Free to Choose / Who Owns Me?

SUN, SEP 27, 2009 (55:08)

Lecture Five: "Free to Choose" Libertarians believe the ideal state is a society with minimal governmental interference. Sandel introduces Robert Nozick, a libertarian philosopher, who argues that individuals have the fundamental right to choose how they want to live their own lives. Government shouldn't have the power to enact laws that protect people from themselves (seat belt laws), to enact laws that force a moral value on society, or enact laws that redistribute income from the rich to the poor. Sandel uses the examples of Bill Gates and Michael Jordan to explain Nozick's theory that redistributive taxation is a form of forced labor.

Lecture Six: "Who Owns Me?" Libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick makes the case that taxing the wealthy -- to pay for housing, health care, and education for the poor -- is a form of coercion. Students first discuss the arguments in favor of redistributive taxation. If you live in a society that has a system of progressive taxation, aren't you obligated to pay your taxes? Don't the poor need and deserve the social services they receive? And isn't wealth often achieved through sheer luck or family fortune? In this lecture, a group of students ("Team Libertarianism") are asked to defend the objections against Libertarianism.

+ BIO: Michael Sandel

Michael Sandel has been teaching philosophy at Harvard since 1980. He has published six books, on topics including democracy, liberalism, bioethics, and morality in politics. Professor Sandel received his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar. His writings have been translated into ten foreign languages and have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, and The New York Times. From 2002 to 2005, he served on the President's Council on Bioethics. He has received three honorary degrees, as well as four fellowships from the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Sandel has delivered lectures throughout North America, Europe, India, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and China.

WGBH Forum Network
God, Good, and Evil Series
Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do Series
Pursuit of Happiness Series