What’s the right thing to do?

Michael J. Sandel

The prominent ideas of liberalism, free-market, and freedom of choice dominate political spheres as we see our public figures declare in their campaigns. Those ideas, however, have been proven to fail on many practical levels as we see in public apologies and reparations (the US government apologies to African American for the past legalizations of slavery, Japan apologies to consequences caused in WWII, etc.); the individual responsibilities to family members, fellow countrymen (as people say sorry when their citizens show bad behaviours in other countries); same-sex marriages; school admission (as black people and minority groups are prioritized in the entrance to university); and, many many more.

I am not a law student, but the book reveals to me the challenges and complexity of moral engagement in politics. It becomes clear that politics considered as a space exclusive of religious doctrines, and ethical judgments are not sustainable, not enough, as many daily matters require a common ground of beliefs, ideas, and justices.

For instance, Abe-san refused to apologize to the victims of WWII, arguing that his people as descendants bear no responsibility for actions taken by the ancestors. At an individual level, this sounds good. But, at a community level, people are refusing their attachment to the society where they take pride in as a Japanese as well as other benefits as a member. This debate, apparently, is more complicated than what I mention here.

However, this book makes us ponder the question of what is right to do at the very ends. It is not an easy philosophical book, but I think it is worth reading if you want to challenge your prevailing beliefs.

My favorite quote:
“Justice is not only about the way to distribute things. It is also about the right way to value things.”

The reason I put it 4.0/5.0 is just because it is not so easy to read. You should not doubt the values of the book.

Summer 2020

April 4, 2020, 3:00:00 PM