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Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do; Hired Guns; Motherhood: For Sale

05/15/2009

EPISODE FIVE Lecture Nine: During the Civil War, men were conscripted to fight in the war – but draftees were allowed to pay hired substitutes to fight in their place. Professor Sandel asks students – was this policy an example of free-market exchange? Or was it a form of coercion, because the lower class surely had more of a financial incentive to serve? This leads to a classroom debate about the contemporary questions surrounding war and conscription. Is today’s voluntary army really voluntary, given that many recruits come from a disproportionately lower economic background? What role does patriotism play? And what are the obligations of citizenship? Is there a civic duty to serve one’s country? Lecture Ten: Professor Sandel applies the issue of free-market exchange to a contemporary and controversial new area: reproductive rights. Sandel describes bizarre presents examples of the modern-day “business” of sperm and egg donation. Sandel then takes the debate a step further, using the famous legal case of “Baby M’, which raised the question of “who owns a baby”? Mary Beth Whitehead signed a contract with a New Jersey couple in the mid-eighties, agreeing to be their surrogate mother, in exchange for a large fee. But 24 hours after giving birth, Whitehead decided she wanted to keep the child and the case went to court. Students discuss the morality of selling human life, the legal issues surrounding consent and contracts, and the power of maternal rights.


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Series
Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do
Program
Hired Guns; Motherhood: For Sale
Program Number

105

Series Description

This 12 part series invites viewers to think critically about the fundamental questions of justice, equality, democracy and citizenship. Each week, more than 1,000 students attend the lectures of Harvard University professor and author Michael Sandel, eager to expand their understanding of political and moral philosophy, as well as test long-held beliefs. Students learn about the great philosophers of the past — Aristotle, Kant, Mill, Locke — then apply the lessons to complex and sometimes volatile modern-day issues, including affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism, loyalty and human rights. Sandel's teaching approach involves presenting students with an ethical dilemma — some hypothetical, others actual cases — then asking them to decide "what’s the right thing to do?" He encourages students to stand up and defend their decisions, which leads to a lively and often humorous classroom debate. Sandel then twists the ethical question around, to further test the assumptions behind their different moral choices. The process reveals the often contradictory nature of moral reasoning.

Material co-owned by Harvard and WGBH. Need both consent to reuse for any other purpose. Contact Amy Tonkonogy in Educational Productions. Series release date: 9/20/2009

Program Description

PART ONE: HIRED GUNS

During the Civil War, men drafted into war had the option of hiring substitutes to fight in their place. Professor Sandel asks students whether they consider this policy just. Many do not, arguing that it is unfair to allow the affluent to avoid serving and risking their lives by paying less privileged citizens to fight in their place. This leads to a classroom debate about war and conscription. Is today’s voluntary army open to the same objection? Should military service be allocated by the labor market or by conscription? What role should patriotism play, and what are the obligations of citizenship? Is there a civic duty to serve one’s country? And are utilitarians and libertarians able to account for this duty?

PART TWO: MOTHERHOOD: FOR SALE

In this lecture, Professor Sandel examines the principle of free-market exchange in light of the contemporary controversy over reproductive rights. Sandel begins with a humorous discussion of the business of egg and sperm donation. He then describes the case of “Baby M"—a famous legal battle in the mid-eighties that raised the unsettling question, “Who owns a baby?" In 1985, a woman named Mary Beth Whitehead signed a contract with a New Jersey couple, agreeing to be a surrogate mother in exchange for a fee of $10,000. However, after giving birth, Ms. Whitehead decided she wanted to keep the child, and the case went to court. Sandel and students debate the nature of informed consent, the morality of selling a human life, and the meaning of maternal rights.

Duration

00:56:46

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type

Video

Genres
Educational
Topics
Social Issues
Citation
Chicago: “Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do; Hired Guns; Motherhood: For Sale,” 05/15/2009, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 9, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_1FFB65C4969F4A33AEBF8996DAD336A5.
MLA: “Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do; Hired Guns; Motherhood: For Sale.” 05/15/2009. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 9, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_1FFB65C4969F4A33AEBF8996DAD336A5>.
APA: Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do; Hired Guns; Motherhood: For Sale. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_1FFB65C4969F4A33AEBF8996DAD336A5
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