With capitalism of some sort being prevalent in almost all major countries in the world, other ideologies have taken a backseat. Markets have well and truly captured the whole world and has now intruded into almost all facets of human life. However the unbridled expansion where everything and everyone is up for sale is hardly desirable.
A new book by Michael Sandsky examines how it is leading to more privileges for the rich even as income inequality grows drastically. Almost everything which can be monetized is being done so and some of the examples are truly shocking. In South Africa, you can legally buy the privilege of killing an endangered rhino while in the US it is possible to buy an old person’s life insurance and collect the payout when he dies.
This wry and graceful polemic comes attended by a flock of shocking, delicious and absurd examples. In Santa Ana, California, you can buy a prison cell upgrade for $82 a night. For $150,000 in South Africa you can buy the right to shoot an endangered black rhino. Air New Zealand hires people to shave their heads and emblazon temporary tattoos on their foreheads with the slogan “Need a change? Head down to New Zealand”. Nor are such transactions confined to the West. In overcrowded Chinese hospitals, there is a hot market in appointment tickets to see the doctor, and the touts charge Wimbledon prices. In the US, you can buy the life insurance policy of an ailing old person, pay the premiums and then collect when he or she dies. The sooner the oldie croaks, the more you collect. This betting on a stranger’s death is now a $30 billion business and bears the charming name of “the viatical industry” – after the Latin word for the money and provisions supplied to Roman officials setting out on a journey, and by extension to the journey across the Styx.