December 2, 2009 7:48AM

SandelTV on Libertarianism

An episode of Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel’s fantastic television series Justice takes up libertarian political philosophy. Now, up front: this series is a minor miracle and, if this were a classical philosophy thought experiment, I’d trade all my cherished original comic pages to see this show supplant Dancing with the Stars in the Zeitgeist. Sandel gives as reasonably sympathetic a summary of the libertarian view of rights as anyone could expect in the time he’s got. But you also end up watching long stretches and thinking: Yes, great, an A‐​list Harvard philosopher can smack around undergraduates with inchoate libertarian instincts; good for him. Even this spectacularly thoughtful forum is not really capable of giving the competing ideas under discussion a suitably thorough airing. This is not—God forbid—another tedious kvetch about either media or academic bias, as Sandel is clearly trying to give a philosophy with which he’s out of sympathy equal time. But it does suggest a reason to open‐​source the conversation. Anyone want to take up particular points on YouTube? Ping me on Twitter as @normative; at my obnoxious sole discretion, I’ll circulate the strong ones.