Justice - What Is the Right Thing To Do?

Episode 5. The previous lecture opened up the question of whether state conscription violates citizens' right to life, or whether and under what conditions this practice might be legitimate. Would it be preferable to have a paid mercenary army controlled by a free market instead?

Today's first lecture starts with an account of the Civil War: American citizens were conscripted to fight in the war effort. However, men had the option of hiring replacements to fight in their place, if they could find them and afford them. As you might imagine, many of the wealthy chose to hire people to do their fighting for them. Do you think this system was fair and discriminatory? Worse still: Is today's 'voluntary' army open to the same objection?

The second lecture explores the role of the free market as it relates to the issue of reproductive rights. We tend to impulsively condemn eugenics, but we are all simultaneously guilty of breeding ourselves selectively to produce a new generation that embodies some conception of health and attractiveness. We do this by choosing certain mates and excluding others, but we can also do this through the selection of sperm and egg donations. Should donors be paid for premium gametes? Are these mere commodities that can be easily transferred according to free market principles, or is there something fundamentally wrong with this outlook?

The discussion then moves to the question of surrogacy, and starts with the story of Baby M, a famous case in which Mary Beth Whitehead, after having signed a contract agreeing to become a surrogate mother for a desiring couple, decided to keep the baby after it was born (the egg used was hers). Should the courts uphold her decision? Should the contract be enforced? Is informed consent the only legitimate limitation on the kinds of contracts that citizens can freely engage in? Does anyone 'own' a baby so that it can be sold to other people? These are some of the questions that today's fascinating lecture explores.

So, if I can get Cryobank to accept my sperm, could I use their acceptance letter to get into Harvard? :)

Episode list: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
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