Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Harvard's Michael Sandel goes Public

Michael Gerson has an op-ed today on the Communitarian Michael Sandel. Professor Sandel is making several of his lectures available online at What makes Sandel an anomaly on campus is that he is willing to critique the cultural libertarian view which says, “that government's only job is to set fair rules and procedures; it is entirely up to free individuals to choose the best way to live.”

"I do not think," He says, "that freedom of choice -- even freedom of choice under fair conditions -- is an adequate basis for a just society." For Sandel to say something like that on a campus which is filled with professors and students who assume it as a matter of fact is quite gutsy. Gerson’s nicely summarizes Sandel’s Communitarianism:
This equation of justice with freedom, he says, is unrealistic about the way human beings actually live. Our views of right and wrong, duty and betrayal, are not merely the result of individual free choice. All of us are born into institutions -- a family that involves our unconditional love, a community that elicits feelings of solidarity, a country that may demand a costly loyalty. Sandel argues that a liberal individualism cannot explain these deep attachments. We are "bound by some moral ties we haven't chosen."
Sandel, in the good company of Aristotle, contends that knowing "the right thing to do" in any of these institutions requires a determination of its purpose. And the purpose of government is not only to defend individual rights but also to honor and reward civic virtues -- patriotism, self-sacrifice and concern for our neighbor. This third definition of justice, by nature, is a moral enterprise.

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