Morton Bast

editorial coordinator, TED


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Are markets equipped to solve our social problems?

At TEDGlobal 2013, Harvard professors Michael Sandel and Michael Porter faced off on a very big question: Should the fate of our social values -- healthcare, family, education and the like -- be left to the power of markets? Is business' potential for success and scalability the answer to a set of big problems that sometimes seem to be getting nowhere, year after year?

Porter believes that, in the long run, social good is the ultimate business interest. Sandel sees the care of our society as too important to be driven by an amoral system. What do you think?

Watch Sandel's and Porter's TED Talks, and then see the debate, hosted by Chris Anderson on the TEDGlobal stage (

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    Oct 13 2013: Not only doesn't the market system solve social problems, it makes a profit off of them. Take crime for example, the more crime there is, the more police officers/security/correctional officers are employed, high priced commodities are sold and manufactured, and hence there is a generation of money and jobs which we today consider "economic growth". War is also a big driver in GDP. Not to mention, the more pollution in tour water supplies, the more profit water bottle manufacturers (more than one corporation/business) receive, and the list goes on.

    So to answer your question, no, the market system does not solve social problems, it thrives off them.
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    Oct 7 2013: it would be extremely helpful if we did not overly discuss a question without understanding the terms, and the workings of social cooperation first. this debate goes on for a hundred and fifty years at least, and the arguments haven't changed. what does that indicate?

    here are some things to consider:

    1. health, education and family is NOT any more important than chocolate icecream. this fact is readily demonstrated by anyone buying chocolate icecream. he could have been buying something healthy, or something that helps his family. he did not. the truth is that we have a lot of things in life, career, family, the moment, principles, religion, dreams. we value these things based on our resources and based on what we have already. if my family is okay, i might turn to my dreams as the next most important factor in my life. only an individual can make that decision. it has nothing to do with markets. it is just our life, as diverse as it is.

    2. markets are "amoral" only in the sense as knives are, or houses. it is amoral as morality does not make sense here, not because markets lack moral. what is a market? a market is a collection of demands and a collection of offers. if i'm a programmer, i can offer you hours of my life, and if you are a baker, i might want a loaf in return. i can be amoral. the baker can be amoral. but how can the act of exchange be amoral? this is meaningless.

    3. what is the alternative to the "markets" (which is as we saw just a synonym for voluntary cooperation)? who else than we, the people can provide healthcare services to each other? unless you want space aliens to do, it must either be voluntary, or it can be involuntary. the latter is slavery or coercion. do you think that having healthcare is so important that we should force people to participate in schemes that someone came up with? it is moral to steal from the rich, and give to the poor? then why it is illegal? this needs clarification.
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      Oct 7 2013: I think your 2nd point lends to Porter's argument, in the sense that he is saying business is a tool and we should wield it to solve our social issues.
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        Oct 7 2013: i would go one step further, and claim that social issues don't exist. but i yet to watch the two talks to find out what do they mean.
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          Oct 7 2013: Social issues certainly do exist. You don't have to watch these talks to know that, it's basic sociology. If you look at C Wright Mills distinction between a trouble and an issue, the idea is that a trouble is a personal problem and an issue is something that you see a more widespread effect that is caused by a larger social structure.
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        Oct 7 2013: the existence of phlogiston, the necessity for a king, or the inferiority of women or the blacks were also basic knowledge, yet they were all false. every notion that attempts to solve a social issue at the expense of the people is misguided, because what appears to be social is nothing but a lose collection of personal problems.

        solving social issues on social level is the best way to make everyone suffer. just look at the public healthcare of any country. look at public schooling. look at the military, and how ineffective they are, despite a mounts of money they burn. retirement programs are broke all around the globe. and if your car is stolen, do you think the police will help you out?
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          Oct 8 2013: First off, I did not call the idea of social issues basic knowledge, but rather basic sociology, a specific area of study. Also, the expense is already being paid by the people when you speak on terms of business interactions, and the suggestion is to guide those towards a more beneficial realm for all.
          A collection of personal problems must be the same trouble caused by the same thing in order to be deemed a social issue. I believe most things require a micro and macro approach, but larger institutions have more scale, as Porter explained, to address pressing matters. There are certainly issues with many social structures, problems with inequality and conflicts. Many of them also work though. For example, if you get in a car accident and need to go to the hospital in the USA, there will be a doctor and nurse to take care of you in a facility. Car accidents are a social issue because we can't just call them a trouble that one person may have. It is something that happens because we drive cars, and it can happen to many people. We have emergency care in hospitals that deal with trauma therefore addressing the social issue of accidents.
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        Oct 8 2013: i don't understand how a car accident a social issue, and buying a loaf of bread isn't. what is the fundamental difference?
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          Oct 8 2013: One is an issue that arises from an action lots of people perform (accidents from driving cars). The other is just an action (buying a loaf of bread).
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        Oct 8 2013: more people perform car accidents than buy a loaf of bread?
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          Oct 9 2013: One Is an action the other is an issue that arises from an action. You are comparing apples and oranges.
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      Oct 8 2013: Thats YOUR parasitic and libertarian morals. False claims. Incompatible and dangerous to any society, as it denies and undermines any social behavior.

