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Wisdom Level:  Beginner

Overview:

‘Justice’ is one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history. Professor Michael Sandel hosts a series of talks that discuss various ethical and moral challenges where our views about right and wrong will often blur depending on the circumstances.

Commentary:

PART ONE: FREE TO CHOOSE

Sandel introduces the libertarian concept of individual rights, according to which only a minimal state is justified. Libertarians argue that government shouldn’t have the power to enact laws that 1) protect people from themselves, such as seat-belt laws, 2) impose some people’s moral values on society as a whole, or 3) redistribute income from the rich to the poor. Sandel explains the libertarian notion that redistributive taxation is akin to forced labor with references to Bill Gates and Michael Jordan.

PART TWO: WHO OWNS ME?

Libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick makes the case that taxing the wealthy—to pay for housing, health care, and education for the poor—is a form of coercion. Students first discuss the arguments behind redistributive taxation. Don’t most poor people need the social services they receive in order to survive? If you live in a society that has a system of progressive taxation, arent you obligated to pay your taxes? Don’t many rich people often acquire their wealth through sheer luck or family fortune? A group of students dubbed Team Libertarian volunteers to defend the libertarian philosophy against these objections.

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