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Michael Sandel / What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Event Type:
Location Details:
First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley CA 94704

From Harvard University’s Michael Sandel, the New York Times bestselling author of Justice and “perhaps the most prominent college professor in America” (The Washington Post), comes a timely look at the relationship between markets and morals, a book that asks fundamental questions about the reach of markets into our daily lives.

Clear and compelling, WHAT MONEY CAN’T BUY offers the same immersive experience of moral philosophy as Justice, a quality that also defines Sandel’s enormously popular public lectures. Covering all aspects of life—from health to education, public safety to national security, criminal justice, environmental protection, sports and art, family life and personal relationships—Sandel delves into the difficult arguments missing from our public debates about the value being assigned by markets to nonmarket norms.

Why worry that markets have come to define our lives as never before? Inequality and corruption stand out as crucial concerns. The marketization of society leads to a greater divide between people of means and those without; putting a price on things such as children, the environment, and citizenship can corrupt their value. Neither is good for democracy and both are products of our having drifted from having a market economy to being a market society.

To explore these concerns, Sandel leads us thoughtfully through numerous questions, among them: Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Is it ethical to pay people to be sterilized or to donate their organs? Should lobbyists be allowed to pay someone to stand in line for hearings and should people be able to buy other people’s life insurance? Should companies be allowed to advertise in our schools and prisons? Should it be possible to buy citizenship, access to doctors, or admittance to elite universities?

“The problem with our politics,” Sandel writes, “is not too much moral argument but too little . . . A debate about the moral limits of markets would enable us to decide, as a society, where markets serve the public good and where they don’t belong . . . The question of markets is really a question about how we want to live together. Do we want a society where everything is up for sale? Or are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honor and money cannot buy?”

Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1980. He is the author of many books, including Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, a New York Times bestseller in hardcover and paperback and a bestseller in translation in Japan and South Korea as well. He has taught his undergraduate course “Justice” to more than 15,000 Harvard students over the years, and video footage of the course were adapted into a PBS television series. Sandel graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University and received his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He served on the George W. Bush administration's President's Council on Bioethics. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, May 15
First Congregational Church of Berkeley (2345 Channing Way at Dana, Berkeley; enter via Channing Street door)

Tickets $12 ($6 students, including OLLI) in advance only at Brown Paper Tickets online or 800-838-3006; $15 at the door (all)
Added to the calendar on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 11:53AM
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