      The frequency and intensity of false claims does not change their validity.

      Get off other peoples lunch boxes! Get real, join the group and socialize with the people!

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        Oct 8 2013: if this is true, then your claims can be just as valid. saying them zero times does not change their validity.
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          Oct 8 2013: Noticing the timing since I am using this meme, could help reflect on your own methods.

          But it requires patience, which you don't have anyway.
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    Oct 11 2013: Michael Sandel:

    "If the pharmaceutical companies spent more time on developing cures for tropical diseases like malaria, instead of advertising Viagra..."

    Says it all, really.
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      Oct 11 2013: i regularly donate to geriatric medical research (SENS foundation). do you donate to malaria research? or you want somebody else to fund it?
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        Oct 11 2013: Good for you.

        Would you like a comprehesive list of who I donate to? Probably best not to point accusatory fingers at people on suppositions alone.
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          Oct 11 2013: a comprehensive list would be awesome, maybe inspires readers.

          so in fact we spend more on good causes than viagra, i suppose. anyone can do that.
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        Oct 11 2013: By the way, have you seen Matt Ridley's amendment:

        "When ideas rely on Viagra"...?
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        Oct 12 2013: Do good and talk about it does not apply to all people.

        Personally I don't mention it, as what would be my point in doing so?

        Then there is also the question if a donation is tax-deductive or not. If it is, there was even less reason to talk about in public, as the public wouldn't be impressed by it, as it payed for it.
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          Oct 12 2013: so your argument is that not every single person on the globe gives to charity? why would that be important or interesting?
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        Oct 12 2013: This may well be your understanding of my words, but this is separate from my argument.
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        Oct 12 2013: The meaning of 'it does not apply to all people' is, that 'it does not apply to all people.

        I mean how else would you describe it?
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        Oct 12 2013: Sorry, I don't understand your question. Could you explain the differences you may see?
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        Oct 12 2013: Did I? Where?
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          Oct 12 2013: i really need to cite the conversation that is a few lines above? i asked "you say ..." and you said no. so which one is it?
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        Oct 12 2013: Sorry Krisztián I don't know what page you are looking on, but certainly not this one.

        I said I didn't understand your question and asked you to explain the differences you may see. Is this a 'No' statement to you? To me it isn't, thus I don't get your point.

        I assume your re-phased sentence of 'not synonymous with "not every single person"' was meant to change its meaning, due to double negation, to simply 'every single person'. If this my assumption is correct, you re-phrased:

        not apply to all people


        not apply to every single person

        If something does not apply to 'all people' it includes, that it does not apply to 'every single person'.

        I didn't understand your question, because I wasn't sure if my assumption above was true or not. Therefore I asked you to explain which 'differences you may see'.

        I also didn't understand your question if my assumption is right. You would have just exchanged 4 by 2+2, what would be the point of that related to my initial comment?

        If my assumption is right about your re-phrased question, then one meaning includes the other. Yet still there wasn't any point in it.

        What is the purpose of your question, I still don't see it.
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          Oct 12 2013: okay, lets start from the beginning. my point was that "does not apply to everyone" is not a particularly important claim. it could apply to 99.9%, it could apply to 0.001%. these are very different situations. saying that not everyone is like this is a non-argument. nothing follows from it.
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        Oct 12 2013: Why didn't you just say so?

        My argument is valid. Its intention was not to quantify and there is no valid reason to take it as such.

        The given statement just beneath, that I don't do it myself is prove in itself. You may not belief it, yet again this doesn't change anything.

        It seems you are deeply entangled in some queer and weird logic paradigms which highly disturbs and hinders any normal communication.

        People interact not as computer programs, they are no dictionary's about higher mathematical logic. If you don't get a sense for this, you only repel people instead of having a fruitful discussion or even a meaningful to any degree.

        You may have noticed by now, that language is not based on mathematics. There are other dimensions to it, of which some of them depend on good will. I don't mean misunderstandings or misinterpretations here, just the plain will to extract its message. By experience I found, that some people flee into detail. They get their balances out and measure any word, any grammatical construction to find in the last word of a long sentence, that its meaning was unclear and therefore destroys anything. That is not the idea of language, that could be hiding missing arguments.

        What would have been way more interesting to me, was if your donations are made by your private money or if you did file for tax-deduction. As you run your own company, as you said, this would be even more likely to me unless you would state the opposite.

        Of course there is no obligation whatsoever for you to share this information with us, yet it would have added some substance to the conversation on which other comments could have build on as well.

        Yet instead we are burning letters on definitions, logic and who said what when and why.

        I don't even expect you do agree on anything with me yet it would certainly help not to complicate things on purpose, because I happen not to have studied the 'Pintér's Guide to worlds logic and the rest of the Universe' ... ;o)
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          Oct 12 2013: and my point was that you are using this fact to your advantage. you don't say "there is not enough people that would help the needy". you say "not everyone". the first would inspire the question: how do you know? the latter is somehow gets through. also it is not debatable. if i say, there is no reason to believe it would be too few, you could just say, i did not say it would. this kind of sneaky phrasing upsets me. so i chose to take it literally to show how few it actually means in this form.
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        Oct 12 2013: The point I was trying to make was, that there might be more people helping the needy than we know, because those people who do good and don't talk about it are more difficult to spot.

