms and values we want to preserve, then we need to debate as society where we decide markets belong, what values and attitudes we care about (with regard to the social practice in question
it's not enough to leave it to the economists who will tell us what is the efficient outcome. in a value neutral way. we have to enter into deliberation about the meaning of the goods. and how they will be affected and possibly changed by marketizing te goods or providing cash incentives
    /002820/town in switzerland asked to house a nuclear waste site
-51% would agree to when initially asked
then when asked if the government would pay each resident for this- the percent went to 25%
from the standpoint of standard economic reasoning, this is a paradox, because normally payment produces a greater willingness to do something
    /003028/in those who changed their minds stated because they didn't want to be bribed
most of the 51% decided their way out of a sense of civic responsibility-a concern for the common good-they didn't want it, but out of patriotism they were willing. the money made it a financial transaction to them and what they were willing to do out of patriotism or virtue they weren't willing to do for money -the monetary incentive crowded out the sense of civic duty
    /003238/in Israel there was an issue at a day care center of parents arriving late to collect their children. with the help of some economists, a fine was instituted for late arriving parents
the result was more late arriving parents after the fine was instituted, in a similar economic paradox, the late arriving parents felt guilty before the fine, they were imposing an inconvenience on the teacher who had to stay late until they arrived - but they perceived the fine as a fee for essentially a baby sitting service, and since they believed they were paying for a service, the sense of guilt. the sense of responsibility for showing up on time disappeared
here again, the monetary disincentive crowded out the non monetary value
    /003410/what these example bring out is a feature of market arguments -sometimes market incentives, market mechanisms, cash incentives, drive out, crowd out, cheapen, or corrupt, or erode values and attitudes and norms worth caring about..      
    /003434/if this is true, the only way we can decide where markets serve the public good and where they don't belong, is to engage in not just an economic analysis, or an emperical analysis about effects, but in moral deliberation about what attitudes and values and norms we care about and want to preserve in whatever sphere of life may be involved and then to decide, because not everyone agrees on the meaning of goods, not everyone agrees on the purpose of the exercises we engage in, this is a debate about the moral meaning of goods and how they may be changed or tainted by market valuation and exchange. this is a debate we haven't had in recent decades      
    /003555/ we've slid into a sort of market faith that assumes markets are the primary instrument for achieving the public good. and there's been a certain convenience in that slide into the market faith because it has saved us from the need to grapple publicaly, with contesting and competing answers to the question "what's the right way of valuing these goods."      
    /003640/when we don't have these debates, and decide democratically and deliberately where markets belong and where they don't, markets decide those questions for us.      
    /003654/in Iraq and Afghanistan there were more paid miiitary contractors on the ground than there were military troops. now we never had a public debate about whether we wanted to outsource war to private companies and yet it happened. it happened over the same period of time that markets were extending their reach into these other domains.      
    /003723/so a public debate about these questions is unavoidable if we want to decide them deliberately rather than by default. it's also difficult, but it's necessary. And one of the reasons it's necessary is that the market triumphalist faith, the tendency of money to buy more and more things in our society, has exerted, it seems to me, a toll- a corrosive toll on one kind of good central to our public life. And that has to do with certain civic goods. In particular, the sense that we are all in this together.      
    /003810/Because; as money comes to buy more and more, and inequality widens, those who are affluent and those who are of modest means increasingly live separate lives.      
    /003833/Boxed Seats example
Difference between cheapest and most expensive seats [at one time] was $250 for the Boxed Seats and $1 for the Bleachers. One effect of this was that when you went to a Baseball game, you encountered people from all walks of life. It was a place where CEOs sat side by side with the mailroom clerk...
    /003940/over the last three decades almost every stadium have created sky boxes where the privileged and the affluent can watch the game high above the crowd below.      
    /004018/this takes a certain toll. Going to a Baseball game is no longer the class-mixing experience it once was...Something similar has been happening throughout our society. The "Skyboxification" of Modern Life.      

/004121/We live and work, and shop, and play in different places. Our children go to different schools. There are fewer and fewer public occasions where people from different walks of life encounter one another.

  /004144/ [This] matters for two reasons. First, it's not good for Democracy. Second, it's not a good way to live, even for those in the Skyboxes.      
  /004157/ Democracy does not require perfect equality. But what it does require is that men and women from different social backgrounds, different walks of life, encounter one another, bump up against one another in the ordinary course of life. Because this is what enables us to abide our differences, to negotiate them, and this is how we come to care for the common good. This is how we experience a shared public life. It is a common project-enough of a common project that we can at least deliberate together, even if we don't agree, about the meaning and purposes of social goods, and of democratic life.      
