What is the Purpose of Society–The New York Times opinion piece

I want to share an opinion piece I read this morning. Mark Bittman makes some provocative and thoughtful arguments. Food for thought!

You can read the complete article “What is the Purpose of Society?” from the New York Times. The article was summarized by Meridian Institute:

DSCN8856In this opinion piece, Mark Bittman writes, “The world of food and agriculture symbolizes most of what’s gone wrong in the United States. But because food is plentiful for most people, and the damage that conventional agriculture does isn’t readily evident to everyone, it’s important that we look deeper, beyond food, to the structure that underlies most decisions: the political economy.”

Progressives, he adds, are not thinking broadly or creatively enough. The business of America, he says, should not be about business, but well-being. There are two kinds of operating systems, says Bittman, hard and soft. A hard system is something like a clock – we know what it is for, know when it isn’t working, and we know how to fix it. But soft systems, he writes, are more complex: “We don’t all agree on goals, and we don’t agree on whether things are working or in need of repair. For example, is contemporary American agriculture a system for nourishing people and providing a livelihood for farmers? Or is it one for denuding the nation’s topsoil while poisoning land, water, workers and consumers and enriching corporations? Our collective actions would indicate that our principles favor the latter; that has to change.”

The most powerful way to change a complex, soft system is to change its purpose, writes Bittman. “For example, if we had a national agreement that food is not just a commodity, a way to make money, but instead a way to nourish people and the planet and a means to safeguard our future, we could begin to reconfigure the system for that purpose. More generally, if we agreed that human well-being was a priority, creating more jobs would not ring so hollow,” says Bittman, concluding, “Sadly, even if we did agree, complex systems are not subject to clever fixes. Rather, changes often have unexpected results…so change necessarily remains incremental. But without an agreement on goals, without statements of purpose, we are going to continue to see changes that are not in the interest of the majority. Increasingly, it’s corporations and not governments that are determining how the world works. As unrepresentative as government might seem right now, there is at least a chance of improving it, whereas corporations will always act in their own interests.”

Jacqueline Comito

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