        Another message I was combining with what Allan Macdougall said is the 'trend' of many companies to 'do good and to talk about it'. This is a phenomenon which started in the last decade, and to me highly suspicious, smelly and even shady.

        I do not expect you to share my views on this, in fact it would surprise me, but this isn't the point.

        What I do know is, that in 2013 the world is still full of needy people. The USA has today more people than ever who apply for food stamps in the history of that nation. At the same time the same country has thousands of rich people and corporations, yet whatever they donated if they did wasn't enough to help substantially. In fact, donations doesn't help, they only prolong the circumstances who created the needy in the first place. This is my view, not yours.

        I am with Allan Macdougall and his initial comment and in this spirit I posted mine.

        I do not believe in the capitalist market economy enough to let it solve our social problems. In fact the capitalist system is the opposite of 'social' behavior to me. Yet we have been there before already ...

        And, you did file for tax-deduction?
  • Oct 10 2013: Of course markets are not equipped to solve social problems. Markets don't care about that aspect of society even if this influences them. Fundamentally business cares only about one thing, make as much money as possible caring not at all for how this is done. The prime example here is the start of the industrial revolution in England in the 1800's, people were totally exploited by the textile mills for example. If it were possible today then large corporations would work people 24 hours a day, pay them nothing in the worst possible conditions to sustain the productivity of the worker. Worst meaning conditions which require the least amount of investment to mainatin. This is the dehumanising aspect of capitalism. Therefore markets do not care about the welfare of the people who participate in it other than the side effects generated which stop these very same workers from creating more products and money for the businesses.
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    Oct 8 2013: Where the buck stops in business is to maximise shareholder value, and, in more recent years, to maximise the pay of senior executives as well (otherwise known as "managerialism").
    Add to this double-act the fact that (in general) those who work in the company don't own it, and those who own it don't work in it, then you have a recipe for businesses having little genuine incentive to act for the common social good.
    At best "social good" will only ever be an after-thought add-on, despite the rhetoric, like businesses do when flashing their ethical-environmental credentials.

    "Can't you have both/and?" you might ask. Answer: I don't think so, unless the basic business model is changed - which means a change in ownership structure.
    The John Lewis Partnership is one such company. Not surprisingly, it has no tradable shares, and those who work in the business have an element of ownership whereby they ALL receive an annual bonus, depending on how well the business has done that year.
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    Oct 8 2013: i finally watched both talks, and i must say, both are unconvincing, lacking in content, and badly structured. i warn everyone against trying to learn anything from any one of these. for a little more insight on social cooperation, i would suggest an older talk (and yes, it is my routine):
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      Oct 8 2013: Geez... They are Harvard Profs, cut them a little slack. I mean if a Jewish Rabbi could forgive his crucifiers some 2000 years ago, you can forgive these academics.
      But you are correct. It ain't easy.
      I have problems with having economic entities being involved in social issues. I mean do people faced with all the problems of today and are really concerned with the baker down the street selling bread?
      Now, that is not to say that there are not unscrupulous people creating "enterprises" to exploit social problems.
      And a pox on all their houses.
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      Lejan .

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      Oct 8 2013: Lets check your routine, if what is to learn from that was any better.

      And of course it isn't!

      Background check:

      According to wikipedia, the speaker Matt Ridley ' ... was chairman of Northern Rock from 2004 to 2007, which in September 2007 became the first British bank since 1878 to suffer a run on its finances at the start of the credit crunch... The failure of the bank eventually led to the nationalisation of Northern Rock.
      Matt Ridley resigned as chairman in October 2007, having been blamed by members of parliament for not recognising the risks of the bank's financial strategy and thereby harming the reputation of the British banking industry.'

      Regarding trade, markets and job division, Matt Ridley is definitely worth listen to ... :o)

      Yet what struck me most, is the fact, that all this wonderful achievements we made is due to the power of trade, markets and ideas which have sex alone. That much sex, that small little details such as the 'Energy Slave Equivalent' is not worth to mention over the course of the whole talk.

      The fact, that our whole world economy runs on the limited resource oil, worth in between 120 to 600 billion 'energy slaves', depending how you run the numbers, did not get mentioned in a single word.

      Remember, the current world population as of today is estimated to number 7.116 billion, which is 16 times less as the smallest estimate of the invisible labour force, we are using every single day in our economies.

      Yet its the market who does the magic and oil a renewable resource.

      Well, renewable it is, but if we compare the time scales, Hand axes truly become a blink of an eye.

      I don't think there is anything to take seriously in the proposed theory of the 'power of markets'.

      Markets are important, yet by far less powerful if it wasn't running on those energy slaves. Limited energy slaves, which makes the current market system even more questionable and unsustainable!

      to be continued ... :o)
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        Oct 8 2013: I like your points, your analsys is very deeply.I like it
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          Lejan .

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          Oct 8 2013: Thank you Wang. Actually, the analysis didn't take long, as once the neoliberal market ideology is identified, it's just a repetitive pattern of simple arguments. It typically focus on very small areas which are only market related, whereas any negative consequences get denied and no connection made to any social process within society whatsoever.

