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These and other questions are at the heart of Michael Sandel's Justice. Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at . Justice What S The Right Thing To Do. Topics Justice, Michael Sandel, eng pdf , download, liberalism, capitalism, democracy, kurfku. [Michael J Sandel] -- Examines the meaning of justice in a variety of situations Edition/Format: eBook: Document: English: First pbk. editionView all editions.
Sadly, as long as our military culture bears at least a quiet contempt for the psychological wounds of war, it is unlikely those veterans will ever see a Purple Heart. At the heart of the disagreement are rival conceptions of moral character and military valor. Those who insist that only bleeding wounds should count believe that post-traumatic stress reflects a weakness of character unworthy of honor.
And to answer that question, we have to assess competing conceptions of character and sacrifice. It might be argued that military medals are a special case, a throwback to an ancient ethic of honor and virtue. These days, most of our arguments about justice are about how to distribute the fruits of prosperity, or the burdens of hard times, and how to define the basic rights of citizens.
In these domains, considerations of welfare and freedom predominate. Bailout Outrage The public furor over the financial crisis of —09 is a case in point. For years, stock prices and real estate values had climbed. The reckoning came when the housing bubble burst. Wall Street banks and financial institutions had made billions of dollars on complex investments backed by mortgages whose value now plunged.
Once proud Wall Street firms teetered on the edge of collapse. The stock market tanked, devastating not only big investors but also ordinary Americans, whose retirement accounts lost much of their value. But there seemed no alternative. The banks and financial firms had grown so vast and so entwined with every aspect of the economy that their collapse might bring down the entire financial system. Their reckless bets enabled by inadequate government regulation had created the crisis. But here was a case where the welfare of the economy as a whole seemed to outweigh considerations of fairness.
Congress reluctantly appropriated the bailout funds. Then came the bonuses. Shortly after the bailout money began to flow, news accounts revealed that some of the companies now on the public dole were awarding millions of dollars in bonuses to their executives.
The most egregious case involved the American International Group A. This time, the outrage was not about tendollar bags of ice or overpriced motel rooms. It was about lavish rewards subsidized with taxpayer funds to members of the division that had helped bring the global financial system to near meltdown. Something was wrong with this picture. Although the U. House of Representatives sought to claw back the payments by approving a bill that would impose a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid to employees of companies that received substantial bailout funds.
At the heart of the bailout outrage was a sense of injustice. Even before the bonus issue erupted, public support for the bailout was hesitant and conflicted. Americans were torn between the need to prevent an economic meltdown that would hurt everyone and their belief that funneling massive sums to failed banks and investment companies was deeply unfair.
To avoid economic disaster, Congress and the public acceded. But morally speaking, it had felt all along like a kind of extortion. The reason may be less obvious than it seems.
Consider two possible answers—one is about greed, the other about failure. One source of outrage was that the bonuses seemed to reward greed, as the tabloid headline indelicately suggested. The public found this morally unpalatable. Not only the bonuses but the bailout as a whole seemed, perversely, to reward greedy behavior rather than punish it.
The derivatives traders had landed their company, and the country, in dire financial peril—by making reckless investments in pursuit of ever-greater profits. Having pocketed the profits when times were good, they saw nothing wrong with million-dollar bonuses even after their investments had come to ruin. Greed is a vice, a bad attitude, an excessive, single-minded desire for gain. But is there any reason to assume that the recipients of bailout bonuses are any greedier now than they were a few years ago, when they were riding high and reaping even greater rewards?
Wall Street traders, bankers, and hedge fund managers are a hard-charging lot. The pursuit of financial gain is what they do for a living. Whether or not their vocation taints their character, their virtue is unlikely to rise or fall with the stock market. One obvious difference is that bailout bonuses come from the taxpayer while the bonuses paid in good times come from company earnings. If the outrage is based on the conviction that the bonuses are undeserved, however, the source of the payment is not morally decisive.
But it does provide a clue: the reason the bonuses are coming from the taxpayer is that the companies have failed. This takes us to the heart of the complaint.
Americans are harder on failure than on greed. In market-driven societies, ambitious people are expected to pursue their interests vigorously, and the line between self-interest and greed often blurs. But the line between success and failure is etched more sharply.
And the idea that people deserve the rewards that success bestows is central to the American dream. Notwithstanding his passing reference to greed, President Obama understood that rewarding failure was the deeper source of dissonance and outrage.
In announcing limits on executive pay at companies receiving bailout funds, Obama identified the real source of bailout outrage: This is America. And we certainly believe that success should be rewarded. But what gets people upset—and rightfully so—are executives being rewarded for failure, especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.
At the height of the bonus furor, Grassley said in an Iowa radio interview that what bothered him most was the refusal of the corporate executives to take any blame for their failures. But he did want them to accept responsibility for their failure, to show contrition, and to offer a public apology. Were the CEOs and top executives of the big banks and investment firms really to blame for the financial crisis?
