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Rockridge Institute: Morality and the Market

You hear it all the time from conservatives: "Leave it to the market." Health care: Leave it to the market. Social Security: Leave it to the market. The climate crisis: Leave it to the market. Campaign finance: Leave it to the market. Minimum wage: Leave it to the market.

The classical assumption behind markets is that everyone is trying to maximize profit, with sellers trying to maximize prices and buyers trying to minimize costs. This leads to the idea of the market as "determining value"—what the buyer is willing to pay and the seller is willing to accept.

The central idea, promulgated by Adam Smith, is that everyone is, or should be, trying to maximize his or her profit. By what Smith termed the "invisible hand," that is, as a matter of nature, such a market maximizes profit for the totality of buyers and sellers and so helps everyone—including the nation.

This is the idealization. ... The idealization makes many assumptions that economists know are not really true: There is near-perfect competition, there is perfect knowledge by both buyers and sellers, there is equal accessibility, there is no collusion by sellers to inflate prices, both buyer and seller are equally powerful, and both buyers and sellers act rationally. These assumptions are false, and the fact that they are false raises serious questions about the natural and moral aspects of markets of many kinds. Nonetheless, it is widely assumed—by both liberals and conservatives—that the idealization is true.


Have we become such a Money-obsessed culture, that we have now allowed this principle of the Invisible Hand, "Leave it to the market", to take over the "Market Place of Ideas" too? It would seem so, with the Media, it's certainly true that money runs the show.

It would seem so, with Democracy too, Money has become the ultimate judge of Character, here too. When the "Viability" [ie. ability to grow] of a Candidate has been boiled down to a simple "Bottom Line" question: How much Money you got?


  1. capable of living.
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        a. physically fitted to live.
        b. having reached such a stage of development as to be capable of living, under normal conditions, outside the uterus.

  1. Botany. able to live and grow.
  1. vivid; real; stimulating, as to the intellect, imagination, or senses: a period of history that few teachers can make viable for students.
  1. practicable; workable: a viable alternative.
  1. having the ability to grow, expand, develop, etc.: a new and viable country.


When both the Media, and some in the progressive community, treat the Money Race as the end all, be all -- it would seem, our Future has already been sold, to the highest bidders:

MSNBC -- Those pesky campaign expectations

One of the more intriguing aspects to presidential campaigns is how much expectations play into how the media and the public perceive and eventually choose their presidents.
Two candidates in particular are benefiting from the voter expectations game: Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.
It's been one of the more remarkable aspects to this campaign. And how Clinton benefits from low expectations from both the press and voters.

Washington Post -- Race to the Bottom Line

The expectations game for presidential fundraising shifted into high gear today, with the two leading Democrats trying to persuade reporters that they would lose the battle for top of the money heap when they close their books at the end of this month.

Why are the campaigns so keen on declaring themselves the likely money loser? It's all about expectations. If they start conditioning people now ...

Conditioning People?  That's what passes for Political Viability in the 21st Century?  What ever happen to "voting for the Candidate who best represents your values and priorities"?  What ever happen to judging the person -- NOT their pocketbook?

Is the truism really true: Money equals Power?

Is that what Life and Leadership really boil down to, in the modern world?
Is the best Leader really the best wheeler-dealer?

Winning the lottery may not be a dream come true

Does money buy happiness? Freedom? Opportunity? Every college student is gambling on the idea that a high-paying job will enable them to achieve social prestige, wealth and possessions, but we all know that doesn't always happen.

Our capitalistic economy and values encourage constant accumulation of wealth because in America, the myth that money equals power, power equals success, and success equals happiness prevails. But even in the Great Land of Opportunity, there are distinctive social classes, a great divide between the "haves" and the "have-nots." The "have-nots" think they want a glimpse of the other side -- as if the other side is that much better.

The idea of getting rich quick, be it through a lottery ticket, gambling, or any other scam is the biggest hoax of America.