          I did not expect Matt Ridley to be such an archetype of this ideology, but it didn't surprised me either. He just fits the picture of this new breed of 'banksters' and such alike on global markets.
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          Oct 9 2013: Since I can't reply directly on your other comment concerning my skype ID and e-mail address, here is how you can get in touch with me in 'private'.

          If you click on my picture or name in any of my comments, you will be redirected to my TED profile page. On this page, in the upper right corner you should find a red text-link to send me an e-mail. You won't get to see my real e-mail address, as TED is 'hiding' it to keep the privacy of their user, but anything you write there will directly go into my private e-mail account.

          It might well be, that in order to use this function, your own e-mail address was to be registered in your own TED profile and I would like to suggest, that you delete your private e-mail you posted to me in the other comment to protect your privacy as well.

          The good thing about TED-Mail is, that even though we write each other directly, TED keeps both of us anonymous regarding our real e-mail addresses.

          And once we know each other better we may then connect via skype.

          I am looking forward to hear from you!
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      Oct 8 2013: Dissection part II

      Matt Ridley begins his talk in an humorous way, saying that none of the following became true during his lifetime:

      - Population explosion unstoppable
      - Global famines inevitable
      - Cancer epidemics due to chemicals shorten our lives
      - Acid rain were falling on our forests
      - Desertification would advance by a mile or two per year
      - Oil was running out
      - Nuclear winter would finish us off

      I don't know to which planet he is referring to in this universe, yet what is for sure, it isn't Earth!

      Besides Nuclear winter to which we have been very close multiple times in the past, and the thread isn't over yet, any other single point of his list did become reality and continues ever since!
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      Oct 8 2013: - Population explosion unstoppable

      No decline whatsoever, yet I understand, that exponential growth isn't intuitive and does need some math ...
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      Oct 8 2013: - Global famines inevitable

      In fact, they don't seem to be. Not technically, as there is enough food to feed the worlds population, but politically there is no will to do so.

      Quote: 'nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012'.
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      Oct 8 2013: - Cancer epidemics due to chemicals shorten our lives

      'WHO Refuses to Publish Report on Cancers and Birth Defects in Iraq Caused by Depleted Uranium Ammunition' ... Guess why, and the WHO is not alone ...

      Well, if they keep suppressing data, of course everything looks just beautiful.

      Erin Brockovich, directed by Steven Soderbergh

      'The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts, who fought against the US West Coast energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).'
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      Oct 8 2013: - Acid rain were falling on our forests

      Acid rain has not just damaged large forest areas all over the world before counter measures became effective, we are now facing an increasing Ocean acidification 'caused by the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere'. This endangers marine life-forms and its cause is man-made as well.:
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      Oct 8 2013: - Desertification would advance by a mile or two per year

      April 2013: 'Severe land degradation is now affecting 168 countries across the world, according to new research released by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
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      Oct 8 2013: - Oil was running out

      Can there be any denial, that it is?

      Hydraulic fracturing? Thats a method to harvest formerly inefficient oil reservoirs. It does not produce oil itself!

      The USA is going to become the leading oil exporting nation in the near future. So, and then? Whats coming next once that got squeezed out? Any other planet at hand, lately?
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      Oct 8 2013: - Nuclear winter would finish us off

      This threat isn't over yet!

      'The exact number of nuclear weapons in global arsenals is not known, yet estimated up to 17.225 nuclear warheads.

      Numbers may vary, depending on the source.
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      Lejan .

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      Oct 8 2013: Given this large numbers of false claims, it becomes obvious what agenda gets presented here.

      It is the neoliberal market ideology, or capitalism, which is known for its denial about environmental or health related side effects yet super-elevates the positive effects of free markets and still believes in invisible hands who regulate the market just fine.

      Well, as I said, markets are important, yet those can neither be separated from their local societies, nor should it be seen from just cherry-picked positions, yet illuminated from all 360° there is.

      What was funny to notice was, that this ancient stone-axe, dating back 0.5 million years in time of its production, still works today! Wow, what a quality standard that is! Planned obsolescence hasn't been invented at that time I suppose ... :o)

      In comparison, the 5 year life-span of the computer mouse didn't seem to disturb Matt Ridley at all ...

      Ok, one could argue, that someone who flushes the 'reputation of the British banking industry' down the drain in just 3 years couldn't care less for a $2 plastic mouse, but actually he should have.

      Almost none of all products produced today are designed for recycling. They become trash and waste year by year precious and limited resources. Not a single word about that... no further questions!

      At the very end of all of these false and distorted information, even Matt Ridley had figured out, that ideas are combinable ... wow, what a true genius!

      For all of you who are interested in more substantial information about ideas and the dangers of intellectual propperty righs and patents may take a look at this documentation by Kirby Ferguson as one video out of a series of four on that topic:

      Everything is a Remix Part 4 - System Failure

      Everyone should of course make up his/her own mind about Matt Ridley's talk, I for my part found nothing of true substance, worth spreading ... :o)
  • Oct 8 2013: Thanks for the great talk and a very interesting view on how we can begin to solve social problems.

