Saturday, May 5, 2012

What money can't buy and the increasingly uncommon good

Dr. Michael Sandel
We are becoming an increasingly stratified, market driven society, where the wealthy are able to buy considerable privilege.  It is also becoming more economically segregated, as those with financial means sit in luxury boxes at sporting events, receive special airline privileges that bring them to the front of the line and may even may purchase the services of someone in India to become a surrogate mother for their child.  Dr. Michael Sandel, a professor from Harvard University shared these concerns at a public presentation at Wayzata Community Church on May 3rd.

He noted that we've gone from a market economy to becoming a market society, where everything is up for sale.  One of the consequences of this is that market values and norms will crowd out non market values and norms.  For example, schools are becoming institutions exclusively focused on creating workers for business, rather than places that instill an intrinsic love for learning, and appreciation of the arts.

Another consequence of this market driven society is the growing separation of those with economic means from those without.  Our city schools and neighborhoods have become a striking example of this, where two thirds of the students qualify for free or reduced rate meals.** Once their was a great mixture of people from all different professional and economic strata that grew up together.  Now it is becoming increasingly rare for Americans to have significant interface with those from a different walk of life.  When we don't personally know any poor or disenfranchised folk, we are less apt to be concerned about the common good.

Do you want to live in a society where everything is up for sale, and concern for the common good becomes uncommon? If not, what are you willing to do about it?

You can hear an interview with Dr. Sandel on MPR.  He also has written a book on this subject, "What Money Can't Buy".

**  Racial data for Minneapolis Public Schools (clink on link for data)
      Free lunch/economic data for Minneapolis Public Schools (clink on link for data)

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