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Wed Jul 4, 2012, 10:29 AM

"Freedom(s)" and "self-interest"

Did anyone here read this article on Counterpunch?

The Economy of Blood
What the Market Does to Our Souls


We live in new times. For about thirty years American capitalism featured a small but not insignificant concession to social democracy, what we are taught to call “the welfare state”, in which government contributed to the provision of a degree of material security which the market alone cannot provide. Watered-down quasi-Keynesian economic policy provided social benefits that gave most Americans a standard of living higher than ever before. That arrangement has been under severe attack since the Carter administration as the social has been drastically reduced and material insecurity has soared. We are promised more of the same into the future.


(More at the link.)

I thought it was interesting because of the way it approached the two concepts in my subject line. I'm curious to hear the thoughts of my comrades here.

Oh, and a warm hello to everyone - I haven't been posting for quite a while.

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Reply "Freedom(s)" and "self-interest" (Original post)
PETRUS Jul 2012 OP
Steerforth Jul 2012 #1
Starry Messenger Jul 2012 #2
limpyhobbler Jul 2012 #3
socialist_n_TN Jul 2012 #4

Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Wed Jul 4, 2012, 10:31 AM

1. Freedom(s)" and "self-interest"


Good rant!

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Wed Jul 4, 2012, 11:49 AM

2. Good to see you PETRUS. I hope all is well.

Good article:

A certain kind of society tends to produce a certain kind of person. More precisely, it discourages the development certain human capacities and fosters the development of others. Aristotle, Rousseau, Marx and Dewey were the philosophers who were most illuminating on this. They argued that the postures required by successful functioning in a market economy tend to insinuate themselves into those areas of social intercourse which take place outside of the realm of the market proper. The result, they claimed, was that the arena for potentially altruistic and sympathetic behavior shrinks over time as society is gradually transformed into a huge marketplace. (Later on I want to call in question the very concept of altruism.)

That study on blood donation was riveting. Capitalism is held to be the highest and most natural form of society because it "allows" us to behave in way that supposedly rewards behavior of rational and enlightened self-interest made in a free society. The author makes a compelling case for showing that this isn't really borne out by the way people behave when faced with a market economy. It actually limits our range of behavior and not in a way that benefits society.

I have to get ready to go out, I hope others will chime in too.

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Jul 5, 2012, 01:39 AM

3. A really good read.

How about the freedom to live in a world where not everything has dollar signs on it?

Or freedom from the fear that getting sick could bankrupt you and put you on the street. In a world where everything is bought and sold, how free am I if I can't afford to buy anything?

I also like the way the author deconstructed the "self-interest" paradigm that seems to be taught like a religion to college students in economics classes. He draws our attention to the pitfall of accepting the self-interest vs. altruism framework. Solidarity is a much better concept for framing the choices of rational actors in some situations. If economics students are being indoctrinated with the idea that unlimited insatiable greed is the normal mindset of a rational person, most of them will believe it and behave accordingly, both in their personal lives and when they have a chance to influence the community.

And that relates to the author's other point that the way we organize society changes us as people. Government and social policy is not just about allocating resources. The kind of society we live in also affects our personalities and changes who we are. So we should ask basic questions about what kind of society we want to live in, and what kind of people it will turn us into. Like do we want a society where access to medical care is related to one's ability to pay? I would say no, because it is an affront to human dignity and it encourages the idea that it is ok to treat each other like human garbage, or not, based on ability to pay.

It's worth reading all the way through. Thanks.

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Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Thu Jul 5, 2012, 11:11 AM

4. That was a good read and welcome back Comrade Petrus......

While agreeing with both Starry and limpy on their views, I was also impressed with the Day Care study. That's the market in a nutshell and that's why the supposed "freedom" of the marketplace results in LESS freedom for others.

If irresponsibility is a commodity, it lets you off the hook FOR irresponsibility. Which ultimately DESTROYS any sense OF responsibility for other people.

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