    I posed a similar question a couple of months back and I think the premise for the question and the talk are similar. I believe that business as we know it has evolved tremendously over the years but that historically, any business that was started was built with the intention of solving a problem or a need. While this may not be true in all cases, this is my general belief about how and why businesses were developed.

    It appears that today unfortunately, many businesses are solving problems but not those social problems that have been discussed, but the problem of how to create more money. This however obviously takes a very short term view on the overall progression of mankind and I think as we expose the fallacy as expressed that the more we invest in social responsibility, the greater the profit will be in the long run, the more businesses will seek to improve on their long term commitment to mankind as well as meeting their own personal and company needs of creating wealth.
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    Oct 8 2013: Answer to your main question is " no" . In current model businesses are there to maximize profit , however lately businesses are also talking about their social responsibility but that doesn't mean their main focus is to solve social problems.
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    Oct 8 2013: I think the 2 Michaels are both observing reality.

    I see that they have correlation, but neither addresses causality.

    The causal gap which unifies both views is this:

    Humanity has forgotten its tribal nature.
    In the quest to relieve problems arising from tribal conflict, it has moved far beyond its own base-line definition and created problems that need not have arisen.

    The basic problem is tribe-size.
    A functioning human tribe is limited by the number of members that can be tracked by any single human in that tribe.
    Simply put - the limits to familiarity.

    This limit is probably somewhere around 200 individuals. Perhaps you could say that it is 150 adults allowing a margin for natural variability and the transitions of childhood, old-age and inter-tribal migration.

    Within a tribe there is no need to track value exchange using commodities - it is tracked through familiarity and amicable obligation. Therefore no need for money.

    Between tribes, there is no capacity for tracking obligation, therefore money might work well with inter-tribal exchange and commodity markets, however, this might be softened by close tribal allegiances.
    You only need money where trust is absent. You can only have reliable trust(or distrust) with familiarity.

    The definition of markets through commodification cannot be sustained without first having clear definition of tribal units.

    Those things occurring within the tribe will account for social values such as education, healthcare and management of commons - those things occurring between tribes would be well served by the commodified market using money.

    If a tribe gets too big, it causes schisms that result in class structures and factions.
    A mechanism must be found for tribes to split and merge.

    This is what is missing.
    Then we can get on with developing better tribal model templates - to avoid hierarchical stress mechanisms as seen in other primate communities. The corporation template demonstrates that it's possible - improve it
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    Oct 7 2013: Sandel makes a great case for what market value has done as it has seeped into our social lives. It has the potential to corrupt our values. At the same time, we are already so deep into business and marketing intersecting with our personal lives that I think Porter's argument makes a lot of sense. We should absolutely use the power that businesses possess to solve social issues. If they are already making profits off of amoral practices, it is our civic duty to hold them responsible. I think one of the best ways to do this is to show them that solving social issues in the long run turns more profit.
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    Oct 7 2013: Asking such kind of questions can only bring the wrath of Krisztian Pinter upon its author.
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      Oct 7 2013: how do you plan to convince them that we are not the same person now?
      • Oct 7 2013: That sounds like a suspiciously specific denial...
      • W T

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        Oct 8 2013: Krisztian, don't let them pick on you like this.
    • W T

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      Oct 8 2013: "The wrath of Krisztian Pinter....." LOL
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    Oct 14 2013: Have just watched both presentations.

    Michael Porter thinks that businesses create wealth and resources?!? Wow; has he never heard of planet earth from which all material-resources are taken (minerals, water, air) which are then converted into products via the industrial and manufacturing processes, and which are then dumped back on/into the earth in a polluted state, along with all the redundant products floating in the Pacific covering an area twice the size of Texas?

    No wonder Michael Sandel does not trust market forces for social ends.

    So it's back to the old question:
    ... what do 'we the human race' want to value as sacred and non-negotiable?
    Of course, 'we the human race' will not be able to give a singular answer to this question - unlike business which can give a singular answer, that being "to maximise shareholder value by off-loading as many costs as possible onto the environment and people unable to defend themselves against corporate might-is-rightism".
    Since governments have abandoned their democratic remit to defend the people against over-powerful players, then no wonder corporations rule the world ... and no wonder it's up to us-the-people to solve our own problems from the grass-roots upwards (we might even realise our own power by so doing).
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    Oct 13 2013: Free Markets?
    No such thing for the 99%...
    Unrestricted for the 1% markets?
    Everything is fair game, free market thanks to the corporation's in-their-pocket polititians and the too big to fail, too big to audit corporations....
    That is the democracy of America for every president since Reagan, and at it worst with Obama...
    Obama is most blatantly on the 1% team for free markets - for the 1%...
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    Oct 13 2013: There nothing accidental about Fed, created in secret, kept in secret, owned in secret, and controlled in secret...
    America lost it's democracy the year the Fed was created, 1913, together with the monster the IRS. Bothe creations were born in secret and to this day, stealing Americans of their health and their wealth, ever since then...
    The 1% control every facet of American life through these two monster organizations...
    Until Americans fired and or recall ALL the politicians in the government you keep having the best 1% democracy money can buy...
    Sandel? He is either blind or part of the system of the 1%...
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    Oct 13 2013: Of course, not at all!.
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    Oct 12 2013: market is what , depend on the money
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    Gord G

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    Oct 12 2013: I know the common thought is that markets are an expression of social wants and needs, but I think they operate as a tool to advance personal ambition (nothing social about it).

