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Forum Post: This Column Is Not Sponsored by Anyone, Thomas Friedman, NYTimes

Posted 1 year ago on May 13, 2012, 2:53 p.m. EST by monetarist (40)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

here is the original : http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/opinion/sunday/friedman-this-column-is-not-sponsored-by-anyone.html?_r=2

This Column Is Not Sponsored by Anyone

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN PORING through Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel’s new book, “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets,” I found myself over and over again turning pages and saying, “I had no idea.”

I had no idea that in the year 2000, as Sandel notes, “a Russian rocket emblazoned with a giant Pizza Hut logo carried advertising into outer space,” or that in 2001, the British novelist Fay Weldon wrote a book commissioned by the jewelry company Bulgari and that, in exchange for payment, “the author agreed to mention Bulgari jewelry in the novel at least a dozen times.” I knew that stadiums are now named for corporations, but had no idea that now “even sliding into home is a corporate-sponsored event,” writes Sandel. “New York Life Insurance Company has a deal with 10 Major League Baseball teams that triggers a promotional plug every time a player slides safely into base. When the umpire calls the runner safe at home plate, a corporate logo appears on the television screen, and the play-by-play announcer must say, ‘Safe at home. Safe and secure. New York Life.’ ”

And while I knew that retired baseball players sell their autographs for $15 a pop, I had no idea that Pete Rose, who was banished from baseball for life for betting, has a Web site that, Sandel writes, “sells memorabilia related to his banishment. For $299, plus shipping and handling, you can buy a baseball autographed by Rose and inscribed with an apology: ‘I’m sorry I bet on baseball.’ For $500, Rose will send you an autographed copy of the document banishing him from the game.”

I had no idea that in 2001 an elementary school in New Jersey became America’s first public school “to sell naming rights to a corporate sponsor,” Sandel writes. “In exchange for a $100,000 donation from a local supermarket, it renamed its gym ‘ShopRite of Brooklawn Center.’ ... A high school in Newburyport, Mass., offered naming rights to the principal’s office for $10,000. ... By 2011, seven states had approved advertising on the sides of school buses.”

Seen in isolation, these commercial encroachments seem innocuous enough. But Sandel sees them 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.”

Why worry about this trend? Because, Sandel argues, market values are crowding out civic practices. When public schools are plastered with commercial advertising, they teach students to be consumers rather than citizens. When we outsource war to private military contractors, and when we have separate, shorter lines for airport security for those who can afford them, the result is that the affluent and those of modest means live increasingly separate lives, and the class-mixing institutions and public spaces that forge a sense of common experience and shared citizenship get eroded.

This reach of markets into every aspect of life was partly a result of the end of the cold war, he argues, when America’s victory was interpreted as a victory for unfettered markets, thus propelling the notion that markets are the primary instruments for achieving the public good. It was also the result of Americans wanting more public services than they were willing to pay taxes for, thus inviting corporations to fill in the gap with school gyms brought to you by ShopRite.

Sandel is now a renowned professor at Harvard, but we first became friends when we grew up together in Minneapolis in the 1960s. Both our fathers took us to the 1965 World Series, when the Dodgers beat the Twins in seven games. In 1965, the best tickets in Metropolitan Stadium cost $3; bleachers were $1.50. Sandel’s third-deck seat to the World Series cost $8. Today, alas, not only are most stadiums named for companies, but the wealthy now sit in skyboxes — even at college games — that cost tens of thousands of dollars a season, and hoi polloi sit out in the rain.

Throughout our society, we are losing the places and institutions that used to bring people together from different walks of life. Sandel calls this the “skyboxification of American life,” and it is troubling. Unless the rich and poor encounter one another in everyday life, it is hard to think of ourselves as engaged in a common project. At a time when to fix our society we need to do big, hard things together, the marketization of public life becomes one more thing pulling us apart. “The great missing debate in contemporary politics,” Sandel writes, “is about the role and reach of markets.” We should be asking where markets serve the public good, and where they don’t belong, he argues. And we should be asking how to rebuild class-mixing institutions.

“Democracy does not require perfect equality,” he concludes, “but it does require that citizens share in a common life. ... For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.”

14 Comments

14 Comments


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[-] 2 points by monetarist (40) 1 year ago

I recently had to do some travelling. In one of the flights, I had a lot of time for thinking (laptop battery gave away, nothing interesting on the iPad and finished reading the book I was carrying. So decided to shut it all off).

I was pondering about some of the discussions I had over here. Usually I dismiss whatever you guys say because I consider you just a bunch of whiners. But this time I had a lot more free time to think over everything I read here.

May be you guys are right. Private organizations do have a responsibility towards the society. They do need to be good citizens because they get every benefit and more that every natural citizen gets. May be the business of a business is not just to do business but to improve the society.

