Monday, June 1, 2009

Civility or Consumerism?

After returning from my first official day at the NSF (which mainly consisted of orientation and staff introductions), I attended a phenomenal lecture by Dr. Michael Sandel, Professor of Government at Harvard and a liberal political philosopher. Here's his main point: the markets have outstretched far beyond their moral limits. Allowing technocratic cost-benefit analyses to dictate policy judgement is objectionable, especially on issues that are truly moral or political in nature. Really, how can you create an accurate pricing model for air, water, or human life, and is that really even appropriate? Prof. Sandel points out that we live in a market society AND market culture, where civility and morality have taken the back seat and we feel comfortable determining pollution levels and cigarette taxation based on the hypothetical dollar value of a human life. We're at the point now where government has no choice but to step in and regulate where and how far markets can dictate their influence. Conclusion: Stop running a cost-benefit analysis where democracy should govern. Start choosing civil duty over consumerism.

(Just as an aside, I chatted with Thomas Friedman from the New York Times after the lecture. It was awesome!!!!)

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