Harvard professor Michael Sandel is calling for more widespread questioning of the idea that free market principles should define the public good.
``We need a public debate about the proper role of money and markets in a good society," said Sandel, who is to deliver the 2013 Tanner Lecture on Human Values at the University of Utah on Feb. 26.
In recent decades, market thinking and values have reached into areas of life traditionally governed by non-market values, including family and community life, education, health and civic values and even procreation and child rearing, said Sandel, who explores such questions in his recent book, Casino Capitalism: Gambling, Investing, and the Ethics of Speculation.
He cited controversial areas of marketing values include the outsourcing of surrogate births to women in developing countries or the sale of human organs like kidneys for transplants.
"Some say if we had a free market in organs for transplantation it would increase the supply," he said in a telephone interview. "Others say such a market would prey upon the poor and be degrading in some way, lead us to treat our bodies as collections of spare parts."
In education, Sandel cited efforts to reward school kids for good performances, such as a Dallas program to pay second graders $2 for each book they read. While the goal of increasing reading is worthy, the practice could have a downside for kids, he said.
"It might also teach them that the activities of learning and reading, that these are chores to be done for pay rather than activities that are valuable for their own sake," he said.
Sandel called for a greater willingness to "reflect on the moral aspects of public life."
The lecture is sponsored by the Tanner Humanities Center at the U.
If you go
What • Lecture by Harvard professor Michael Sandel
When • Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Where • Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, at the University of Utah
Tickets • Free at Kingsbury Hall and http://bit.ly/Xqu3Ak
Information • Tanner Humanities Center, http://thc.utah.edu. 801-581-7989