Money can bring out the worst in human nature. It's dangerous. It's a test of character. ... Families have been torn apart over money conflicts.

Money isn't a bad thing in and of itself. It's our attitude about it that can make us either miserable or content. I tend to have a deeper respect for those who work hard to earn an honest living.

Unchecked Capitalism leads to many things, but Happiness, Freedom, and more Opportunity are usually NOT among its most common results.

Even the well respected Capitalist, John Bogle, is having second thoughts about the negative effects that the short-term focus on Profits, is having on the long-term Productivity of America.

John Bogle, 77, created The Vanguard Group, Inc., in 1974, which today is one of the two largest mutual fund organizations in the world.

FORTUNE magazine named him one of the four giants of the 20th century in the investment industry. TIME magazine called him one of the world's 100 most powerful and influential people.

JOHN BOGLE: Well, I spend a lot of time thinking about that. I mean, you kind of asked the question, which I've asked in some of my work. What is enough here? And the society is out of control. I mean, in THE BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF CAPITALISM, I talk about the frightening similarities between the American economy in America, our nation, at the beginning of the 21st century and Rome all those centuries ago around the 4th century.

BILL MOYERS: What are the comparisons?

JOHN BOGLE: We have an idea that we are the world's value creator and leader. And I'm talking not just about economic value, but, we like to think of America as having the best values of integrity and citizenship in the world. We're getting a little bit too much self interested. ... And we see this not just in our economy, in our financial system. This very short-term focus on everything. You see it, sadly, in our government.

Everybody knows social security is going to run into crisis. We can't run these federal deficits forever. But, everybody looks out two years and says, "Will I be elected two years from now or a year and a half from now?" And, the short term focus ultimately betrays the very values that we have come to be used to in this great nation of ours.

It's just we've taken it too far. Today's capitalists are different from yesterday's capitalists-

BILL MOYERS: How so? What's the big difference?

JOHN BOGLE: Well, I think much more they're operating on their own. Instead of for the interest of whose money has been entrusted to them. It's an element — it's what we call a bottom-line society, again. But I think it's the wrong bottom line.

BILL MOYERS: What does it say to you that people seem so indifferent to the fact that one tenth of one percent of the population owns most of the wealth in this country?

JOHN BOGLE: Well, in the long run, I believe it's unsustainable. You know, this is not going to be, you know, a country like France, say, at the time of before the French Revolution. You know, the lords of France, the kings had probably the same kind of distribution of wealth we had today come by through long generations. Their own castles. We have those castles in America now. But it says to me that, in this society, it's not sustainable. There will be an outcry.

The Moyers Transcript
Watch the Moyers Interview

Recently John Edwards has taken a stand for Public Financing, which has led to spirited discussions, regarding his "Long-term Political Viability".

The Long-term Future of this Country is what matters to John Edwards -- NOT just the Short-term race to cater to Special Interests.

Question: Is standing up for the 90% of Americans who comprise in the working class in America, who NEED a Champion, is that not Viable?

Question: Should Edwards be seeking PAC money and Lobbyist Money, as the Clinton Campaign actively does? Would that make him more Viable, in the eyes of the Media? Is having even more Millions in the coffers, is that what counts as "being pragmatic", even in the eyes of the Progressive community, too?

Time will tell if the cynical pragmatism of Congress will taken root in the American People as well. Most Americans still cling to their "Rugged Idealism". Most Americans still vote their Conscience! Yet, these days most members of Congress, even among Presidential Candidates in Congress, they view every Vote from the prism of "what Political Ad will ultimately result from it."  

But that's what "letting the the Market Decide" gets you!

John Edwards has refused to Play that Game -- the game of Political Expediency and Compromise. John Edwards has taken a stand on principle! -- (many stands in fact.)

Is this really what Democracy has come to, Damn the consequences whether or not we call Iran's Revolutionary Guard a Terrorist Organization, just give me a good Sound Bite please, for next Campaign season, PLEASE!

