Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do? Episode 05: «HIRED GUNS»


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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 todays 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 ones country? And are utilitarians and libertarians able to account for this duty?


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.

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  1. Khaidem jk

    He is really good and influencial

  2. DerInDenWindPubst

    12:20 Raoul DOES go for a 3rd attempt to make his name known to the professor. The crowd starts to like it.

  3. gda295

    a Lot more battles have been lost than won b/c of mercenaries,
    also some wars could nt have been fought at all without them
    as for surrogate case contract should be enforceable

  4. Pete Good

    Michael always does a great job extrapolating the thoughts of the students sometimes poorly expressed thoughts. This is the first time I saw an argument go a little side ways it looked like one of the students pointed out the injustice of a poor man being conscripted not having the wealth outsource their duty as compared to say Carnegie but the lecture went sideways and focused on the legitimate transaction between the wealthy and the merc

  5. ThatGuyWithHippyHair

    Honestly this video convinced me that bearing children might be inherently unethical. If it seems unjust that the fate of a child (i.e. which parents that child grows up with) can be determined by the wealth of the highest bidder, isn't it also unjust in another sense for a child to be forced to be raised by any set of parents, just because they happened to be the people who biologically created that child (or adopted them)? I mean I'm not gonna go around telling all parents that they're awful people, but certainly I personally couldn't imagine the weight of responsibility and potential guilt it would entail to be such a strong determining force for a powerless (for 18 years at least) person's quality of life…

  6. Ya Boi

    I can't seem to understand why breaking out of a signed contract of an action you knew would take place is justifiable…

  7. Thomas Sorensen

    Sam & Raul and the girl almost got it. The Civil War system was coercive, the payment system is does involve coercion, but you're misplacing the source of that coercion. Life cannot be bought therefore it has no price. The rational decision if you're life isn't in danger is not to add such a risk to it; if in your life you had all the material things you needed to thrive you would not accept any amount of money to so gravely risk your life unless for some extremely compelling reason like an imminent threat. Therefore it is the circumstances of poverty that are coercive on the individual, such that the individual is compelled to take the bad deal that is a few thousand dollars in exchange for their life.

  8. Ion Turcanu

    39:21 look at the reaction of the girl in the background

  9. akbar rauf

    these videos are great!SAD!

  10. Shaltai Baltai

    these yankee students are so incredibly fucking DUMB

  11. Chris Devine

    39:20 The moron in the top right laughing is clearly not adult enough to have this philosophical discussion. I'm going to go out on a limb and say she did poorly in this course.

  12. Rishabh Jain

    A male person who wish to have surrogate baby also have 50% right on the baby beyond the contract because he donate his sperm which is a haploid cell and a female contribute her egg which is a haploid cell and these two haploid cell merge and make a diploid cell which take shape of baby

    another view female part did not have adequate knowledge of emotion she might have about the baby in future but male part had the importance of baby for his family. so if consider about the feeling of male we should enforce contract

  13. NO MA'AM

    So then Locke believes that nature law says no one can take your life and you cannot give your life. He also believes that the govt cannot take your life by sending you to war arbitrarily. He also believes that the govt can take your life by sending you to war as long as it is a general process by which you were selected. So once you have been generally selected into the army and sent to war which is okay with Locke you can then be individually selected to face the enemies cannon and die. So let's sum this up, Locke says the govt cannot arbitrarily take your life but it is allowed to put you in a position(being sent to war) in which you can be singled out arbitrarily forced to give up your life. So as long as the violation of taking your life is done in a round about way with a middle man to white wash the fact that the end result is your life being taken arbitrarily by means of a govt action then that it is okay? Sounds like a bunch of bs to me.

  14. Rajat Verma

    39:21 and 39:35 — the girl in the right top corner is appalled by what she heard. She looks cute though 🙂
    Edit: She does it again 41:13

  15. Emma Schwentner

    my problem with the military lottery system is really that though in Theorie it seems to be the same rules for everyone, in reality it is different. Not everybody is able to buy their way out of it and that makes it a  coerce system in my opinion!

  16. Tom

    39:20……That face in the background says it all.

  17. Siddharth Kulkarni

    at 13:40 , the coercion is not on the laborer who takes the $300 to go in place of someone who can afford to pay, but rather in the case of someone being nominated to go to war but cannot afford to buy themselves a way out.

  18. Serugo Patrick

    And i donot think Andrew Carnegie put a dollar sign on Human life because going to war doesn't mean a death sentence, some people come back alive. She wasn't a new mother, she has two kids already. That wasn't supposed to be a court case, the mom should be fined for not upholding the contract and for the damages caused.