Testifying before congressional committees investigating the financial crisis, they insisted they had done all they could with the information available to them. But it also raises a far-reaching question about failure, success, and justice. If the weather is to blame for the bad years, how can it be that the talent, wisdom, and hard work of bankers, traders, and Wall Street executives are responsible for the stupendous returns that occurred when the sun was shining?
Confronted with public outrage over paying bonuses for failure, the CEOs argued that financial returns are not wholly their own doing, but the product of forces beyond their control.
They may have a point. Surely the end of the cold war, the globalization of trade and capital markets, the rise of personal computers and the Internet, and a host of other factors help explain the success of the financial industry during its run in the s and in the early years of the twenty-first century.
In , CEOs at major U. Most of them work hard and bring talent to their work. But consider this: In , CEOs earned only 42 times what their workers did.
Or do pay differentials reflect contingencies unrelated to talents and skills? Or compare the level of executive compensation in the United States with that in other countries. CEOs at top U. Or do these differences also reflect factors unrelated to the effort and talent that executives bring to their jobs? But the argument over the bonuses raises questions about who deserves what when times are good. Do the successful deserve the bounty that markets bestow upon them, or does that bounty depend on factors beyond their control?
And what are the implications for the mutual obligations of citizens—in good times and hard times? Whether the financial crisis will prompt public debate on these broader questions remains to be seen. Three Approaches to Justice To ask whether a society is just is to ask how it distributes the things we prize—income and wealth, duties and rights, powers and opportunities, offices and honors. A just society distributes these goods in the right way; it gives each person his or her due.
The hard questions begin when we ask what people are due, and why.
Each of these ideals suggests a different way of thinking about justice. Some of our debates reflect disagreement about what it means to maximize welfare or respect freedom or cultivate virtue. Others involve disagreement about what to do when these ideals conflict. Political philosophy cannot resolve these disagreements once and for all. But it can give shape to the arguments we have, and bring moral clarity to the alternatives we confront as democratic citizens.
This book explores the strengths and weaknesses of these three ways of thinking about justice. We begin with the idea of maximizing welfare. For market societies such as ours, it offers a natural starting point. Much contemporary political debate is about how to promote prosperity, or improve our standard of living, or spur economic growth.
Why do we care about these things? The most obvious answer is that we think prosperity makes us better off than we would otherwise be—as individuals and as a society. Prosperity matters, in other words, because it contributes to our welfare. To explore this idea, we turn to utilitarianism, the most influential account of how and why we should maximize welfare, or as the utilitarians put it seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number.
Next, we take up a range of theories that connect justice to freedom. Most of these theories emphasize respect for individual rights, though they disagree among themselves about which rights are most important. The idea that justice means respecting freedom and individual rights is at least as familiar in contemporary politics as the utilitarian idea of maximizing welfare.
For example, the U. Bill of Rights sets out certain liberties—including rights to freedom of speech and religious liberty—that even majorities may not violate.
And around the world, the idea that justice means respecting certain universal human rights is increasingly embraced in theory, if not always in practice. The approach to justice that begins with freedom is a capacious school. In fact, some of the most hard-fought political arguments of our time take place between two rival camps within it—the laissezfaire camp and the fairness camp.
Leading the laissez-faire camp are free-market libertarians who believe that justice consists in respecting and upholding the voluntary choices made by consenting adults.
The fairness camp contains theorists of a more egalitarian bent. They argue that unfettered markets are neither just nor free. In their view, justice requires policies that remedy social and economic disadvantages and give everyone a fair chance at success.
Finally, we turn to theories that see justice as bound up with virtue and the good life. In contemporary politics, virtue theories are often identified with cultural conservatives and the religious right. The idea of legislating morality is anathema to many citizens of liberal societies, as it risks lapsing into intolerance and coercion.
But the notion that a just society affirms certain virtues and conceptions of the good life has inspired political movements and arguments across the ideological spectrum.
They often begin with concrete situations.
Often the disagreements are among partisans or rival advocates in the public realm. Sometimes the disagreements are within us as individuals, as when we find ourselves torn or conflicted about a hard moral question. But how exactly can we reason our way from the judgments we make about concrete situations to the principles of justice we believe should apply in all situations?
What, in short, does moral reasoning consist in? The Runaway Trolley Suppose you are the driver of a trolley car hurtling down the track at sixty miles an hour.
Up ahead you see five workers standing on the track, tools in hand. You feel desperate, because you know that if you crash into these five workers, they will all die. Suddenly, you notice a side track, off to the right. There is a worker on that track, too, but only one. You realize that you can turn the trolley car onto the side track, killing the one worker, but sparing the five. What should you do? Now consider another version of the trolley story.
This time, you are not the driver but an onlooker, standing on a bridge overlooking the track.
This time, there is no side track. Down the track comes a trolley, and at the end of the track are five workers. The trolley is about to crash into the five workers.
You feel helpless to avert this disaster—until you notice, standing next to you on the bridge, a very heavy man. You could push him off the bridge, onto the track, into the path of the oncoming trolley. He would die, but the five workers would be saved.
You consider jumping onto the track yourself, but realize you are too small to stop the trolley. Would pushing the heavy man onto the track be the right thing to do?
