Michael Sandel

Harvard University political philosopher Michael Sandel teaches Harvard’s most popular course. It’s called “Justice,” and explores the often thorny moral and ethical issues underlying the news. Is torture ever justified? Should we bribe people to be healthy? Should a nation be allowed to buy the right to pollute? Sandel returns to Forum to talk about justice.

Michael Sandel: Public Philosopher 25 February,2013forum

Michael Sandel, political philosopher and professor of government at Harvard University and author of books including "What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets"

  • OldVet

    Elected officials and servicepeople take the same oath.
    As a sixty six year old veteran, how do I reconcile my oath to protect and defend the constitution, which requires Congress to declare war with the fact that war has not been declared in my lifetime.

    Once they grow up, how can any veteran have integrity? Does this incoherence contribute to impulse that drives 22 veterans to commit suicide each day?

  • thucy

    endless krasny-isms!

    Of what relevance was Krasny’s insertion of the fact that he’d recently returned from Japan to the question of differing global views?
    Do Krasny’s producers ever try to rein in Krasny’s endless insertion of his own activities into an otherwise interesting discussion? Or have they long since given up trying? I’m not the only local listener who turns off the dial and turns off donations.
    I can think of MANY local prof’s who would do a better, less solipsistic job than Krasny. Hell, I’d take an adjunct prof!

    It’s not that we don’t appreciate Krasny, it’s just that the producers don’t keep their own host in check. Also: the show needs new blood. Who does Krasny represent anymore but the increasingly geriatric KQED listener audience? You gotta grow the base.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      If you dislike the show and how its run why listen? As to who listens, ALL the under age 35 folks in our family listen daily and love how Dr. Krasny is akin to a good friend having a conversation.Also will ad that his show is one of the top shows NPR has nationally. That speaks volumes.

      • thucy

        Beth, isn’t your first question akin to asking, “If you don’t like America, why don’t you move to fill-in-the-blank country”?

        Forum could be a better show with a stronger, more self-disciplined host. If former KQED supporters simply never offer input, how will it ever improve? Is there NO place for pointed criticism?

        IF KQED’s Forum program is as highly rated as you claim (citation, please?) is it because the show is as good as “Fresh Air” or “The Leonard Lopate Show” – or is it merely because there is a large public radio audience here?

        These are worthwhile questions. Because the show covers local politics in addition to more global topics, we are well within our right to ask for a higher quality of discourse.

        When I am listening to Leonard Lopate or Terry Gross, I am not constantly bombarded with references to those hosts’ personal lives or the celebrities they count as their “friends”. I am not subject to a stream of malapropisms, mispronunciations, etc.

        Let’s get some rotating hosts – let’s get some fresh blood in here.

    • Chris OConnell

      Japan is in a different part of the globe with a different language and culture than the US. So having just visited Japan (and many other countries), the guest could speak to how Japanese view some of these “justice” differently than Americans, for example.

    • Steve

      I think Michael Krasny generally does an excellent job. Today, though, I noticed several instances where he fell short, mainly by interrupting Mr. Sandel before he could complete his thoughts, and inserting extraneous comments.

  • Bill

    I agree on the central moral concept libertarianism – I find the notion that one does NOT “own” one’s body and work to be morally repugnant. However, I disconnect at the precept that all taxation is necessarily “confiscatory.” I want to live in a well-ordered and well-protected society, and I am not foolish enough to think (1) that I can provide that entirely for myself or (2) that it can come about without my contribution. I also recognize that I don’t have the knowledge and experience to understand all that is necessary to maintain that well-ordered society and, therefore, what that maintenance costs. I depend on government to honestly and efficiently assess those costs to me through taxes. I recognize that taxes are necessary, even if I believe some of my tax money is wasted or used in ways that are contrary to my beliefs. Looking at taxes as payment for the efficient delivery of public goods makes them morally acceptable.

  • Bill_Woods

    “No university, I know of, auctions off places in its classes.” (approximate quote) But quite a few encourage out-of-state applicants because they pay more — even at the expense of in-state applicants.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    Society will never be able to achieve justice over its full spectrum until legal representation is guaranteed in civil cases as it is already in criminal cases. As it is (excepting very narrow wedges of legal coverage) the poor who can’t pay are simply “left out.” Contingency representation for the poor requires three daunting conditions: 1) enough money at stake to attract an attorney’s purely business or “market” interests; 2) deep, collectible pockets on the other side; 3) an almost “sure shot” case.

