Shoulding on Seth

Seth Godin says “There are no shoulds in the market, just reality,” but he doesn’t really believe that. How do I know he doesn’t believe that? Because he goes on to suggest $20 as a “ ‘moral’ ceiling” on the price of the commodity in discussion, namely e-books. Did you notice the quotation marks around the word ‘moral’ in his article? Imagine him speaking and making air quotes with his fingers. It’s not that he personally believes there is anything immoral about charging more than $20…but doesn’t he? Doesn’t he have some sense that charging more than twenty bucks is wrong at some level? Nah, not wrong morally but just bad for business. But doesn’t Seth (and everyone in the business world) believe that one should not do something that is bad for business? Or to put it positively, doesn’t Seth think one should do what is good for business? Aren’t good and bad moral decisions?

Obviously, I disagree with the Mr. Godin. There are shoulds in the market. Two crucial shoulds that are foundational to the existence of the market are a) “I should get paid,” and b) “I should get what I paid for.” I can’t imagine Seth not getting paid, shrugging his shoulder and saying, “That’s reality.”

Here is some more reality: people don’t like shoulds, at least they don’t like when shoulds get between them and what they want. I don’t know what Seth specifically wants with regard to the price of e-books. I assume he wants to make money by selling them. Does he want a fair price or does he want a maximal price? Are these two mutually exclusive in this case? I can’t say. But I can say that the reality is shoulds are unavoidable in the market, as in life.

One challenge is identifying them. Another is conforming to them.

This is supposed to be a blog about theology. So what’s the connection? Well, if theology is about God and God’s relationship to the world, then the connection is this: God, as creator, has made humans to reflect his image within the material universe. We are to be like him in all our relationships and the market is a form of human relationship. Humans are to reflect his image in the market. God is good. We should be good. God is just. We should be just. God is truthful. We should be truthful. When humans fail to reflect God in the market, all manner of things go wrong. One sign that things have gone wrong is an outrageous mark up…particularly on e-books.


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