30 August 2013

Technically Sound, But Not Right

Nineteen dollars is the correct price to pay for a pair of shoes.  But it may very well be wrong that the price of shoes is nineteen dollars.  Shoes that can be sold for nineteen dollars because they represent sweatshop or child labor may be technically correct, good shoes, "worth the money"; all contractual obligations involved in the process of their production may be scrupulously met; yet nineteen dollars is a wrong price for the shoes.  The total shoe situation is not fit to enter into a moral world; it ought not to exist.  The reply that we must have shoes, or cheap shoes, that men must be rewarded for their labor, skill, risk, etc., misses the point entirely.  We must have shoes, cheap, good (technically), promptly, etc., but all these are subordinate to the demand that shoes be right; meaning by this that the whole shoe situation, production, distribution, consumption, must be appropriate to the total cultural world which defines the shoe and creates the need for it.

--from Elijah Jordan's The Good Life, p 54 (1949) [in the original the price of shoes is "five dollars"]

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