Must everything be reduced to a market commodity?

Re “MBTA may sell station names: Corporate sponsorships could raise $18m” (Page A1, June 27): In “What Money Can’t Buy,” Harvard professor Michael Sandel warns against the increasing creep of the market economy into the public square, creating what he bemoans as a “market society.” For example, in one California city, an inmate can spend about $90 to be upgraded to a better cell. Meanwhile, drivers can now buy access to the so-called fast lane on a number of highways. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s proposal would presumably allow naming rights to some stations in return for the highest bid.

The crisis in the public square is caused by two interrelated issues. Ill-informed, apathetic citizens are unwilling to support the public services that they want and need with increased taxes, and corporate America would like to privatize every public institution, function, and entity from which it could eke out a profit.

Where will it all it end? Will every public good and public institution be sold to the highest bidder, eviscerating the idea of a separate public sphere in which citizens meet and pursue concerns unrelated to the maximization of profit?


Will the world in which our children and grandchildren live be reduced to one in which everything is for sale and in which everything and everyone can be reduced to a commodity?

Paul L. Nevins