Whatever happened to our Representatives "just Doing the Right Thing"? Afterall that's what WE the People sent them to Washington for in the first place! WE did NOT send them there to create more Sound Bites for their NEXT Campaign Cycle!

But that's what "letting the the Market Decide" gets you!

Without serious Public Campaign Finance Reform, this is what American Democracy has degenerated to. "War with Iran" now even looks Viable -- who cares, long as I get elected. This is NO TIME for "a Politician" to take a Stand for what's Right, it's Campaign Season, don't you know!

But this is what America gets, when we use Money, as the ultimate Measure of the Worth of a Person, or the Worth of a Candidate, IMO. This is a bad metric in Life, it's also bad metric for Leadership too! (Bush knows how to spend money -- BUT that hasn't made him a good Leader, now has it!)

But as Hillary might say, you got to "Work the System" in order to someday "Fix the System", right?

Oh Really? Well-intentioned Politicians keep getting elected, and Campaign Finance Reform, somehow keeps falling on deaf ears.  Much like the Voting Irregularities of the last few voting cycles -- Out of Sight, Out of Mind!

That's what "letting the the Market Decide" gets you!

"Leave it to the market." The Market knows best ... the Market will sort it out -- the Pretenders from the Contenders.  

Oh Really?  Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" depends on several assumptions that are NOT necessarily true here in America:

Rockridge Institute: Morality and the Market

The idealization makes many assumptions that economists know are not really true: There is near-perfect competition, there is perfect knowledge by both buyers and sellers, there is equal accessibility, there is no collusion by sellers to inflate prices, both buyer and seller are equally powerful, and both buyers and sellers act rationally. These assumptions are false

The idealization makes many assumptions that economists know are not really true:

There is near-perfect competition, there is perfect knowledge by both buyers and sellers, there is equal accessibility, there is no collusion ...

Corporate consolidation—"mergers and acquisitions"—in industry after industry has greatly limited competition and pushed up prices and profits by transferring more wealth from ordinary people to the wealthy.

Deregulation has given corporations a great knowledge advantage over consumers; corporations, not consumers ... Collusion on pricing is widespread and has become sophisticated. You don’t have a free choice about buying lifesaving prescription drugs. Wal-Mart is far more powerful than the people it hires in its nonunion shop. And every marketer knows that consumers do not act rationally.

The "free market" isn’t free.

Markets have moral functions, and they are constructed to meet moral values and principles. Conservatives have been defining markets to fit their moral worldview. Progressives are way behind. It’s time to speak out.

Question: When was the last time the Media had as one of its goals, supplying us with "perfect knowledge" or complete information?

Question: When was the last time "collusion" was not part of the Media Narrative? (ie. think of the equal access "air time" that is divvied up to each Candidate)

When was the last time the "best candidate" got the job, and not the most Expedient one?

When was the last time you were proud of America?
(and how much of that feeling had anything to do with Money, I ask you?)

John Edwards is all about fixing what's wrong with America -- John Edwards WILL make us proud to be Americans again!

A Vote for John Edwards is a Vote for America!

Are Americans ready to do the Right Thing, or just the most Expedient Thing? Choose wisely ... or you may end up with neither.

More of the Same -- is NOT Good Enough, this time around, IMO

Originally posted to Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 08:57 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent, analytical diary. (12+ / 0-)

    Better than a lot that's on the front page here.

    Thansk, james.

    "The greatest anti-poverty movement in American history is the organized labor movement." John Edwards

    by TomP on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 08:59:20 AM PDT

  •  Excellent! n/t (9+ / 0-)

    "It's time to be patriotic about something other than war."- John Edwards

    by nannyboz on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 09:00:29 AM PDT

  •  Free Market of Ideas (9+ / 0-)

    Some bold to stir and steer towards progress! John Edwards is the bold ideas kind of candidate.

    Good diary, JamesS.

