In casinos, gambling is going on; in a Monetized Free Market, advertising is everywhere:
PORING through Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel’s new book, “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets,” I found myself over and over again turning pages and saying, “I had no idea.”
I had no idea that in the year 2000, as Sandel notes, “a Russian rocket emblazoned with a giant Pizza Hut logo carried advertising into outer space,” or that in 2001, the British novelist Fay Weldon wrote a book commissioned by the jewelry company Bulgari and that, in exchange for payment, “the author agreed to mention Bulgari jewelry in the novel at least a dozen times.” I knew that stadiums are now named for corporations, but had no idea that now “even sliding into home is a corporate-sponsored event,” writes Sandel. “New York Life Insurance Company has a deal with 10 Major League Baseball teams that triggers a promotional plug every time a player slides safely into base. When the umpire calls the runner safe at home plate, a corporate logo appears on the television screen, and the play-by-play announcer must say, ‘Safe at home. Safe and secure. New York Life.’
And while I knew that retired baseball players sell their autographs for $15 a pop, I had no idea that Pete Rose, who was banished from baseball for life for betting, has a Web site that, Sandel writes, “sells memorabilia related to his banishment. For $299, plus shipping and handling, you can buy a baseball autographed by Rose and inscribed with an apology: ‘I’m sorry I bet on baseball.’ For $500, Rose will send you an autographed copy of the document banishing him from the game.” …
Throughout our society, we are losing the places and institutions that used to bring people together from different walks of life. Sandel calls this the “skyboxification of American life,” and it is troubling. Unless the rich and poor encounter one another in everyday life, it is hard to think of ourselves as engaged in a common project. At a time when to fix our society we need to do big, hard things together, the marketization of public life becomes one more thing pulling us apart. “The great missing debate in contemporary politics,” Sandel writes, “is about the role and reach of markets.” We should be asking where markets serve the public good, and where they don’t belong, he argues. And we should be asking how to rebuild class-mixing institutions.
Because Irony has swallowed cold poison and jumped in the sea*, Tom Friedman could use the title “This Column Is Not Sponsored By Anyone” without fear of being struck by lightning. As Calvin Trillin once said about a certain congressman, if truth-in-advertising required professional spokesmen to show the logos of their paymasters, Friedman would have to wear one of those NASCAR jumpsuits to get all the sponsors within line-of-sight at his globetrotting speaking gigs. Your winnings, m’seur!
I guess it’s a dangerous sign when all the Masters of the Universe can afford private limos, and are therefore separated from the Global Street Wisdom(tm) of Friedman’s famous cabdrivers. Or maybe the decimation of his no-longer-a-multibillionaire father-in-law’s fortune has embittered Tom to the point where he now identifies with the economic top One Percent instead of the Point One Percent. Could be he needs a new theme song.
(* Thank you, Peter Beagle)
(h/t commentor Corner Stone)