Debriefing Socrates – Money and Values

Should Money Buy EVERYthing? This was the question which propelled the Socratic Conversation conducted by Ron Gross on June 14th, inspired by the new book on that subject by Harvard professor Michael Sandel.

The participants explored the ethical issues raised by such current practices as paying students to get better grades, selling tickets to “free” Shakespeare-in-the-Park performances, and Concierge Medicine which offers deluxe service for hefty fees.

Several of the discussants deplored the over-use of the “market model,” but others argued that such “commodification” is a serviceable way to allocate scarce resources.  The group viewed a brief video of Professor Sandel discussing Bruce Springsteen’s insistence on providing tickets to his concerts at less than the market price, because he values the sense of community among his fans including those who could not afford scalpers’ fees.

The group concurred that we all need to be more thoughtful about the ways in which we are drifting from a market economy to a market society — and a market culture.  As facilitator Ron Gross concluded, citing Voltaire: “We are in danger of becoming people who know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.”