  •  The use of mathmatics in finance is (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    be inspired, pioneer111, TomP, RedJet, jamess

    a crap shot at best.  (Note, I have a degree in Computation Finance along with degrees in math and elec engr(BS, Ms).)  The assumptions are weak at best unlike real science/engineering, but listening to twits like Ben Stein, any repuke, you would think that this is a science on a better footing that genetics/evolution/climatology/etc.  The sad true is it isn't evwen close.  The foundation is CAPM, which has been shown to be only mildly correlated to market performance that is the basic assumption for Friedman's work.

    Born in Oklahoma Raised in Ohio Escaped to Meechigan!!!

    by MI Sooner on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 09:00:41 AM PDT

  •  the market always does decide (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the question to me is the marketing.  Is it going to be every product for itself, or a coalition of products that in the end support the top product.  I'm thinking of our dem candidates, and how careful the frontrunners are, to market themselves as the only plausible winner. On one side I see the point, the dem's have been too good at keeping to the high road and losing the elections. On the other hand, if there were a real spirit of cooperation, they'd all be saying nice things about each other, and speaking truthfully about the dire situation, and how it'll take more than four years, maybe more than forty, to undo the Bush disaster, and that's just here at home, no possibility in the world. And admit that the problem with the election is whether it will be fair, which means outlawing the practice of challenging and intimidating voters before they vote, and having machines that are open to tampering and can't be investigated.  But in the end, in a free-market democracy, the market really does decide, and it's still about the marketing with the ad campaigns, how else to account for a George Bush doing any more than, as Frank Rich said today, pumping gas.  

    •  the best products (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      be inspired, mdgarcia, America08, TomP

      sort of sell themselves

      Word-of-word does the rest!

      Many Movies become hits, just from the buzz of people telling their Friends

      A few strategically placed Ads, wakes up the rest, who might be out of the loop.

      •  but they don't have an opposition (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I was amazed when Ii was just in Europe to hear the views on the dem candidates echoing Brooks.  I think you can be a sleeper hit from word of mouth only when there isn't a campaign against you.  The best products should reach the top, but sometimes, think 'wiindows' the money locks out some. If you can't even get your product to the market, what then?  Even great books that were first self-published had to later get distribution to become widely available.  i"m not in favor of the market mentality, but it is there, undeniable.  And it only takes one bad apple to un-level the field.  It does suck.  

        •  did you happen to see the last MSNBC Debate (4+ / 0-)

          the Best Candidate DID rise to the Top there.

          Even the Pundits had to admit it.

          All it took was enough time to express his ideas
          (Kudos to Tim Russert)

          When we allow Democracy to be boiled down to only 30-second Sound Bites -- well I guess we deserve what we get!

          Can you imagine Lincoln, or RFK, or JFK, or FDR, or Jefferson, being limited to only 30 Seconds to say their piece? OMG!

          That would have been Outrageous then -- just as it SHOULD BE Outrageous Now!

          There is a reason why the FREE Press, is the ONLY Industry explicitly Protected by the Constitution.

          It's to our great shame, as a Country,  that we have allowed the Media, to become the vehicle of censorship and filtering they have become

          Is a Money-driven Media -- really a Free Press?

          Where IS the Open Forum on which this Greatest Democracy in the History of the World was built?

          Yes here on the KOS, it's still an Open Forum --
          but how long will that last --
          when dissent and protest, can be squelched by executive order --

          or worse yet, by simply BUYING, and then turning off the Internet pipeline?

          •  it's way more than sad (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            We're being ruled by the tiny-brains.  Our countrymen are complacent, they are easily conned, easily cheated, their worst impulses are pandered to, and they're sold soiled goods.  And they continue to buy.  Our country is on its way down, but things could change, the people do rally to leaders who speak to their better natures. It's only there is so much opposition, and it's so well-funded. Were there a fair election, that would help a lot.  If I were someone's campaign advisor, I'd tell them to speak about this, but I'm sure the candidates are worried they'll come off paranoid, which is the Rove triumph, so much wrong-doing it begs belief.  IF a girls speaks to it, she's shrill. If Gore spoke to it, he'd have been a sore loser. Even in Europe they think both sides cheat equally, and so it's a wash.  And they're supposed to know more about us than we know about ourselves. But, don't mean to bring you down, just cause I'm feeling rather hopeless.

