Saturday, May 19, 2007

Choice and the market

“It’s true that the market can be formidably, ruthlessly efficient and do many things well. But it should not be allowed to make social and environmental choices in our stead. Through democratic debate, society has to set limits on the market, determine what goods and services should or should not be bought and sold in the marketplace and decide who pays the costs now externalised. These are political questions in the deepest sense because they touch upon the power to dictate the circumstances of everyone’s life.” (Susan George Another World is Possible If … page 36 )

There are similar problems with this reference to “society” to those pointed out in my previous post. On the positive side though is the emphasis given to the need for responsibility in our choices against the fatalism of “the market”. The very character of making choices requires us to move along a normative path and that in turn presses the question as to who has the responsibility to lead the way. In a complex and highly differentiated world we need to recognise different kinds of actors, James Skillen has helpfully set the tone on this point. It is a shame that Susan George misconstrues this question fundamentally and appears to take us down a pragmatic tunnel as she continues:

The real debate of our time, which almost never takes place, should concern these limits and, above all, who has the power to make the rules (my emphasis p.36)

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