    Social problems are very profitable. Why would they want to solve them?
  • Oct 11 2013: Sandel makes a strong case for WHY all government aid should be eliminated. I point to his example of paying students to attend class or self educate. It's the working population that is paying for this generosity with the same being true for the multitude of helpful programs channeling the working mans dollar into cultures removed from western civilization.. Sandel has a gentle tone which misleads the listener that because he supposes his thought and tacks a WHY to his question we need to agree. Market societies are bad because ..... and you can put any number of job creating entrepreneurs and researchers with big ideas who have a niche service into that category. Would Sandel have a problem if the Federal government created a market for distributive power?. Put the private sector in charge of a massive solar rollout by offering for auction the right to instal and maintain the country's power supply for a hundred year period. As we would all benefit from the auction only a few companies with the resources and expertise would qualify for this enormous opportunity. Sandel's views are a glass ceiling to everyone's economic future. He resides in a gentile society and is removed from the power that pushes industry and industry leaders to seek out new opportunities.
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    Oct 11 2013: Good conversation but i think its Not even close, thats as simple as i can put it.
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    Oct 10 2013: Markets are shaped by a society's needs. In some cases by what the culture tells a society it needs. Markets are equipped to solve social problems. The real issue is getting our markets to provide the right products.

    Markets are just a tool. You don't blame the hammer when the nail goes in sideways. Markets would be much more effective if education was a priority. Brand envy is crippling our ability to analyze a product's real value.

    Unfortunately, profit margins are more important than social good for many organizations. If we can shift to a focus on social progress we may see more effective markets. There simply aren't enough rewards for doing the right thing in business these days.

    Doing the right thing needs to become more than a marketing strategy.
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    Oct 9 2013: Power of markets works within the understanding of values of a product. When I say value, I mean a market independent idea of it, not what marketers want us to believe.
    If a society believes healthcare is a right, market fails. If a society believes family is an institution, market fails. If a society believes education is nothing to do with jobs, market fails.
    I think this makes it easier for all to realize from where and how market derives it power.
  • Oct 9 2013: That's not what markets are for. I am a big fan of the free market, but markets are not for solving social problems. Likewise, diddling with the markets WILL NOT SOLVE SOCIAL PROBLEMS, either. Markets are for the exchange of goods and services. Social problems must be solved at the moral level, not through markets.
    Markets should no more be trusted to solve social problems than governments should be trusted to solve social problems.
  • Oct 9 2013: My answer is no without any hesitation.
    Undoubtedly, market created jobs, people need jobs. It seems it is balanced in general. But we are all individuals, the gap between the income is getting larger and larger, individuals gets unsatisfied -- this can't be solved by market, government can solved this issue on some extent, yet, in some extreme situation, revolution erupted anyway.
    Market is just market, it has no macroscopical regulate and control function, it can't put the country's interest in the first place.
    • Keith W

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      Oct 10 2013: all progress in the last 200 years is directly related to the market.. Its well documented that markets operate efficiently and governments do not.. No body spends your money like you do.. You think politicians in a distant Capital can steal your money and throw it at issues and magically solve the problem?? Now if there are profit incentives and personel investment in any arena including social issues then that would be the most viable solution
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    Oct 9 2013: I think market based on life demands, social problems are related to the structure of society, education status and people's consciousness.
  • Oct 9 2013: NO Why would they be?
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    Oct 8 2013: The driving force of markets is to gain a surplus, to maximize profits for a minority of private individuals.

    This concept is self-contradictory to the concept of social values and the idea of the 'common good', as private profit maximization drains the financial budget society has to collect by its members to support their social services.

    On the other hand, government structures, as the representative form of society, has proven its inefficiency in maintaining social services and therefore drains the financial budget as well.

    Yet efficiency is no magic and does not need 'profit incentives' to be installed and to function.

    My approach was, to take compatible, sustainable and effective concepts and tools from 'the market' to substitute and re-design the ineffective concepts and tools within our government structures. It would combine the best of both worlds and this in the idea of the common good for the people who form society.

    Social evolution is a dynamic process and if its done consciously, we would learn from our mistakes to improve on them. And thats no magic either. Its applying experiences.
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      Oct 8 2013: Yeah but, I think that you are a touch too hard on business. Business depends on customers. Customers in a well ordered society, where all is functional and individuals have every opportunity to exchange goods and services. Profit is what makes goods and services available for exchange.

      What is "common good" and who decides? And why should government maintain social services?
      I look at the Federal; Government in the USA. In the last 50 years, the US has established cabinet level Departments for health, education, housing and welfare and we have more sick, homeless, hungry and uneducated people then ever. Is there a business model that could use these circumstances?
      No that I can think of.
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        Oct 8 2013: Business depends on customers, but it doesn't care for them beyond business.

        Thats intrinsic, and yet incompatible to social interactions.

        If you love your mom and she becomes sick, you care for her not because she pays you. Business is different. A company cares for its customers only to keep them as their customers, so that they'll buy more of their products for profit maximization.