            •  John Edwards has been speaking out (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              against the "rigged system" -- I fully expect he will continue doing so! He shows NO sign of letting up, now does he?

              John Edwards: Time to End the Game


              "The choices we make will not only determine the quality of life of our children, but also the fate of the world we leave behind ...  We have GOT to Chart a NEW Course ! ...

              The system in Washington is rigged, and our Government is Broken. It's rigged by greedy Corporate Powers that protect Corporate Profits  ... they'll do anything they can to keep things EXACTLY the way they are! NOT for the Country -- BUT for themselves.  Politicians who care more about their Careers than their Constituents, go along because it gets them elected! ...

              Then they compromise those promises to keep Lobbyists happy and contributions coming. Instead of serving the people and the Nation, TOO MANY play the "parlor game" in Washington -- they trade favors, and campaign money, they influence Votes, and they compromise Legislation. It's a Game that NEVER ENDS!  But every American knows it is time for US to END that Game! And we CAN End this Game, together.

              prepared remarks: Hanover, New Hampshire 8-23-2005


              He sounds indignant, to me, as well he should be ... we all should be.

              •  yeah (0+ / 0-)

                But he'd not winning, is he.  It's only us that likes him.  And, he voted for war authorization, didn't he? And he also won't say we'll just get out either.  Speaking is better than nothing, marginally.  

                •  Edwards said "all combat troops" would be out (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  splashy, anna shane, ashlarah

                  unlike Hillary, who still wants to fights AQ in Iraq!

                  Edwards is only leaving a "residual force" to protect the Embassy, as we do in all hostile countries.
                  (less than 5000 troops)

                  Edwards has learned from his mistake of trusting Bush,
                  Hillary has not, she's still marching to that latest Drumbeat for War in Iran.

                  As far as winning, it's a long way from over!
                  I like Edwards chances, even now.

                  It's the Media's Narrative that's holding him back.

                  Why are they NOT replaying the Dartmouth Debate?

                  The Media is not a "fair broker" -- the Game is indeed Rigged in more ways than one!

                  •  great point (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    I diss others for falling into rove traps, and then I do it myself. Of course it's not a done deal and if he wins in the first round he'll get some money sent his way, and if he wins the nomination we'll all be working our asses off for him.  Thank you.  

  •  'There is so much wrong with America...' (6+ / 0-)

    Don't we all know... so well.  

    Go John!

    We need Jack in the White House...And Emma Claire too.
    Donate to Edwards Campaign

    by OneCarolinaGirl on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 09:05:28 AM PDT

  •  Superb diary looking at the underlying (6+ / 0-)

    premises that drive our political process.

    Thanks for the deeper look.  It is a bit depressing.

    However the people can choose based on their own hearts and values.

    It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin

    by pioneer111 on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 09:16:38 AM PDT

    •  I believe most Americans (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      be inspired, mdgarcia, America08

      still vote "their own hearts and values"

      For those Voters, John's Words have the "ring of Truth"

      For those Voters (and Media), willing to "just settle" --
      Well they deserve what they will get --
      they deserve what they have gotten!

      It's too bad they have nearly destroyed America's Good Name, and the Constitution, in the process of settling .

      In America though, Hope is always the ultimate Renewal Resource!

      At least, Let's hope so.

  •  Common wisdom (6+ / 0-)

    while it is common is seldom wise.  Thanks for this very interesting diary.  I am always happy to know that intelligent people are spending time thinking about and analyzing the system.  I'm such a from the gut kind of person that I can't do this but I appreciate those who do.

    Facts about the states

    by SMucci on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 09:25:25 AM PDT

    •  thanks SMucci (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SMucci, America08

      our Freedom is Serious

      many have paid the ultimate price for it.

