Edward Luce has lunch with Michael Sandel

by on April 7, 2013 at 5:03 am in Education, Food and Drink, Philosophy | Permalink

I ask Sandel whether he does anything in his own life to make the world less money-minded. He begins a couple of answers but peters out. I suggest that he makes all his lectures free online. “Yes, that’s one thing,” he agrees. After our lunch I see that Sandel is listed on Royce Carlton, a speaker’s agency, as one of its big names (without apparent irony, a posting by the agency last year said Sandel was available to lecture “at a reduced fee in conjunction with his new book, What Money Can’t Buy”).

The rest of the meal is presented here, possibly behind an FT gate; Sandel opted for Legal Seafood and Luce ordered fish and chips.

BCC April 7, 2013 at 5:08 am

Legal Sea Foods is the name of the restaurant, not the name of Sandel’s order.

MKT April 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Right but that’s not what Luce meant (nor Tyler I expect). It’s a sequence of events: Sandel opts for Legal Seafood, once there Luce orders fish and chips. The article adds some details which don’t seem to cohere nor illustrate much of anything: Sandel wants Luce to experience real New England cooking; Luce describes Legal Seafood as a mid-level restaurant chain; Luce apologizes to Sandel for the Britishness of choosing fish & chips. Sandel BTW ordered a tuna burger and small Caesar salad. Luce also had lobster bisque.

The one mistake they made was not getting Legal Seafood’s fish chowder. Their clam chowder is quite good but their fish chowder is better and cheaper. I pretty much lived on the fish chowder at the Kendall Square Legal Seafood.

babar April 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm

thanks for the tip. i get the clam chowder if i’m stuck going to short hills mall (rarely happens but when it does, it does). i’ll try the fish chowder next time. the clam chowder is so good that i probably wouldn’t have tried anything else given that i don’t go enough to get tired of it.

prior_approval April 7, 2013 at 5:53 am

But Illegal Seafood sounds exactly like the sort of thing that might involve less money – for example, fishing without a license. Or like the seemingly cheap at 15 bucks a pop lobster roll guy in NYC – Dr. Claw ( http://www.mademan.com/dr-claw-versus-johnny-law-a-tale-of-triumph-and-heartache/ )

BCC April 7, 2013 at 7:44 am

It sounds like Sandel and Luce are discriminating against seafood without documentation.

Rahul April 7, 2013 at 6:13 am

The highest paid Professor at Wisconsin some years ago was the Director for its Institute for Research on Poverty.

Studying poverty is an expensive business.

prior_approval April 7, 2013 at 6:22 am

Staying out of poverty can get pretty expensive too.

Mm April 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm

John Edwards made the poor the center piece of his presidential bid- while using tax dodges to avoid Medicare taxes, offshore accounts & working for hedge funds- nice trick especially when the press obligingly overlooks it.

Brian Donohue April 7, 2013 at 11:33 am

If Sandel is a leading light, the left is in trouble. I mean, of course the left has been in trouble for 60 years, but stuff like this makes it embarrassingly obvious.

sam April 7, 2013 at 11:35 am

When Sandel argues against “money” so to speak, to what extent is he making a strong normative case against market outcomes/processes, versus the weaker psychological point that monetizing has negative psychological priming effects.

Wesley April 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm

@sam he is actually arguing that allowing monetary incentives to be used in some spheres of activity will “corrupt” that activity’s moral value. e.g. having a an all-volunteer military corrupts the republicanism values/duty of defending one’s country, establishing a market in kidneys will corrupt the value of donating kidneys to help other people, etc. it’s the most cruel of ironies that this link is behind a FT paywall…

mulp April 8, 2013 at 1:41 am

Sandel is not against markets, and definitely not against money.

But what is the market price of your wife? How much did you pay for her? How much will you charge for a stranger to sleep with her? If she told you it would be $100,000 a year for her to love you, would that be too high, or too low a price?

If you reject the premise of these market price questions, then does that mean you don’t believe in money, or just not in markets. Or do markets not apply to every aspect of human relations.

Jan April 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Kid of a hit job, especially the excerpting. I’m not surprised folks here wouldn’t be the biggest Sandel fans, but the comment about him charging speaking fees is about as ironic as a “markets uber alles” economist doing a free talk once in a while. Even the authors of this blog have dabbled!

