The overseas superstar status of Michael Sandel and what economics can learn from it
Considering "The Failure of Rational Choice Philosophy" (The New York Times' The Stone)

A Bright Side of American Capitalism

Jonathan B. Wight

I wrote a few weeks ago about social marketing and networking. On one level social marketing is shamelessly shallow, leaving many people cringing at the chutzpah of near strangers. Why are you "friending" me on Facebook? Are you networking to get a job or because we actually share genuine moral sentiments?

After two weeks meeting with folks in the Bay Area—the Left Coast—I am more convinced than ever that young Americans, who in many ways drive American culture and hence business marketing, are rejecting shallowness in favor of genuine connectivity and community. Of course, there are lots of exceptions. But the social gestalt does seem to be shifting, so that the standard neoclassical view of "enlightened self interest" is giving way to "authentic selfhood." That is, people are striving to understand how to be true to ideals and virtues.

One manifestation of this might be reflected in the termination of Glenn Beck's show on Fox (ending June 30). Van Jones, who earlier left the Obama White House under the withering criticism of Beck, had this to say:

Good American businesses make a decision about who they want to associate their brands with," he said. "And if you violate the principles of good discourse and fair play in America, good American businesses will not stay with you and you won't stay in the public square very long.

"So it's not just a triumph of American capitalism," Jones said. "It's a triumph of American values."

Another way to say this is: markets are essential for the expression of human interests and to promote change. However, markets are no guarantee that you'll have the right consumer values that will promote human rights or anything else. Hence, markets—by themselves—need complementary institutions in order to create the incentives and values that lead to a desirable society.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)