Justice: Hired Guns

  Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?Episode 5 – Hired Guns   Part One: Hired Guns During the Civil War, men drafted into war had the option of hiring substitutes to fight in their place. Professor Sandel asks students whether they consider this policy just. Many do not, arguing that it is unfair to allow the affluent to avoid serving and risking their lives by paying less privileged citizens to fight in their place. This leads to a classroom debate about war and conscription. Is todays voluntary army open to the same objection? Should military service be allocated by the labor market or by conscription? What role should patriotism play, and what are the obligations of citizenship? Is there a civic duty to serve ones country? And are utilitarians and libertarians able to account for this duty?   Part Two: Motherhood – For Sale In this lecture, Professor Sandel examines the principle of free-market exchange in light of the contemporary controversy over reproductive rights. Sandel begins with a humorous discussion of the business of egg and sperm donation. He then describes the case of Baby M”—a famous legal battle in the mid-eighties that raised the unsettling question, Who owns a baby?” In 1985, a woman named Mary Beth Whitehead signed a contract with a New Jersey couple, agreeing to be a surrogate mother in exchange for a fee of $10,000. However, after giving birth, Ms. Whitehead decided she wanted to keep the child, and the case went to court. Sandel and students debate the nature of informed consent, the morality of selling a human life, and the meaning of maternal rights....

Justice: This Land is My Land

  Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?Episode 4 – This Land is My Land   Part One: This Land is My Land The philosopher John Locke believes that individuals have certain rights so fundamental that no government can ever take them away. These rights—to life, liberty and property—were given to us as human beings in the the state of nature, a time before government and laws were created. According to Locke, our natural rights are governed by the law of nature, known by reason, which says that we can neither give them up nor take them away from anyone else. Sandel wraps up the lecture by raising a question: what happens to our natural rights once we enter society and consent to a system of laws?   Part Two: Consenting Adults If we all have unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, how can a government enforce tax laws passed by the representatives of a mere majority? Doesnt that amount to taking some peoples property without their consent? Lockes response is that we give our tacit consent to obey the tax laws passed by a majority when we choose to live in a society. Therefore, taxation is legitimate and compatible with individual rights, as long as it applies to everyone and does not arbitrarily single anyone out....

Justice: Free to Choose

  Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?Episode 3 – Free to Choose   Part One: Free to Choose Sandel introduces the libertarian conception of individual rights, according to which only a minimal state is justified. Libertarians argue that government shouldnt have the power to enact laws that 1) protect people from themselves, such as seat belt laws, 2) impose some peoples moral values on society as a whole, or 3) redistribute income from the rich to the poor. Sandel explains the libertarian notion that redistributive taxation is akin to forced labor with references to Bill Gates and Michael Jordan.   Part Two: Who Owns Me? Libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick makes the case that taxing the wealthy—to pay for housing, health care, and education for the poor—is a form of coercion. Students first discuss the arguments behind redistributive taxation. Dont most poor people need the social services they receive in order to survive? If you live in a society that has a system of progressive taxation, arent you obligated to pay your taxes? Dont many rich people often acquire their wealth through sheer luck or family fortune? A group of students dubbed Team Libertarian volunteers to defend the libertarian philosophy against these objections....

Justice: Putting a Price Tag on Life

  Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?Episode 2 – Putting a Price Tag on Life   Part One: Putting a Price Tag on Life Today, companies and governments often use Jeremy Benthams utilitarian logic under the name of cost-benefit analysis. Sandel presents some contemporary cases in which cost-benefit analysis was used to put a dollar value on human life. The cases give rise to several objections to the utilitarian logic of seeking the greatest good for the greatest number. Should we always give more weight to the happiness of a majority, even if the majority is cruel or ignoble? Is it possible to sum up and compare all values using a common measure like money?   Part Two: How to Measure Pleasure Sandel introduces J.S. Mill, a utilitarian philosopher who attempts to defend utilitarianism against the objections raised by critics of the doctrine. Mill argues that seeking the greatest good for the greatest number is compatible with protecting individual rights, and that utilitarianism can make room for a distinction between higher and lower pleasures. Mills idea is that the higher pleasure is always the pleasure preferred by a well-informed majority. Sandel tests this theory by playing video clips from three very different forms of entertainment: Shakespeares Hamlet, the reality show Fear Factor, and The Simpsons. Students debate which experience provides the higher pleasure, and whether Mills defense of utilitarianism is successful....

Justice: The Moral Side of Murder

  Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?Episode 1 – The Moral Side of Murder   Part One: The Moral Side of Murder If you had to choose between (1) killing one person to save the lives of five others and (2) doing nothing even though you knew that five people would die right before your eyes if you did nothing—what would you do? What would be the right thing to do? Thats the hypothetical scenario Professor Michael Sandel uses to launch his course on moral reasoning. After the majority of students votes for killing the one person in order to save the lives of five others, Sandel presents three similar moral conundrums—each one artfully designed to make the decision more difficult. As students stand up to defend their conflicting choices, it becomes clear that the assumptions behind our moral reasoning are often contradictory, and the question of what is right and what is wrong is not always black and white.   Part Two: The Case For Cannibalism Sandel introduces the principles of utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, with a famous nineteenth century legal case involving a shipwrecked crew of four. After nineteen days lost at sea, the captain decides to kill the weakest amongst them, the young cabin boy, so that the rest can feed on his blood and body to survive. The case sets up a classroom debate about the moral validity of utilitarianism—and its doctrine that the right thing to do is whatever produces “the greatest good for the greatest number.”...

Story: The War Prayer, By Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory with stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way. Sunday morning came–next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams–visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation: God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword! Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory– An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord and God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!” The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside– which the startled minister did–and took his place. During some moments...