I heard an interesting BBC podcast today, featuring Michael Sandel, a political philosopher at Harvard. The good professor has written a book entitled What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. In this he warns that giving free rein to markets, even if they do deliver the material goods, comes at the cost of giving up a part of our soul. "We have", he says, “drifted from having a market economy to being a market society”. Putting this another way - "The most fateful change that unfolded in the last three decades was not an increase in greed. It was the expansion of markets, and of market values, into spheres of life where they don't belong." As Sandel concludes: "The question of markets is really a question about how we want to live together. Do we want a society where everything is up for sale? Or are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy?" The Guardian's review of the book can be found here. By the way, Prof. Sandel is not a socialist.
As if to point up the accuracy of Sandel's thesis, on the day I heard the podcast I read that people who'd been honoured with the opportunity to carry the Olympic flame a couple of hundred metres in the UK were selling on eBay the torches they'd been able to buy cheaply. In one or two cases, at prices in excess of 100,000 pounds. Why, when there are dozens of them up for grabs???
Well, I did predict that Mr Sandwich wouldn't last very long. And, sure enough, there was a closure this week. Except it wasn't Mr Sandwich but the noodle place called Wokon (almost) next door.
Another thing I enjoyed today was a podcast on Spain which included a positive assessment of the Spanish economy. From a British economist. The only real serious problem, he insisted, was the troubled and opaque banking industry, creating the risk the banks would need to be bailed out. However, he saw the ECB as capable of rising to the challenge. There was mention of corruption, nepotism and croneyism as factors which hold back the growth of the economy. But, somehow, I can't see Sr Rajoy appearing on TV to pledge that his government will stimulate meritocratic growth by cracking down on - if not totally eliminating - all three of these. There was also reference to Spain's bloated civil service, with its administrations at central, regional and provincial level, all stuffed with the PP party placemen who replaced the PSOE government's placemen after their election victories late last year. Amusingly, the British historian, Paul Preston, said that 13 of Spain's 17 Regions ('Autonomous Communities') have no historical validity. But, again, I can't see any of them disappearing, however much they've overshot their budgets and run up colossal debts.
Talking of corruption . . . The President of Bancaja resigned suddenly yesterday and was immediately replaced by someone who's been charged with fraud and corruption after running the Banco de Valencia into the ground. Only in Spain?
Just going back to commercial excess - I heard a TV ad last night which seemed determined to convince us that women are strong. As a prelude to telling us that, therefore, they sweat. Just like all those men who used to be strong but have now been quashed by the legions of Amazons that now dominate us.
Finally . . . I'd just like you to know that: We are not old; we are recycled teenagers. Don't know who coined this. But, thanks.