      It's is way past time that we treat Democracy with the respect it deserves!

      Afterall it is FAR more important, than "choosing which Soft Drink we prefer"!

      (the last 8 years make that painfully obvious)

      Choosing a President should be about LEADERSHIP --
      and NOT about MARKETING!

      Principles matter.

      Stopping the Madness matters.

      Endless Pre-emptive War it s Terrible way to conduct a Foreign Policy! (No More Sloganeering for War, Please)

      We need Sanity and Vision back at the helm.

      •  It's not just war (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        they have been marketing it is the dismembering of the government agencies which protect the environment, public lands, our money, the quality of the food & drugs and on and on...

        Facts about the states

        by SMucci on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 01:14:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good work, James (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    be inspired, America08, pioneer111

    See? I got my DKos account working! :)


  •  Funny thing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    splashy, America08, ashlarah

    I just checked the MSNBC schedule for the day --

    and Guess What?

    That Dartmouth Debate that Edwards won -- will NOT be re-televised!

    Just more Crime and Detective fillers, from MSNBC -- we can never get enough of those now, can we?

    It seems to me ALL the other MSNBC Debates, to date, have been routinely Replayed on the Week-Ends --

    SO WHY not this one?

    Hillary NOT Presidential enough in the last Debate, maybe?  And John Edwards was!

    So much for an Unbiased and Free-Press, in this Country!
    I told several people to look for the replay of the Debate, I just assumed it would be there.

    But then, I forgot who really calls the shots in America, didn't I?

    It sure isn't us.

    Please let someone know what you think about this obvious suppression of free speech:;;;

    Better yet tell MSNBC they just lost your viewership for the next 60 days. It's CNN or Bust.

    •  my email (0+ / 0-);;;

      title: this Media monopoly of Free Speech Must end!

      Dear Programming Directors:

      Why are you not replaying the Dartmouth Debate this Week-End,
      when every other Debate this year you have routinely re-broadcasted ?

      What ever happened to your Public Service Obligation?

      Why do you get to "Pick and Choose" which Debates we can re-watch?

      Trust me, America has had enough of all your "Crime and Detective" fillers!
      What we need is more open and honest Dialog about our Democracy!

      Just because:
      Hillary was NOT Presidential enough in the last Debate, maybe?  
      And John Edwards was!

      that does NOT give you the Right to Censor it from those Viewers
      who may have missed it the first time.

      The FREE PRESS is the Only Industry protected in the Constitution –
      and that is SO that you will always keep the Public Informed!

      SO start doing you Constitutional Duty PLEASE!

      Or I will take my Viewership elsewhere!

      If you do not re-broadcast the Dartmouth Debate,
      I will STOP watching MSNBC or NBC for the next 60 days!

      Be advised, There are alternatives to your filtering opinions,
      that you call entertainment !
      (Sorry Keith Olbermann, you too, my friend will be on hiatus!)

      Outraged in Oregon!

      < My name >
      <my city, and state>

    •  I'm so outraged, I can't tell you. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It has a LOT to do with
      with MSNBC's parent company: GE?

      "They bring Good things to Silence"

      GE's 6 Business Branches

      GE: NBC Universal

      2006 Revenue: $16.2 billion

      GE: Industrial

      2006 Revenue: $33.5 billion

      GE: Infrastructure

      2006 Revenue: $47.4 billion

      GE: Aviation

      Americans are SO lucky GE has so many Media Outlets to help them promote their real businesses:

      I feel safe, now -- NOT

      Who do you Think GE wants for President -- 3 Guesses?

    •  Some diligent citizen has posted the NH Debate (0+ / 0-)

      New Hampshire Democratic Debate

      Dartmouth NH  -- Sept 26, 2007


      I bet Hillary would LOVE to "Deep Six" those!

      I hope all the relevant Clips make the Daily Show, and beyond!

      She voted for the Iran War, before she voted against it, lol.

      (too bad it's not so funny)

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