Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Markets and Moral Reasoning

Tonight I happened to catch the end of an interview with the philosopher Michael J. Sandel on the public radio program “Marketplace.” He was being asked how idealistic abstractions about justice can apply to the seemingly amoral hustle and bustle of a dynamic capitalist economy.

In other words, Professor Sandel, what is an ivory tower academic like you doing on a show called Marketplace, even if you are about to take your wildly popular Harvard course on moral reasoning to a national stage through a partnership with PBS?

Without mentioning Adam Smith (he of the often-invoked claim about the market’s “hidden hand) by name, Sandel essentially said that the market simply is what it is − and what it is isn’t necessarily moral. As humans capable of asking questions about justice, we cannot really look to the market to settle questions about right and wrong.

After the financial meltdown and extended recession, are more Americans ready to hear this?

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