  /004255/ And so the question of Markets and where they belong is not only, or even mainly, an economic question, but one of how we really want to live together. Do we want a society where everything is up for sale, or are there certain moral and civic goods that Markets do not honor and money can not buy.      
  /4341/ questions
It seems like one of the only common denominators in our society is the money that we exchange for services...The discourse always comes back to "who pays" and how much [those able and willing to pay are] worth. He references the Supreme Court rulings suggesting that approaches which cut off money go against the constitution. So, is an idealized discussion among each other possible really possible in a society where the dollar is the common denominator is accepted even by the Supreme Court.
-we have to see about that. the point is to challenge this bleak assessment often offered up as one possibility. I don't think that money is the only common denominator in our society, even though I can understand why it sometimes seems that way. Part of what I'm trying to suggest and prompt is looking for other common denominators, or shared purposes and ends for Democratic Society, without expecting that we're going to agree on all of these questions. But there are some ares where even the most ardent defenders of markets would not extend them. Votes, for example. There's the argument of why should the State ban a free market in votes if, through voluntary exchange, both parties would be happier, and yet we do.
One way these dates can proceed is to begin with certain shared principles and see how far they can extend.
  /4809/ Let every question be on the table and explore the full force of the principles that underly those areas in which we agree, and see what they have to say about the areas where we disagree.      
  /4830/ thoughts about some of the more mainstream commodities or institutions of economics and how far Markets should be used there. For example: Charging interest, Markets for money itself, Property, and Taxation.
**The taking of interest is more or less uncontroversial, but certain traditions have had prohibitions against usery that persist to this day, and this should be looked at.
On property, economists as a value neutral science cannot, by itself, provide a theory of property or what counts as property. This is a pre-economic question-it's a moral and political one.
  /5124/ many believe there should be a free market on the sale of kidneys and other organs. It would increase the supply. Fewer people would die waiting for these organs, some argue. Others say it's a good thing that in the US the law prohibits the sale of organs
One of the major questions/moral issues underlying that debate, is "Are our organs our property exactly?". Take votes for example. We don't really regard them as personal property. It's not so clear that we want or should conceive of our organs as pieces of property. The Declaration of Independence speaks of Certain Unalienable Rights" and to speak of an Unalienable Right, in a way, is to attribute to a person a claim that even that person is not free to sell it or trade it away. And so, the whole ideal of Unalienable Rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence essentially says that our life and our liberty are not our property in a sense that we should think of ourselves as free to buy or sell it away. We can't sell ourselves into slavery, even if we wanted to and someone were willing to buy.
  /5355/ Are there incentive structures to increase the quality of public education. There are parents unwilling to send their child to a lesser quality education just to gain the social good. Where does that debate happen? And are there incentive structures to support it?
**I believe it correct to identify Public Education as one of the most important class mixing institutions we have. Public Schooling was created in the 1830s in large part on the rationale not just that everyone should have free access to schooling, but mainly on the grounds that this was a way of binding a citizenry together, and cultivating a sense of shared responsibility for the common good. That was the rationale for the common school-that it be common, not only that it be free. That it be common in the sense of "shared" That it had a civic purpose. So, the decline of public education in so many communities across this country is a loss, not only for equal educational opportunities, though it is that. But also, it's a loss for civic life. And so, those who opt out because they don't want to subject their children to poor education, maybe in the midst of violence, it's understandable. and yet there is a loss, and it's a loss for all of us-those who opt out and who can afford to, and those left behind. And the fact that there is a loss-a shared loss, civic loss, this skyboxification, even for those watching from the skyboxes, is what gives me hope that there is room, there is space, there is an opening, for a public appeal, a public debate about how to rebuild the civic infrastructure of American Democracy. And what would it look like? Well, it would begin by creating public schools that were good enough so that everyone would want to send their children there. And if that were true of the schools, I think most of the parents who've opted out to affluent suburbs, or to private schools, would welcome that opportunity. And I think the same is true with other public facilities and services. I think that the need to opt out is a symptom of the deterioration of public services. It's self reinforcing, because when too many people opt out to many people lack a stake in the flourishing of those public services and institutions. But I think there would be a great hunger and willingness, if we could do it, to rebuild civic places and public spaces, so that everyone would find it possible. And I think most people would find it desirable to renter the shared public spaces of democratic citizenship. That, anyhow, is what I hope.
A Dragon Vine of S a t u r n   D r a g o n
Material presented here is for informational use only. All rigths are retained by the owners.