    When we guarantee legal representation across the board, millions of small plaintiffs will help overcome “Economic Discrimination Before the Law” and its skewing effects on our entire society

  • Bill_Woods

    A while back (wow, twenty years), Jane Jacobs wrote an interesting book on two ethical systems — Guardian and Commercial — and the way they conflict.

    For instance, if a judge sold his decision to the highest bidder, he’d be very seriously in the wrong. However, if he sold his house to the highest bidder, that would be entirely proper.


  • GiorgioOrwell2nd

    The problem with viewing economic challenges through the free market lens, is that free markets in the real world are on scales so huge that the normal rules don’t apply. These things don’t scale up well at all as seen by banks that are too big, corporations running roughshod over politics and choice, climate change/pollution…none of these are solveable through markets at this point, they are too corrupt, and too warped to actually solve the real problems we face.
    Free market rationalization works well when looking at a small market economy, one merchant vs another, but not in the world we inhabit.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Stanley Chao, author of ‘Selling to China’, describes how the culture of business in China is such that western companies will be ripped off as a matter of course, i.e., that a given Chinese company contracting to manufacture American Company’s goods will produce agreed upon goods for a “golden period” of short duration, and then ‘cheap out’ – with lesser ingredients, materials, or suppliers, and then sell the designs – stealing them – to other companies in China. Even pharmaceutical giant, Baxter Pharmaceuticals, which produced Heparin in China, and had quality controls in place, was victimized when the Heparin produced was tainted, shipped to countries around the world, and caused more than 40 deaths. The author goes on to describe how a businessman can easily close his company and re-open next door under a new name. In fact, it is rare that any court in China will find liability for such fraud. So where is this quaint concept of “shame” that Michael mentioned?

  • william klingelhoffer

    re Torture:
    I heard a professional interrogator on a radio talk show once say that the most effective way to get information was to establish rapport with the subject. Perhaps sometime you could get legitimate effective American retired professional interrogators on Forum and see what they say. I enjoy this show today with Mr. Sandel.

    • Fay Nissenbaum

      Early on when the facility at Guantanamo Bay was filled with captured foreign nationals, ostensibly supporters of Bin Laden, an FBI agent touring the prison and seeing the severe interrogation techniques – from shaming by being posed naked in front of female soldiers, to beating and chaining prisoners in uncomfortable positions – stated that “this is not how you get useful information” from suspected terrorists.

      He explained that the torture victim will say (understandably) whatever it is he perceives the interrogator wants, i.e., anything to make the torture stop! So if our own experienced agents say that torture does not work, why the hell is it still being spun as a ‘tool’ that’s effective and one that we need? That’s why I hated Zero Dark 30 and I’m glad the movie lost at Oscar time.

  • Dr Sook

    Zuckerberg et al gave $3M to 11 top cancer researchers in order to ‘motivate’ young people to go into these serious productive fields- fields that they imply are not appealing because they do not receive big cash rewards.
    What a shallow & immature notion of what motivates scientists ! What student who is going to do top notch dedicated biomedical research needs a cash ‘carrot’ to dissuade him from becoming an investment banker !??

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    I have no problem someone selling an organ, as long as they know all the ‘what ifs’ involved. Like what if you end up with kidney failure when you only have one kidney left? Its called full informed consent.

    Also concerns me that society seems to insist that a person needs a college degree, yet fewer and fewer colleges/universities are affordable, which means we are indeed becoming even more of a class based society.

    Shelter, food, water, are NEEDS and as such we as a society need to endeavor to make sure everyone has basic shelter, clean simple food, and water. Helping others also makes us more caring people. But the help should be from fellow humans not government, since government makes you a number and makes you invisible. Challenge people to care as well as get involved.

    • dan becker

      No, we don’t. Only if we want to. Where does personal responsibility play into this?

  • disqus_fZQMbEzC69

    Ugh. I love Michael too, but today he lead a great discussion off track or to the incidental. I noticed Sandel stayed focus on answering questions or had the capability of acknowledging Kransny’s point and then moving back to the larger/richer point.

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