Also, there are plenty of Sandel lectures available free online. Here is one source: http://www.justiceharvard.org/watch/

Rahul April 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Personally, I think a distinction is justified between the hardcore capitalist donating to charity versus the diehard communist building a mansion.

Somehow the inconsistency seems of a different nature and one more reprehensible than another.

mike April 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Yes, the distinction is that I’ve never heard even the most strident “markets uber alles” economist argue that the government should use coercion to prevent private individuals from giving free talks.

Jan April 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I think one of Sandel’s themes is that it is incorrect to equate government with coercion and markets with freedom. There is a disconnect between economics and moral philosophy, which was not always the case. Markets have led to their own coercion, especially for those with the least. That may be sacrilege to some here, but we all agree to some “coercion,” and Sandel asks if fairness and morality should play a bigger role in deciding where we draw those lines.

Cliff April 7, 2013 at 10:44 pm

Gibberish

Tracy W April 8, 2013 at 4:09 am

Yes, but it’s rather noticeable that all he does is ask, he doesn’t make any argument for any particular new line location.

Brian April 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm

> Also, there are plenty of Sandel lectures available free online.

It says so in the excerpt. I think perhaps you misread.

Jan April 7, 2013 at 8:57 pm

You’re right. I read that as the reporter was suggesting he do it, rather than suggesting it as an answer for the question.

Rahul April 8, 2013 at 12:08 am

Yeah, that sentence was written confusingly. I don’t blame you.

y81 April 7, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Who, whom? Sandel’s goal is that more political power should be given to liberal academics, and less should be given to rival elites, especially (i) rich financiers and (ii) Christian pastors. I have a lot of experience with all three groups: I attended schools run by liberal academics, I mostly work for rich financiers, and I go to a church run by a Christian pastor. Today’s balance of power seems about right; and it certainly wouldn’t be the liberal academics to whom I would wish to afford more power over my life.

mulp April 8, 2013 at 2:50 am

Given Sandel uses the socratic method to teach thinking about justice, his goal is to erode power of all sorts of governing elites.

If individuals have developed the ability to think critically for themselves, they are less likely to fall for their empty dogma.

I wonder if you are merely rebelling like a 12 year old boy, or are you questioning authority which is deemed “rebelling”, when “critical thinking” is more accurate.

mulp April 8, 2013 at 2:39 am

I think this is the “money” quote:

“I think you could say that the weakness of my argument is that I’m arguing against an overarching singular way of thinking about all questions – ‘an economic way of looking at life’, as Gary Becker [the Chicago economist and Nobel Prize winner] described it,” Sandel replies. “I’m arguing against that not by putting my own overarching singular philosophy but by saying that is a mistake and we must value goods case by case. So the answer may be one thing on the environment and the right way of dealing with nature, and a different one with education and on whether we should offer financial incentive to kids to do their homework, for example, and different still if we’re arguing against a free market in kidneys and surrogate pregnancy.”

He and I see economists trying to impose a “market” solution on every problem of every sort.

Sandel picks “classical” small problems to tease out small contradictions, but that doesn’t deliver great controversial debates about his socratic exploration on the debate of a problem.

But you can readily apply his method in his justice series to do so yourself:

What is the market price of your wife? What is the annual price of her love? Clearly you price it in money given contracts are valued in money. Clearly money is involved given the large amounts spent on lawyers in divorce which deals largely with matter of money and worth.

It follows that love has a money value. But what is the market clearing price? $1000? $100? $10,000?

But given the monetary value of marriage, a marriage tax seems justified, because it is just property like land and house which are taxed. Right? But what is the market price.

Or how about, what is the market price of justice? If you are guilty of murder, what should be the market price for acquittal? Clearly there is a market price because rich people go free and poor people don’t.

And what is the market price for sending the innocent to prison. Poor men with $100 a day lawyers go to prison for decades and then get released, sometimes with the real criminal identified, but in many cases the prosecutors stick with their original position that the poor person is guilty, but it isn’t worth another trial to convict. It takes good lawyers to even hope to get an exoneration, not merely the original conviction thrown out, and the decades in prison are lost.

The market price of justice is something that can be calculated in terms of providing competent lawyers for everyone charged for a crime, and it would be in the billions to taxpayers every year.

Would economists argue for taxes to pay for the justice of well-funded defense lawyers and staff?

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