Justice Today: Money, Markets, and Morals

Explore the ethical controversies of financial markets

Should everything be for sale? Led by award-winning Professor Michael J. Sandel, this course explores various “needs” and whether they abuse market mechanisms.

Featuring faculty from:
8 weeks
2-4 hours a week
Certificate Price
Program Dates
Start Money, Markets, and Morals Today.

What You'll Learn

Should you be able to buy a vote, citizenship, or college admission? Would you bet on someone else’s life—or, more accurately their death date? What about paying to see the exploitation of a person? 

Competition, status, and greed often cause one’s moral compass to move in the wrong direction, but if there is a market to support these macabre sales, then the question to consider is this: Are there certain moral and civic goods, that markets do not honor, and money cannot buy?

Deciding case-by-case the ethical considerations to determine when and if people’s rights are violated, you will immerse yourself in videos from the Institute for New Economic Thinking, learning alongside a global cohort of peers—engaging in discussion and debating the moral dividing line. 

Led by award-winning Harvard Professor Michael J. Sandel, professor of the popular HarvardX course Justice, you will explore topics that might sound familiar, like price gouging and human organ sales—but have you thought of linestanding, refugee quotas, or lookism? This course will take a deep dive into various “needs” and whether they abuse market mechanisms. 

Should everything be for sale without limits?

The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify ways in which markets have crowded out non-market spaces and norms.
  • Reflect about the moral limits—if any—of market norms.
  • Recognize how “needs” are subjective, and place value on nontraditional goods and services.
  • Clearly articulate a philosophical argument about the allocation of goods and the moral boundaries of markets in our societies.
  • Develop and refine your own ethical framework to address challenging moral dilemmas.


The Ethics of Supply and Demand: Linestanding

The Ethics of Supply and Demand: Price Gouging

Environmental Protection: The Walrus Quota

Consenting Adults: Organ Sales, Hard Jobs

Betting on Life and Death: Life Insurance

Betting on Life and Death: Death Pools

Betting on the Housing Market

Markets in Politics: Voting

Markets in Politics: Refugee Quotas and Immigration

Employment Discrimination: Lookism

Employment Discrimination: Racial Discrimination and Base Desires

Market, Incentives, and Norms

Your Instructor

Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he teaches political philosophy. His course "Justice" has enrolled more than 15,000 Harvard students. Sandel's writings have been published in 21 languages. 

Ways to take this course

When you enroll in this course, you will have the option of pursuing a Verified Certificate or Auditing the Course.

A Verified Certificate costs $149 and provides unlimited access to full course materials, activities, tests, and forums. At the end of the course, learners who earn a passing grade can receive a certificate. 

Alternatively, learners can Audit the course for free and have access to select course material, activities, tests, and forums. Please note that this track does not offer a certificate for learners who earn a passing grade.

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