Hired Guns? / For Sale: Motherhood

SUN, OCT 11, 2009 (55:09)

Lecture Nine: “Hired Guns?” 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: “For Sale: Motherhood” 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.

+ 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.

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