What you'll learn

  • The ways in which markets have crowded out non-market spaces and norms.
  • To reflect about the moral limits - if any - of market norms.
  • How “needs” are subjective, and place value on nontraditional goods and services.
  • How to clearly articulate a philosophical argument about the allocation of goods and the moral boundaries of markets in our societies.
  • How to develop and refine your own ethical framework to address challenging moral dilemmas.

Course description

Should you be able to buy a vote, citizenship, or college admission? Would you bet on someone else’s life—or, more accurately their death date? What about paying to see the exploitation of a person? 

Competition, status, and greed often cause one’s moral compass to move in the wrong direction, but if there is a market to support these macabre sales, then the question to consider is this: Are there certain moral and civic goods, that markets do not honor, and money cannot buy?

Deciding case-by-case the ethical considerations to determine when and if people’s rights are violated, you will immerse yourself in videos from the Institute for New Economic Thinking, learning alongside a global cohort of peers—engaging in discussion and debating the moral dividing line. 

Led by award-winning Harvard Professor Michael J. Sandel, professor of the popular HarvardX course Justice, you will explore topics that might sound familiar, like price gouging and human organ sales—but have you thought of linestanding, refugee quotas, or lookism? This course will take a deep dive into various “needs” and whether they abuse market mechanisms. 

Should everything be for sale without limits?

Instructor

Associated Schools

  • Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences

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