Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Perfect

My sister came to two conclusions after watching Obama's More Perfect Union speech yesterday.

One, she thinks our kids and their kids are going to be writing term papers on the speech someday. And, two, she thinks we should name the startup More Perfect Market.

"If he can use the words more perfect, you can."

She's not alone. Ever since I started blogging, More Perfect Market has been quietly gaining support.

Part of me really wants to keep the blog and the website separate. I feel like I'll have more writing range if I do it that way. I feel like it'll be easier to write about my grandmother or my other lives if the blog's affiliation remains unofficial. But, if people are calling for More Perfect Market, I should probably give them what they want.

I do think the name More Perfect Market works. I like dropping a huge and philosophically controversial word like "perfect" and keeping it safely qualified. I think More Perfect Market plays nicely with the subtitle we've been using with Productipedia since last summer--More Perfect Market: buy for good. And I love that it invokes the Founding Fathers. For all their faults, I'm a sucker for Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. I dig their willingness to write and write and write and engage the country in the ideological details behind the government they were designing. Calling that transparency might be a little over the top, but the fact that decisionmakers published detailed arguments for the ratification of the Constitution in newspapers is definitely noteworthy for its openness.

And we do need a more perfect market.

Bill McDonough says he uses the tools of commerce because they are fundamentally honest: "we can't exchange value for very long if we don't trust each other."

I agree in principle, and I fully support the business that MBDC is doing, but I think we should keep in mind just how much bad value commerce continues to exchange. We pay businesses for the goods and services we want. We get our shoes, our fuel, our food, our toilet paper, but we also get greenhouse gases, exploitation of desperate communities, and lobbying for regulation that produces short term prosperity at the expense of everyone's long term future. The money we spend does much more than just turn water and flour into bread or squeeze the juice out of an orange. There are side effects, positive and negative, and those side effects don't affect our markets in proportion to their impacts on our world and on our lives. Markets can be honest, but today's level of honesty is simply not honest enough.

Buyers need to understand what they're getting in exchange for their dollars, the good and the bad, the short term important and the long term important. Buyers need to understand that they have choices. And buyers need to buy (or choose not to buy) accordingly.

I hope both the website and the blog, whatever they're called, can help stimulate that kind of demand side behavior.

We're not going to make anything perfect by getting people to think and learn and discuss before they buy, but it will be a step in the right direction, a step toward something a little more perfect.

Note: If anyone wants to weigh in on the More Perfect Market name or blog and business separation, no decisions have been made, and I'd love to hear what everyone has to say.