Thursday, January 14, 2010

Interview with Michael Sandel in The Philosophers' Magazine

In the new issue of The Philosophers' Magazine, Julian Baggini interviews professor Michael Sandel (Harvard University):

"The Thick of It"


"I admire and agree with John Rawls’s arguments for equality or for a greater measure of equality than prevails in most of our societies; and I agree very much with the egalitarian spirit of the difference principle.”

"Today, markets have begun to reach into spheres of life traditionally governed by non-market norms: health, education, security and a great many others. In so far as there is something morally troubling about that development, one could say, well, if markets govern all sorts of spheres, including reproduction, family life, health, education and so on, people who lack money will be at a disadvantage and may be coerced by economic necessity and that is a reason to worry about markets run amuck, about rampant commodification."

"But there is another objection to markets reaching in to certain spheres of life, which is the crowding out of non-market norms that may be valuable. For example, if we pay children, as some school districts now do, a certain amount of money for each book they read, the goal is worthy – to get them to read more – but the effect is to crowd out non-market values like cultivating the love of learning, the love of reading."

"(.....) We can only address that kind of question if we ask, are those norms part of an important human good or social good? We can only ask that question about commodification if we are prepared to bring in admittedly contested conceptions of the good, and not simply concern ourselves with whether the background conditions of society are fair.”

See my previous posts on Michael Sandel here, here and here.

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