It would be terribly wrong to push the man onto the track. But this raises a moral puzzle: Why does the principle that seems right in the first case— sacrifice one life to save five—seem wrong in the second? It does seem cruel to push a man to his death, even for a good cause. But is it any less cruel to kill a man by crashing into him with a trolley car? Perhaps the reason it is wrong to push is that doing so uses the man on the bridge against his will.
He was just standing there. But the same could be said of the person working on the side track. He was just doing his job, not volunteering to sacrifice his life in the event of a runaway trolley.
It might be argued that railway workers willingly incur a risk that bystanders do not. Maybe the moral difference lies not in the effect on the victims—both wind up dead—but in the intention of the person making the decision. But the same is true in the pushing case. The death of the man you push off the bridge is not essential to your purpose. All he needs to do is block the trolley; if he can do so and somehow survive, you would be delighted.
Or perhaps, on reflection, the two cases should be governed by the same principle. Both involve a deliberate choice to take the life of one innocent person in order to prevent an even greater loss of life. Perhaps your reluctance to push the man off the bridge is mere squeamishness, a hesitation you should overcome. Pushing a man to his death with your bare hands does seem more cruel than turning the steering wheel of a trolley. But doing the right thing is not always easy. We can test this idea by altering the story slightly.
Suppose you, as the onlooker, could cause the large man standing next to you to fall onto the track without pushing him; imagine he is standing on a trap door that you could open by turning a steering wheel. No pushing, same result. Would that make it the right thing to do?
Or is it still morally worse than for you, as the trolley driver, to turn onto the side track? It is not easy to explain the moral difference between these cases—why turning the trolley seems right, but pushing the man off the bridge seems wrong.
But notice the pressure we feel to reason our way to a convincing distinction between them—and if we cannot, to reconsider our judgment about the right thing to do in each case. We sometimes think of moral reasoning as a way of persuading other people. But it is also a way of sorting out our own moral convictions, of figuring out what we believe and why.
Some moral dilemmas arise from conflicting moral principles. For example, one principle that comes into play in the trolley story says we should save as many lives as possible, but another says it is wrong to kill an innocent person, even for a good cause.
Confronted with a situation in which saving a number of lives depends on killing an innocent person, we face a moral quandary. We must try to figure out which principle has greater weight, or is more appropriate under the circumstances.
Other moral dilemmas arise because we are uncertain how events will unfold. Hypothetical examples such as the trolley story remove the uncertainty that hangs over the choices we confront in real life. This makes such stories imperfect guides to action. But it also makes them useful devices for moral analysis. The Afghan Goatherds Consider now an actual moral dilemma, similar in some ways to the fanciful tale of the runaway trolley, but complicated by uncertainty about how things will turn out: In June , a special forces team made up of Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell and three other U.
Shortly after the special forces team took up a position on a mountain ridge overlooking the village, two Afghan farmers with about a hundred bleating goats happened upon them.
With them was a boy about fourteen years old. The Afghans were unarmed.
The American soldiers trained their rifles on them, motioned for them to sit on the ground, and then debated what to do about them. On the one hand, the goatherds appeared to be unarmed civilians. On the other hand, letting them go would run the risk that they would inform the Taliban of the presence of the U. The only choice was to kill them or let them go free.
We have a right to do everything we can to save our own lives. The military decision is obvious. To turn them loose would be wrong. But my trouble is, I have another soul. Retail Price:. BookShout Price:. Print books are available for download with a minimum order of 50 books. Readers Also Liked New York Times Best Sellers: Top Fiction: May 27th - Jun 2nd.
Discussion Goodreads Reviews. Reviews from Goodreads. Item added to cart. Continue Shopping Checkout. Write a Review for Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? Justice is a timely plea for us to desist from political bickering and see if we can have a sensible discussion about what sort of society we really want to live in. This is such a book. Sparkling commentary from the professor we all wish we had.
Politicians and commentators tend to ask two questions of policy: Sandel rightly points out the shallowness of that debate and adds a third criterion: Sandel's insistence on the inescapably ethical character of political debate is enormously refreshing. Generations of students and educated citizens will be very well served by Sandel's introductory overviews.
This is enlivening stuff. Sandel is not looking to win an argument; he's looking at how a citizen might best engage the public realm. Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer. For those seeking a short course through moral philosophy from a witty writer, fast on his feet, and nimble with his pen, this thin volume is difficult to beat. Hamilton, Seattle Times. His aim is not to boss people around but to bring them around to the pleasures of thinking clearly about large questions of social policy.
Will, syndicated columnist. But moral questions always return, as puzzles and as tragedies. Would we push a hefty man onto a railroad track to save the lives of five others?
Should Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell, in June of , have executed a group of Afghan goatherds who, having stumbled on his position, might inform the enemy about his unit? Luttrell let them go, the Taliban attacked, and three of his comrades died. These examples and others -- price-gouging after Hurricane Katrina, affirmative action, gay marriage -- are all grist for the teaching of Michael Sandel, perhaps the most prominent college professor in America.