With markets crashing and virus fears escalating, I’m getting lots of questions on my take on the world. So I thought I’d share a short piece I wrote for Macro Hive:
“Public opinion is sacred: no panic, above all no panic”
“There have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared”
Those are words from Albert Camus’ classic 1947 novel, The Plague. Frankly, it should be the book of our times. It’s a reminder that something as primitive and ancient as viruses and bacteria can up-end any civilization, no matter how sophisticated. In current times, our dream was an age of exponential technological development, spouted especially by the Silicon-Valley utopianists. But we got the nightmare of an exponentially growing coronavirus instead.
With the dominance of market thinking, it is hard to argue against the exchange of some good or service between two consenting adults of money. However, Michael Sandel, Harvard Professor of Government, argues in “What Money Can’t Buy” that there are limits.
To give a sense of how pervasive markets are, he outlines the types of things that can now be bought and sold:
A prison cell upgrade ($82 a night)
The services of an Indian surrogate mother to carry a pregnancy ($6,250).
The right to immigrate the US ($500,000)
The right to shoot endangered rhinos ($150,000)
Stand in line overnight in Capitol Hill to hold a place for a lobbyist to attend congressional hearing ($15-$20 per hour)
Buy the life insurance policy for an elderly person, pay the premiums and then receive the death benefit when they die.