I also think it is pointless to hoard wealthy beyond a point. I mean, sure a million or even a hundred million is not a huge sum of money but what about a billion, or tens of billions? Why would anyone need that kind of money? What would they want to buy that they need that kind of money? A few hundred million is enough to sustain generations provided you invest it well. Can these obsecenly rich people ever spend their entire wealth? Does wealth serve any purpose other than a means to keep score, a number, beyond a certain point?

Yes, you could use my own previous arguments and say that I am saying all this because I am jealous of the billionaires simply because I am not one (yet ;-) ). Probably.

So may be a high top tax rate is the need of the hour. But will it lead to flight of capital. Will future wannabe billionaires shun America (just like Eudaro Saverin recently gave up his American citizen because of an impending Facebook IPO). I don't know the answer to this.

Can corporations screw up the environment hoping that the rules of economics would come for the rescue of the environment? Why is it these corporation and their employees have such a myopic view of life? Don't they realize what world they will be leaving behind for their children and grand children if they continue destroying the environment?

During undergrad I had written an article for the college magazine about the threats of closed propreitary software. I was then a ardent supoorter of free software, particularly Linux. I had forgotten it all until SOPA came along. That was exactly the kind of threat I had written in my article. I thought I was too paranoid, conjuring up doomsday scenarios. Apparently, I wasn't paranoid enough.

Then text books. I love reading and I have had a lot of physics and math texbooks and novels passed down to me by my dad, my uncles and aunts. I have shared books with friends. But now with Apple's foray into textbooks all that is going to change. You cannot pass down your textbooks, you cannot share them. Sure the textbooks are cheaper but I wouldn't mind paying extra for the ability to share. I don't like this and it makes me worried.

So while by and large I do not agree with OWS, I do think some good might come out of it. I dont want a socialist America but then neither do I want a Individualistic American either.

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (20500) 1 year ago

Nice post, monetarist. People over profits. Not such a bad idea.

[-] 1 points by monetarist (40) 1 year ago

People over profits, yes. Most of the time. Not always though and not at the cost of bankruptcy. Moderation is the key.

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (20500) 1 year ago

You're coming around....

[-] 1 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

This is a great argument against the unrelenting push to privatize all public institutes and how it erodes empathy and trust. Why the hell do we need or want privately owned prisons? But wait...monetarist posted this...did a light bulb go off in your head?

[-] 2 points by monetarist (40) 1 year ago

I am as much against corporatization of everything as you are, I don't like the fact that we are increasing becoming, what this article calls, a 'free market society'. I don't have kids yet but when I do, I would not want them to go to a school where Coke or Pepsi is advertized in their cateferia so as to drive the consumption of these unhealthy soft drinks. While I do not mind sitting in a skybox, I do agree that all economic classes need to intermingle. I find myself in a strange situation where now I move around among the (considerably) wealthy but their behavior (pretentiousness) and life style conflicts with my middle class upbringing.

Where I don't agree with you guys is that you blame your failures all on someone else; that you think it would be fair to take away the money from the rich because you think they didn't earn it. I also cannot just sit quite when you guys get your economics completely wrong and I will call your bluff.

I may be 'monetarist' but I don't think that everything should have a price or everything should be bought and sold.

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Well, at least your halfway right.

[-] 1 points by gnomunny (5688) from St Louis, MO 1 year ago

That book looks like an excellent read, monetarist, but I don't understand the purpose of this post. I mean, aren't these examples the kind of things that make you drool, or has my impression of you been wrong?

Depending on your locale and how many miles you drive around town, local businesses will pay you to slap a magnetized advertisement on the side of your favorite ride, effectively turning your vehicle into a rolling billboard. Everything is, apparently, up for sale.

[-] 3 points by monetarist (40) 1 year ago

I don't think he is wrong at all. I am against such a 'free market society'. And I love my car and bikes and would never let any friggin company put a ad on it, no matter what they offer.

[-] 1 points by gnomunny (5688) from St Louis, MO 1 year ago

Thanks for the reply. I didn't expect one since I haven't been too kind to you, but I do like that you're against such things. I agree, it's gotten way out of hand. I'm still trying to figure you out though. You came here originally as a detractor, and yet, you're becoming somewhat of a regular. At any rate, you're knowledge of business and economics is an asset here, regardless of your feeling for the movement.

[-] 1 points by monetarist (40) 1 year ago

yeah i hav become a regular. at this rate you never know i might end up attending one of your protests someday. Though i am apprehensive that my views might get me physically assaulted ;-)

[-] 2 points by gnomunny (5688) from St Louis, MO 1 year ago

You'd probably be pretty safe on the East Coast. Might want to steer clear of that Oakland crowd, though. Heh heh.

[-] 1 points by monetarist (40) 1 year ago

if i did i would go to the ones around wall st. but thanks for the headsup

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Stay away from the police.