Join getAbstract to access the summary!


Join getAbstract to access the summary!


What's the Right Thing to Do?


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

What do cannibals, the French Foreign Legion and Michael Jordan have to do with justice?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


“The way things are does not determine the way they ought to be.” So writes Harvard government and political philosophy professor Michael J. Sandel in this all-encompassing tour through the social, economic and political issues that preoccupy modern society. Seeking to define justice in a just society, Sandel forays into affirmative action, paid militaries, infant surrogacy, free markets and even cannibalism. His reviews of classical and modern philosophies, rightly intended to guide the reader through his exposition, slow down what is otherwise an informative, illuminating and entertaining book. Sandel argues for a “politics of moral engagement” that brings all citizens together in a quest for a just society. getAbstract highly recommends this book to free marketers, libertarians, utilitarians and people of all philosophical and political stripes.


Where’s the Justice in That?

In 2004, Hurricane Charley left death and destruction – and inspired price gouging – across Florida. Hotel rooms, ice and generators all sold for multiples of their usual cost. Storm victims cried foul, but some commentators argued that supply and demand set prices, so not only was it fair to charge more for such items, but price gouging provided an incentive for the purveyors of needed commodities to raise their production to meet increased demand, thus benefiting both producers and consumers. Most people understand this economic argument, but feel uneasy about the ethical questions it provokes. In free markets, parties are at liberty to buy and sell what and when they choose, but after a disaster, survivors aren’t free to select what they purchase and from whom they buy. Isn’t taking advantage of people when they’re most in need morally wrong?

The Purple Heart is a US military award reserved for those who suffer injury or death in combat. Increasingly, veterans are returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses. Yet, in 2009 the Pentagon decreed that those experiencing psychological ills could not qualify...

About the Author

Michael J. Sandel is a professor of government at Harvard University, where he teaches political philosophy.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

By the same author

Learners who read this summary also read