He’s considered a bit of a star in China, and when he speaks, people race to get tickets. In 2010, China Newsweek named Harvard Professor Michael Sandel the “most influential foreign figure of the year” in China. The 60-year-old political philosopher is best known for his Harvard course “Justice,” which was made free online.
During a one week trip to China to promote his new book The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, he meet with fans who had invited him to Guangzhou on Dec. 7, and gave a talk.
“Every time I come to China, there are many netizens in the microblog community urging me to pay a visit to Guangzhou. Today, I finally make my presence here,” said Prof. Sandel.
‘Humans desperately need to find better values’
A gigantic difference exists between monetary wealth and happiness. However, such a value system that used to be crystal clear is now in jeopardy, in Prof. Sandel’s view.
“In the past, we used market economy as a tool to benefit our life; however, money has taken a predominant role in every aspect of our life now, from education to love, and even legal matters,” said Prof. Sandel.
He believes that humans desperately need to find a way to identify better social values other than monetary wealth.
“A celebrity may earn 1,000 times more than a regular teacher, but that does not mean he necessarily creates 1,000 times more happiness than the latter,” said Prof. Sandel.
At the beginning of his speech, Prof. Sandel mentioned “justice.” His definition is that it is “an equilibrium between the return an individual receives, and the labor he contributes to the society, or a reasonable ratio between the two.”
Because of this, rent-seeking (exploitation of society) and corruption of high-level government officials must be attacked—nobody should abuse the privilege of their position to erode the common good of the society.
‘Those who get rich first ought to help the weak’
“Successful people always think that their success is achieved all by themselves,” Prof. Sandel pointed out, but he does not agree with them. In addition to personal efforts, he said everyone’s success also incorporates the support from social organizations, and possibly benefactor ancestors. Therefore, he believes those who get rich first ought to help out the weak as they shoulder that responsibility inherently.
As for the issues associated with the Communist Party’s rich second generations, Prof. Sandel believes the only way out is to work through parental education—parents are crucial in instilling values into their children. He added that those who are born with a silver spoon frequently forget that they are simply luckier than others. As their success or wealth relies so much on luck, they are the ones who ought to make more paybacks to the society.
It is quite natural that the general public feels exasperated towards the wealthy or celebrities.
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