Money, Markets, and Morals (Gen Ed 1109)



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Michael Sandel

What should be the role of money and markets in our society? Are there some goods that should not be bought and sold? Do market practices and incentives sometimes erode or crowd out non-market norms worth caring about? We tend to assume that a deal is a deal; people should be free to choose for themselves what value to place on the goods they exchange. On this view, all voluntary market exchanges are just. The course invites you to examine this assumption by considering a number of morally controversial uses of markets and by reading some philosophers who challenge the conceptions of justice, value, and freedom underlying debates about markets. Given the central role of markets and market thinking in contemporary life, reflecting critically on the proper role and reach of markets bears on your responsibilities as citizens and also on your choice of careers and life plans.

See also: Ethics & Civics