Thursday, June 7, 2018

"What Money Can't Buy:" A Michael Sandel Video Series

The Institute for New Economic Thinking has posted video of a six-part series: "What Money Can't Buy."  The series revolves around philosopher Michael Sandel, who has thought about the intersection of economic motivations with other values as deeply as anyone. At times, Sandel discusses questions with prominent economists (Greg Mankiw, Richard Posner, Joseph Stiglitz, Lawrence H. Summers, and others). But most of the videos are a seminar-style discussion with Sandel and 12 students.

Episode 1: Sex Sells, But Should It? (Should We Be Able to Discriminate Based on Looks?)
Episode 2: The Body Market (Should You Be Able to Sell Your Kidney?)
Episode 3: The Walrus Quota (Should We Be Able to Sell Refugees?)
Episode 4: Supply Shock (Should You Be Able to Sell Water In A Disaster?)
Episode 5: The Golden Door (Should We Pay People to Vote?)
Episode 6: The Death Pool (Should We Be Able to Profit Off of Death?)

For an example of Sandel's style, one starting point is his article in the Fall 2013 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, "Market Reasoning as Moral Reasoning: Why Economists Should Re-engage with Political Philosophy" (27:4, pp. 121-40). When it comes to ideas, Sandel is a poker and a prodder, putting forward possible hypotheses and pushing their edges, always on the lookout for potential qualifications, exceptions, and counterbalancing factors. His answers, to the extent that he offers any, are often provisional and hedged. But you can learn a lot about the terrain of these arguments and about philosophical reasoning by following along.