Ideas of Justice and Common Good

18 Jun

In the excerpt we read from Michael Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do, Sandel looks at how justice can become a vital part of political discourse in order to truly work toward the common good. In this chapter, Sandel seems to be arguing that it is not the most beneficial to find the non-religious answer when it comes to political decisions because it is void of morals that should be guiding our political decisions. Instead, Sandel argues that an open discussion about each side’s morality behind their position can lead to decisions for the common good. Sandel works with the idea that justice “involves cultivating virtue and reasoning about the common good”. It is not simply finding “the greatest happiness for the greatest number” or “freedom of choice”. Sandel has four main ideas that will lead to political decisions made for the common good. Firstly, there is importance in allowing citizens to take their private notions of the good life and allow that to form civic virtue. Each individuals set of opinions and virtues, when brought together with every other citizens, has extreme value. Another important idea that Sandel discusses is the idea of market social practices beginning to govern non-market practices. To combat this corruption from the markets, Sandel argues it is important to understand what normal values we want as a collective and make sure that corrupting markets do not adulterate these norms. Sandel also stresses the importance of coming together as one unit and we all equally share in civic responsibility in order for everyone to care about public institutions and services. If everyone has a sense of obligation to the community they are in, they are more likely to devote their efforts to making the institutions and services that the community offers work and truly benefit everyone. Finally, Sandel emphasizes the importance of having civil discourse where morals and values are discussed.

I identify with Sandel’s idea that morality is an important aspect in politics. We cannot continue to make decisions that do not include what we value most. When making these decisions, deep discussions need to occur between differing opinions in order to truly come to an understanding of what opinion best represents the values and the morals of our society. Sandel says it best when he says “justice is inescapably judgmental […] justice is not only about the right way to distribute things. It is also about the right way to value things”. A strong sense of community is also something that I see as extremely important to instituting justice. I agree with Sandel that solidarity is important because if everyone is invested in services and infrastructures that promote justice then they will succeed.

One thing that didn’t resonant with me about Sandel’s argument is that he seemed to not place a high value on the government making decisions that allow citizens to exercise their freedom of choice. One thing that I feel is an important aspect of justice is personal freedom of choice. It is not that Sandal does not value personal freedom of choice, but he sees having a discourse and reaching a conclusion about what morals and values fit in our society as the best approach to justice to foster a sense of unity rather than individuality. At least in our current political state, it is hard for each individual’s voice to be heard over large corporations and organizations that seem to dictate policy for politicians more so than the voice of their constituents. While I agree with Sandel that justice needs to be incorporated into political practices through discussions of values and morals, I am struggling to figure out how to make these ideas happen in the bigger political arena where policies are decided. Yes we can educate students about their civic responsibilities to their communities but if the people in charge are not on this same page then we hit a road block.

One of the aspects of the article that I really connected my experience with is the fact that there is such a strong disconnect between the communities we are serving and the “outsiders”. While living on the base, I feel a sense of isolation from the greater Alameda community. There are beautiful neighborhoods within walking distance but there is absolutely no interaction. I really connected this with Sandel’s idea of solidarity and civic virtue. Sandel discusses that “too great a gap between rich and poor undermines the solidarity that democratic citizenship requires”. With the wealthy not having to rely on public institutions, even something simple like public transportation because they own cars, they become less willing to fund these public institutions and there is less interaction between people of various backgrounds and walks of life. With the public transportation idea, the fewer funds that people are willing to give, the less routes and times the buses offer to all citizens. I see this in the community I am in because Alameda Point Collaborative only has one bus that comes in. Furthermore, if wealthier people aren’t using public transportation, they are missing the opportunity to talk and interact with other people in the community. I agree with Sandel’s idea that a strong sense of unity is important for justice to thrive and I see a lack of this in the community I am serving.

This is a completely different community than the small community I am living with. In our living space, we have a strong sense of unity and I can definitely feel the difference. We are all investing in helping one another in any capacity and are all working to make the space comfortable and inviting physically (making sure everything is clean and dishes are done) and emotionally (being a listening ear and support). I feel this connection and mutual support has allowed us all to continue to do these jobs that are often times very stressful and taxing.

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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in 2014 Lauren Lorge


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