        If this wasn't the case, no insurance company would have ever rejected a customers claim. In fact, insurance companies have an incentive to reject as many claims as possible, to maintain their own interest and not that of their clients. Thats self-explanatory.

        But there is more to human societies than business interests ever since its early days.

        There is no logical reason for any tribe to care for their sick and elderly people. On the contrary, as it only drains resources and workforce from the young and healthy ones. Being young and temporally sick may be tolerable on the long run, but the elderly and chronic sick young ones?

        Some tribes have been a bit more rigorous in the past in saving their resources, yet it hasn't become very popular in those days and died off finally. The ongoing 'marketisation' of our societies, driven by capitalism, is actually the revival of those harsh manners and just because we have no 'body-counter' attached to it, its destructive effect on society remains mostly unseen by those who are spinning the hamster wheel. Those who happen to fell off, got a taste of it already and this in increasing numbers.

        Why does the US government hands out food-stamps? Because no private company could make any profit in doing the same. And thats why it is so important, that this funny 'invisible hand' of the market is not interfering with humanitarian concerns and matters.

        The term 'common good' is self-explanatory in who gets to decide this. In a democracy, it is the majority of the people. In 'direct democracy' even more so.
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        Oct 8 2013: The reason why the US has 'more sick, homeless, hungry and uneducated people then ever' is easy to answer. This happened, because capitalism was allowed to corrupt the political system in that country for so many years. You can only harvest what you sow. No magic here either.

        I only need a single look on the numbers of millionaires in the house of representatives, to know, that the majority of the people in the USA is under-represented. This is one of the reasons why I am very much into 'direct democracy', as it stops just that from happening.

        If the true majority of a nation then decides, that food-stamps are no part of their 'common good', then so it shall be! If they can cope morally with a starving minority in their streets, thats up to them. I would not vote for that and would do my very best to help my fellow minority citizens to survive.
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          Oct 8 2013: I am not sure how you have come to these conclusions... If you are in business, you want customers who are willing and able to buy your product.. Poor, sick,homeless, and uneducated people are not likely to come into your fine dining establishment, have a gourmet dinner and a bottle of good wine.
          You paint all "capitalists" with this brush.
          I will maintain that most capitalists are honorable business men who are concerned with the businesses, and are sensitive to their customers needs and wants and behave in a competent manner.
          Now are there corrupt conmen who have bribed and cajoled politicians to create situations where the PSHU members of society are exploited. Way too many and that is why I have strongly supported term limits for congress men and holding lobbyists subject to bribery laws.
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        Oct 8 2013: Mike, I paint capitalists with this brush which are exactly the opposite of those honorable business men you rightly mentioned, yet unfortunately these species isn't controlling the overall system.

        The banking sector. Once there were many honorable bankers often with high moral codices, today a new breed is collapsing whole economies out of sheer greed.

        The automotive industry. Once a strong pillar within the US economy, today they have branch offices which only purpose of existence is tax-evasion. And the y are not the only ones.

        Walmart - Putting high pressure on local US producers to compete prise wise with Chinese products. Those who don't manage that, go out of business and China is in. Don't get me wrong. I am not against China or the products they make, but if it destroys local economies, it isn't healthy for the people who happen to live in those economies. Any low-income country destroys middle or high-income countries in open competition. Global markets are open competition, thus dangerous for higher income societies. Walmart doesn't care if their products destroys the US economy on the long run. They just leave wherever new and fresh markets occur.

        What about Apple? Top US company in sales and revenue. But just the design is made in the USA, not the product! Yet if those companies which are on the 'sunny side' of business do not support their local economies, what do those who just barely make it? They have even more reason for tax-evasion and cheap labour just in order to survive or to gain a little profit.

        If this is honorable business to you on the long run, then yes, I paint all 'capitalists' with this brush.

        As long the global market has enough customers in total who are able to buy my products, I don't need to care for the poor, sick, homeless and uneducated people in my close neighborhood. Just open your eyes and observe whats going on worldwide and you may see what I mean.

        Do you think occupy wall street was just a flash-mob? I don't.
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          Oct 8 2013: Can you give me your skype ID? and I want to talk to you, my email is
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          Oct 9 2013: Lejan,
          You seem to see the glass half full. Now, there are a number of individuals that should have been buried under the jail and there are probably more then a few politicians who received "campaign contributions" .
          First of all, it is a global market. It is that. Global Companies are not small neighborhood business that would be aware of the local .PSHU people. Yet, most have foundations and charitable affiliates that do try to attend to PSHU people. The Gates foundation has addressed disease, donated computers to schools etc. etc. Others to many to list are also so involved.
          . .
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        Oct 9 2013: Mike,

        as an engineer I tend to see the volume of those glasses twice as big as it needs to be to contain its liquid content.

        Anyway, have you ever heard of tax deduction? Many, if not all of those corporate donations are tax deductive, depending on the country, which means, that not the company makes the donation, the tax-payers do. No value is added to society. It would be the same if I would command your brother to give me the money that I spend on my present for you. For me this only works if you have a brother, for company this works fine if the laws for tax deduction are in their favor, and you bed they are!

