In my last post on this topic (Selling Salvation III: Property and Prostitution) I talked about the ethics of trade — the free market exchange — and suggested that buying and selling anything is inherently, at the deepest level, an act of disrespect.
Why? In brief, when you buy or sell something, you’re saying, “You’re worth $X to me.” This demeans it. You’ve bleached out its essential uniqueness and inherent absolute worth, and given it a value on a dollar scale. In unfettered capitalism, everything is placed on a dollar scale, everthing becomes a commodity, and everything — including sex, work, life, and salvation — is valued only in the marketplace.
But the other extreme — living without trade — presents problems for daily living, because the exchange of goods is the foundation of the modern economy. While capitalism is far from perfect, it has some serious moral and practical advantages over other economic systems used in the past (all of which relied heavily on the use of overt physical violence). What alternative is there?