Gifts versus Markets
Most importantly, it is important to remember that while markets have been around through centuries, it was never the only system, nor it needed to be. We had other systems guiding other domains of human activities, and these can be as successful as the market system. There is absolutely no reason why we should find the volunteer-driven success of Wikipedia as an aberration: This is in the age-old tradition of gift culture where things changed hands without a specific, material, reciprocation at the same time as is the norm of the market. We don't put a value to the work mothers do, all over the world, to bring up their children, or increasingly more rarely, the children does, in their term, to look after their aging parents. The mantra of today - if something isn't in the market, it gets trivialized - undermines the value of such work, which is possibly much larger than the World's GDP, and indeed insuperably valuable. Indeed, there are limits to the gift culture and the markets can fill the gap, but it is increasingly one or the other, and the aim of the modern marketers and capital-owners is to push market everywhere: That simply does not work.
Consider education, where a predominantly gift-driven culture is being transformed with a market-driven culture. It is not just about how one pays for education, it is fundamentally changing the classroom and even the nature of knowledge. The safe place for developing thinking, which the educational institutions were to be, are being transformed into factory of worker reproduction, the research orientation of great universities are being replaced by result emphasis, and the nature of knowledge, from the result of disinterested inquiry to a product of focused pursuit, has been changed to maintain the current social order, rather than exploring the edges of current thinking and come up with better ones.
Or, for that matter, healthcare, where caring for the sick has been a function of insurance eligibility, and it has become common for people to die without care in the age of abundant healthcare. This is not just about a hospital, or even about the system, but what responsibility we have to one another, and how this is being changed.
The redeeming thing is, however, that the gift culture, contrary to what the market fundamentalists want us to believe, is deeply natural to human beings and therefore refuse to die. President Obama talks about Stephanie Davies in Aurora, who stayed and cared for her friend, Allie Young, wounded and bleeding, amid all the shooting and mayhem all around her. This is being hailed as heroism, in the infinite trick of the media which portrays this as entirely exceptional; however, this is exactly what being human means, this is entirely natural and this is exactly what, each one of us as human beings, should do in a similar situation. Denying this, and accepting a narrow-minded selfishness as the true manifestation of human nature, is a motivated, and plainly wrong, way of interpreting who we are and how we behave. However, this is what the myth of the markets stand on: This is indeed why we need a better system, and we may already have some ideas how we can construct one.