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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 (http://wp.me/p10512-lty).

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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: 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

        to

        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?

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