  19. mitokyo

    Think about this; a vengeful person vs a professional murderer. Which one's more likely to get his job done?

  20. jenny crystal

    If the law allows a surrogate mother to keep the child DESPITE a contract, wouldn't that take away the rights of the couples who is supposed to be at the other end of the deal? what about gay male couples? Does that mean they can never have a blood-related son or daughter just because this whole surrogacy thing is a complete gamble on whether or not a surrogate mother would change her mind? Just because they're gay they can never have kids of their own? Also, if the male becomes a lawful father, and the surrogate mother the lawful mother, does the father have to pay for child support? That would mean that, if the lower court decided that way, the husband and wife would not only not have a child of their own, but also pay for child support of some stranger's baby; all of this just because a woman was born with a defect of not being able to get pregnant.

  21. ldlo0olbl

    With regards to the Motherhood lecture (considering the scenario given, and not the outcome that occurred after the contract was invalidated).

    If contracts lose their credibility over someone's feelings and lack of emotional awareness, however strong they may be, how far can this go?

    I also question why the feelings of the non-biological parents aren't factored in.
    -Mrs Stern had Multiple Sclerosis, so chose not to have her own baby. Imagine that feeling; giving birth would mean a difficult life for the child, so you choose a surrogate. Nine months preparing to find out you still can't have a child.
    -Mr Stern gave a part of his being, his sperm, on the condition that he would receive the child. In voiding the contract, you are violating his right to his own body.

    It's presumptuous to only consider the feelings on one individual involved. Personally, I believe a compromise should be made in such cases; e.g. monetary compensation or split custody.

  22. Major Keyvan Nourhaghighi

    گلُچین سرگرد نورحقیقی :عدالت ازنگاه فیلسوف وتاجروسیاستمدارچگونه تفسیر میشود؟
    What is "Justice" ? Thanks to Harvard University and in particular, to Professor Michael J Sandel, American political philosopher, for sharing free education to the people around the World.
    با سپاس از دانشگاههای آمریکا که در نهایت روشنفکری و سخاوتمندی در طی ده سال گذشته تمام دروس خود را به رایگان در اختیار مردم جهان قرار دادند. اینبار یک مجموعه از دروس « فلسفه عدالت» دانشگاه هارواد را برای دوستان مشتاق انتخاب کرده ام که توجّه دقیق به آنرا پیشنهادمیکنم
    And I also, like to thank the cheerful Harvard's students for great participation during all these very interesting, and some times, shocking philosophical ideas!
    ترجمه تمام این دروس در برنامه من است که پس از شروع و اتمام به اطلاع میرسانم
    سرگرد نورحقیقی
    ۱۲ آذر ۱۳۹۵
    تورنتو ، شهر مردمان بی فرهنگ جنایتکار

  23. Jake Cowton

    I wonder if there's an argument for the fact she entered into the adoption contract knowing that she didn't know what it would feel like to have and give up her baby for adoption.

  24. Rumple Stiltskin

    As a large majority of Western Society begins to wake up, they no longer want to be dictated to, when it comes to putting your life on the line. We are begging to see that just because we were born into this society it by no means mean we gave consent to be dictated to by a "corrupt and criminal" government. As long as our government acts righteously we will abide by its dictates because the truth of it is that we do need to support our growth and shared experience.

    But when individuals usurp the power of government to do their person bidding, (read Hillary Clinton) the people would hope that those persons would soon learn that it is not appropriate to steal power, but that is generally not what happens. Citizens wait to see who will act first in the discouragement of that person's actions. It is in that waiting that disbelief grows and people find themselves second guessing themselves. We need to act decisively and with conviction if we want to keep the power of government from destroying the very foundations upon which it is supported.

    People can be smart, but governments are dumb as a rock. Because everyone ostensibly wants consensus of their emotional stance, everyone looks to everyone else to identify and determine who may be the culprit. We need to stand beside those who are decisive, and someone who can see a problem off in the distance before it becomes overwhelming, and that person would be, "Donald Trump"

    Remember my friends, "Choice" is sacrosanct. No matter whether they want to call it Coercion or not does not change the fact that the seller of his body for war or otherwise, ultimately sets the price ! They want to call it coercion because it appears that they are trying to hide the fact that they do not want to be responsible for their actions. Every act has a decision behind it.

  25. CzechRiot

    I actually got the exact amount right, I said 50 thousand dollars immediately when he first asked the question. Seems like I'm a natural talent for foetus pricing.

  26. Ame Cyreign

    focusing just on the deal. a deal is a deal. the couple waited 9 months to see the deal through. if the mother waited 9 months just to break off the deal, where's the decency of mother to honor her words or promise?