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The Illusion of Choice: How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny

Overview

An illusion is undergirding market societies. It is the illusion of free choice. We are taught that in the free market system human choice reigns supreme. It doesn't. In The Illusion of Choice, Andrew Bard Schmookler shows how the market system unfolds according to a logic of its own, shaping everything within its domain - the landscape, social institutions, even human values - to serve its own inherent purposes. This understanding helps illuminate much of what has been most troubling to generations of Americans ...
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Overview

An illusion is undergirding market societies. It is the illusion of free choice. We are taught that in the free market system human choice reigns supreme. It doesn't. In The Illusion of Choice, Andrew Bard Schmookler shows how the market system unfolds according to a logic of its own, shaping everything within its domain - the landscape, social institutions, even human values - to serve its own inherent purposes. This understanding helps illuminate much of what has been most troubling to generations of Americans struggling to create a more humane society. Building on his prize-winning book on social evolution, The Parable of the Tribes, Schmookler provides us here with the conceptual tools to become less the instruments of our powerful systems and more the masters of our destiny. The market attends well to some dimensions of human life and does not even see others. It is sensitive to those values pertaining to what can be bought and sold but is blind to others - such as the integrity of the natural world and the quality of human relationships - that cannot be turned into commodities. It is impervious to the costs of tearing apart the larger wholes - families, communities, the biosphere - that are vital to the quality of our lives. While these shortcomings are known to mainstream economics, their vital importance has not been recognized because economics takes too static a perspective. Systematic errors wreak damage over time. The Illusion of Choice, by putting our economic lives in a social evolutionary perspective, illuminates the defects of the market ideology that defends the uncontrolled play of market forces. On the basis of that analysis, this work also provides the outlines of a program by which we can make the market system a better instrument of the full range of human values. It calls for better use of tastes and subsidies to reflect the real costs and benefits of market activities. It calls for more genuine involvement of stockholders in the fundamen
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Schmookler shows how the market system unfolds according to a logic of its own, shaping everything within its domain--the landscape, social institutions, even human values--to serve its own inherent purposes. He also provides the outlines of a program by which the market system can be made a better instrument of the full range of human values. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

CHOICES: AN INTRODUCTION

Stranger in a Familiar Land

Of Two Minds
Is This the World We Want?
Stranger in a Familiar Land

Perestroika in America

City on a Hill
The Marxist Challenge
On Beyond Marx
Toward a New Critique
How Dead Is This Horse?
The Challenge Facing Us

PART I: TUNNEL VISION: A RADICAL CRITIQUE OF THE MARKET

1. The Mythology of the Market

The Myth of Efficiency
The Case for Liberty

2. Questions of Power and Justice

The Claim of Economic Democracy
A Glimpse at the Real Problem of Power
A Lesser, Libertarian Claim to Justice
Minding Our Business
Bringing the Externalities In

3. Missing Our Connections

Small Change?
A Whole Less Than the Sum of Its Parts
Warring Against Community
Divided We Fall

4. Reining In the Market

Free People and Unchecked Power Systems
A Mill that Grinds Slow but Fine
Landscape Roulette
Evils Lesser and Greater
Can We Take Care of Us?
Government Ltd.
Corruptions of Pluralism
Government for Sale
The Possibility of Democracy
Masters of Our Destiny

5. Devouring the Earth

Worth What We Paid for It
After the Horse Is Gone
Profligate Heirs
Corrective Lenses
Don't Worry, Be Happy, or, Would You Buy a Used Planet from These People?

6. Not Just the Market

Flattering Ourselves: The Mystery of Imitation
The Problem of Power
The Parable of the Tribes, or, The Imperatives of Power

PART II: WE ARE DRIVEN: THE MARKET AS THE ENGINE OF CHANGE IN AMERICA

7. A Black Hole in American History

Always Head North

8. The Will of the People

Despite Objections
Lip Service
The Good Old Days Never Were

9. The Transformation of American Values

The Worship of Success
The Value of the Dollar
The Case of the Vanishing Protestant Ethic
A Civilization Out of Balance

10. In the Image of Our Creator

North May be the Way to Go
Other Dynamics of Change
Beyond Free Will
What's the Use?
Getting Hold of the Steering Wheel

PART III: OUT OF CONTROL

11. Autopilot

The Problem
A False Solution: The Ethic of Gesture
Toward a Different Approach
"Let the Owners Decide": A Proposal, with Exegisis
Paramount Virtues

12. The Cult of Growth

The Measure of Value
The Wealth-Happiness Connection
Limited Utility
Unshakable Belief
Machines Have Needs, Too
Consumer as Cog
Poverty and the Wealth of Nations

13. Power Struggle

I. Driven to Excel

Freedom or Necessity
Spurious Necessities

II. Imperatives of Survival

National Economics in the Struggle for Survival
Economics as Arms Race
Mourning Lost Choices

III. Seeking to Free Ourselves from the Trap of Necessity

War on the Cheap
The Displacement of War by World Order
Choosing Together
Treat a Problem as a Problem

IV. Power in a World Free of Force

The Imperatives of the Market
Protection
Wealth and Power in the Ordered Polity
Buying Influence
Breaking Free

CONCLUSION: ENVISIONING THE GOOD LIFE

A Meditation on Past, Present, and Future

Romanticizing the Past
Resurrecting Our Humanity
The Girl Who Can't Dance
Bigger Vision

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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