Monday, June 26, 2006

"An enormous amount of everyday life in the United States is shaped by economic practices. Few people would disagree that buying and selling goods and services is an integral part of our daily lives. If this exchange of goods and services was simply an efficient means of securing the basic necessities of life, we might have less cause for concern. But we live and move and have our being within an economic system that impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. The obvious strength of this system is its ability to deliver a tremedous amount of goods and services to vast numbers of people in a relatively cost-effective way. The advantages of such division of labor are obvious to anyone who has considered how different our lives would be if we had to grow our own food, sew or own clothes and build our own homes.

However, the obvious advantages of such a system are only part of the story. Most people who are adept at functioning within such an economic system rarely notice the potentially dangerous features of such systems. For example, even though the market system could be viewed as a mechanism for rendering mutual service, little in our society encourages us to do so. Instead, we are encouraged to operate in the marketplace as self-interested parties attempting to secure our own existence in the midst of others doing the same. As a result, we tend to view other people in the marketplace not as unique and splendid people in their own right who warrant our attention, but as actors in our drama. In our drama, these people play the part of producers of goods and services for us, or of potential customers for our goods and services, or of competitors whose own attempts to secure their livelihood may threaten our attempts to do the same. Can we really be other-directed when so many of our daily interactions encourage us to be self-interested, to pay attention to others only to the extent that they can benefit us"
(Philip Kenneson, Life on the Vine, p. 42-43).