I recently read two books that that are getting a good bit of attention and although perhaps only indirectly having to do with product quality, are most thought-provoking and very well written. If you are a fervent believer in capitalism and the market as being the ultimate mechanisms for fairness, both will annoy you—all the better to read them. Click on them in the recommended books list for more details.
The first is What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, by Michael Sandell, a professor of government at Harvard. In it he discusses and questions the proper role of the market in a democratic society and questions how we can prevent everything from being for sale, including those things that perhaps money should not be able to buy.
In the book, Sandel goes through a very large number of examples where money plays a questionable role, ranging from companies such as Linestanders.com, which charge for a “queuing service” that furnishes proxies to wait in line for access to functions including Supreme Court cases and Congress hearings, through paying kids to get good grades, to betting on the death of others (a controversial practice called spin-life) and the explosion of naming rights.
The other book, entitled How Much is Enough—Money and the Good Life, is by Robert and Edward Skidelsky, one a political economist and the other a philosopher, This one is pointed toward “rich” countries and combines historical and contemporary material that indicate that we are failing to reach a higher quality of life and discusses why that might be. They feel that capitalism is a powerful mechanism for the creation of wealth, but not especially for its distribution. They question our unquestioning acceptance of measures such as GDP and growth at all levels. And they feel that we have an unfortunate amount of greed and acquisitiveness, which leads to unstable differences between the rich and the poor and keeps many of us spending a regrettable amount of time acquiring money and goods to the detriment of other perhaps more meaningful things we could be doing.
They approach the problem by defining what the “good life” might consist of, and remind us that the purpose of money is to acquire goods and services, not merely to acquire because it is money. The book has a nice mixture of fact, history, and speculation.
The present World’s economic problems seems to be resulting in overdue thinking about just what the World’s economy is. Much of this, including these two books, focuses on the quality of life. Industrially produced products are clearly part of this.