        I do not separate in between corporate or political corruption. Both are equally illegal.

        The 'global market' that we know today is pretty young. It was different before and it will be different in the future. There is no natural rule for global markets to exist and any nation has the right to determine the level of their involvement. Import duties and export duties are valid tools for any society to protect the interest of the majority of their people to avoid drainage of value, jobs and the destruction of healthy local market structures. The participation will be decided by any nation at any given time.

        The size of a company does not reduce its responsibility for the community it is embedded in. Big companies with big profits pay more taxes than small companies with small profits. Simple rules, tax evasion illegal, long prison sentences for violation.

        Companies who produce in low-income countries pay proportional import taxes on their own product on their home markets, so that no benefit can be gained in job-export. Companies who leave the county out of profit reasons and to avoid local tax-laws are forbidden to enter their former markets. These companies will be tracked by certain criteria who won't allow for any shape-shifting tricks to re-enter their former home market by any back door.

        Misuse of freedom is answered by regulations.

        Worth trying
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          Oct 9 2013: OK,
          I see where you are going with this line of thought, but I question your basic premise that economic activity adds value to the society. I am not sure. I am thinking it is the other way around. Now, you are correct about the illegal activities and my biggest complaint about the lack of prosecution. I also am aware that you are not fully familiar with the organizational aspects of the "big box" stores. So,
          First: Although some stores have large portion of ownership with a few individuals, i.e. the Walton family or Bill Gates... most multinationals are owned investors such as Union pensions, banks, etc. Investors are only looking at the bottom line and hold the operating management to see to the return on investment. Most investors rightly assume that these managers are lawful and often have such clauses in the employment contract.
          These managers are overlooking sometime thousands of individual outlets and a number of suppliers who are contracted to make product at a price that is market worthy and provides the best profit spread. They will contract for that product from China or Pittsburgh. They are responsible to the investors for the best possible profit.
          The managers then turn around and checks the profits made by each store. If the stores are failing they close the store. Managers have to make goals or their jobs are forfeit.
          There is no thought of poor neighborhoods etc.
          Morally corrupt? Not socially responsible? You make that argument. .My point is that it's the nature of the beast. Big stores are there to provide goods and services at a market price and are to make a profit for their investors.
          I say that if there are these problems in society... it is the society's problem. To stand on the soap box and blame Bill Gates for all the problems in ... Chicago Is even more silly than it sounds.
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        Oct 9 2013: Hopefully your acceptance and understanding of the nature of the beast, as you called it, will always serve you well. May your trust be appreciated and handled with care.

        I for my part try to improve on failures, as nothing is perfect and never will. Learning from mistakes is essential to me and determines what to try next. As more complex a system grows, as more difficult it becomes to understand its interactions. Nevertheless, accepting system failures and not changing them will just repeat the same failure over and over again, which is senseless to me.

        I would accept to fall once in a hole in the ground because I didn't know it was there. But this doesn't happen twice. I wouldn't leave the hole open while knowing, other people are likely to fall in as well. We do this with the sidewalks in our cities, why wouldn't we do this within our system?

        Thats my way of thinking as you have yours.
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          Oct 9 2013: Lejan,
          In my life, I have literately traveled the world. I have seen all manners of society. Some not so bad and some total anarchy. I have no idea how one could effect society.
          One extreme of complete dictatorship or complete democracy? Neither works. A constitutional/democracy...
          I live in one of those and there are always some who are constantly trying to change the constitution mostly for their own benefit.
          I would like to see a robust society where enterprise can provide goods and services at a reasonable price and everyone in the society can fully appreciate all the benefits.
          But only the Society can provide such as:
          Quality education,.
          Encourage enterprise
          Relief for the sick and elderly
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        Oct 9 2013: I do not agree on resignation. Better answers lay in what you described.
  • Oct 8 2013: Calling markets amoral is kind. It is clear that the markets valued viagra more than cancer drugs or malaria drugs because they could make more money. If you believe in the market, the 1st goal of a corporation is to make money.
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    Oct 8 2013: That's the problem with Harvard Professors debating, intellectually stimulating but.... not really real.
    So, lets get it down to four letter words.
    There is no separation between markets and society. When did social values include education, healthcare, family,
    I always thought that values meant value... 0 to 100, good and bad...whatever.
    Anyway, society established markets way back when man formed societies. It was a way of exchanging goods and service among the people of the society. It wasn't brain science or rocket surgery.
    So only Harvard PHDs can find a way to separate a part from the whole and give it legs.
    But, in retrospect, all the ills of society are better assigned to the manner of governance then the markets used to exchange goods and services.
  • Oct 7 2013: If the free market could solve all our social problems, we wouldn't need a government. Obviously, that's not the case (government isn't ideal, but I still prefer it to being ruled over by a corporation).

    Both public and private sectors have their place. Ideally, all luxury goods should be private, and necessities public, but in the real world, things are rarely this simple. For a start, who decides what goes in which category?

    The real question is where you draw the line and decide what falls under the government's responsibility, and what the market sorts out on its own. That particular answer varies from country to country, and from issue to issue.
    Like most things in life, its far too complicated to try to fish out some universal, catch all, solution.