Deepa spoke to us about ideas raised in the book Is There Anything Money Cant Buy? We have drifted from having a market economy to BEING a market economy. We did it without thinking… without a debate about the moral decisions. The inherent problem is that markets have no morality… Markets only determine the price of something. Markets cannot determine the value of something. Deciding the value is a moral decision, the price is an economic decision.
Here are a few things that can be purchased now… an upgrade to your prison cell, access to car-pool-only lanes, access to doctors, rights to emit carbon, the right to shoot and kill a member of an endangered species. There are also markets for babies now, but mostly that is under the table.
Deepa explored two themes: the pricing of queue jumping, and the pricing of incentives.
Queue Jumping: In the past, everyone waited their turn in a line. Queue jumping was reserved for royalty and the snobitarians. But in a world where everything is a market, you can hire someone to wait in line for you. Economists say that queues are inefficient because it assumes that the time of all the people in the line is worth the same. That now seems like a quaint notion. Going to the head of the line is now just a matter of money.
Incentives: We now pay people to do things that we want them to do. It assumes that everything has a price. The tricky part comes when the purchase of something changes the thing that is purchased. It is a paradox that if you pay your friends to be your friend, then the very payment you make changes the relationship. The relationship is now no longer a friendship, but one of master and servant. Payments to a politician for a vote inherently change the payment into a bribe. It has been found that unpaid people will do altruistic things like make sacrifices for the good of the community. But once you start paying them for that sacrifice, they stop doing the behavior until they are paid.
The Libertarian call to action is that Everything is for sale. The Utilitarian action is that buyers and sellers both gain in value in a market. Then the politicians make the right to polute a market, and the people who have to drink the water and breath the air have to give up their claim to clean water and clean air because the government has arranged the transaction so that it mutually benefits the corporation and the government office holder.
Stan announced that the asbestos test came back showing no asbestos contamination at all. We had a great pot-luck at the national camp-out held here last Saturday by our version of the wildlife participants: Matt, Emily and the boys. If you have an idea for a program in August, see Gordon. Do it now because I’m thinking about setting up a market to sell those coveted August slots.