A Night with Michael Sandel IN AUSTRALIA

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s4808926.htm

TRANSCRIPT OF Q & A ,  Monday 26 March, 2018

TONY JONES
Good evening and welcome to Q&A. I’m Tony Jones. And here to answer your questions and stimulate your minds, Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel, who’s visiting Australia for the University of New South Wales Centre for Ideas. Please welcome our very special guest.

(APPLAUSE)

MICHAEL SANDEL, POLITICAL PHILOSOPHER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Thank you.

TONY JONES
Well, it’s always the audience that drives discussion on the Q&A program, but tonight Michael Sandel will help us experiment with some new interactions, and we’ll get to that very soon. But, remember, you can find Q&A on ABC TV and NewsRadio or you can stream us on iview, Youtube, Facebook and Periscope.

Well, Professor Sandel’s lectures on ethics, justice and political dilemmas have been viewed by millions around the world, but he’s landed in Australia in the midst of a sporting crisis rather than a political one. Our cricket team and our cricket captain have been caught cheating, and our first question tonight is on that subject and comes from Jessica Encarnacao.

CRICKET & WINNING00:01:17

JESSICA ENCARNACAO
Thank you, Tony. Good evening. My question is, when did winning become so important? Is the current scandal involving the Australian cricket team emblematic of who we are as a society, simply a reflection of the type of behaviour that falls within the bounds of what we consider to be ethically OK and within the spectrum of what we tolerate to achieve ultimate success and outcomes?

TONY JONES
Michael, what do you think? I mean, it’s not an ethical dilemma, in the sense that they’ve confessed, but it still poses huge problems.

MICHAEL SANDEL
It does. I think one of the reasons it’s so shocking is, first of all, cricket – even the word – means fairness.

TONY JONES
Well, it’s just not cricket, what they did.

MICHAEL SANDEL
It’s just not cricket. But it’s also, I think, disillusioning because trust in politicians and political parties is at record lows, trust in business, in companies, is not that high, but trust in sport, and especially cricket, that seems the final frontier of trust and belief – and now this.

TONY JONES
Well, we saw the Prime Minister almost unable to believe what had happened.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yeah.

TONY JONES
He said cricketers had been, in a way, the incarnation of fairness, they stood for something, and now they don’t.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes.

TONY JONES
How do you get over something like that?

MICHAEL SANDEL
It’s very difficult, in part because… Think about parents and children. We want to teach our children character, virtue, ethics, and they don’t get it from many places in public life these days, but they do, so we hope, get it from sports.

TONY JONES
You’ve seen stuff like this in the United States, going right back to the 1920s, I think it was, with the Chicago White Sox. But it doesn’t sort of stop the terrible shock.

MICHAEL SANDEL
It doesn’t, in part because, oddly enough, sports almost are the bastion of fair play, the way we teach our kids right and wrong, even. So many of our kids play. I coach my kids in baseball. And it’s as much about character as it is about winning – or so we like to think. That’s why I think this is such a shock.

TONY JONES
We’ve got another question. It’s from Jordan Meyers. And this, in a way, will take us into more philosophical territory.

CRICKET – BANCROFT00:03:45

JORDAN MEYERS
Captain Steve Smith has admitted his role, that he was at least complicit in the ball tampering plan. How much blame should be attributed to Cameron Bancroft, the junior player who was caught red-handed?

TONY JONES
Yeah, Michael, this does bring to mind some of the scenarios that you’ve actually dealt with in your online teaching program.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Right. It raises questions of fairness on the one hand, and norms of fairness here have been violated deeply, but also a competing norm of loyalty. And in a team sport, loyalty matters a great deal, and normally it’s a virtue. But it becomes a hard ethical question when the demands of loyalty – thinking about this young bowler…

TONY JONES
Young batsman, as it turns out.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Sorry.

TONY JONES
That’s OK. But he was tampering with the ball.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Tampering with the ball.

TONY JONES
Yeah.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Who is, of course, influenced by the senior members of the team and by the captain. And so, from his point of view, I’m sure there was a terrible dilemma between doing the right thing on the one hand, but also recognising the duty of loyalty to one’s team, especially the senior members.

TONY JONES
So he chose a narrow path of loyalty, refusing to…or ignoring, I suppose, the bigger responsibility he had to the game, to the country, to fairness and to the rules.

MICHAEL SANDEL
And to integrity. But it’s not an easy matter for a junior member of the team to grapple with that. It doesn’t mean he’s not morally responsible, but it does suggest that the senior members and the captain are the ones who bear the gravest moral responsibility here, because they influence the younger players, not to say the fans and the kids watching.

TONY JONES
Yeah, you’ve got to feel sorry for him, in a way.

Let’s move on to the world of politics, and our next question comes from Robert Talbot-Stern. Go ahead, Robert.

TRUMP ETHICS00:05:43

ROBERT TALBOT-STERN
I am on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, specifically at the Wharton School, which, for those of you who aren’t aware of it, is the business school at Penn. The Wharton School happens to be the school where President Trump is from.

MICHAEL SANDEL
I was going to mention that, but I didn’t want to put you on the spot, Robert.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERT TALBOT-STERN
Well, I AM on the spot, and that’s what my question is about. In fact, the President cites Wharton as one of the reasons why he’s so smart, because he got in – I still don’t know how. But it does leave me in a very odd position, you can guess, because, more than just people who are hiding out in Cambridge or people way down here in Australia, I feel like I am a little closer to the situation. I do know him, both from the Wharton connection and where I used to work – in some multinational companies I ran into him. And so, I felt…I believe that I’ve lost. At my age, I felt that I’ve really lost. And so my question to you is that, were you in my shoes at Wharton, rather than hiding out at Harvard, how would you deal with Donald Trump in a way that you don’t have to sink to the lowest common denominator and, at the same time, you don’t have to concede the playing field?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Right. Well, I can see why this question would have special import for you, Robert, given the Wharton connection, but I think, in a broader sense, it’s a question that all Americans have to ask themselves. Traditionally, we say, regardless of political party, “Well, my party may have lost, but it’s my president” – that sense of pride. And that’s harder to muster for many Americans these days.

TONY JONES
Well, with a man who openly champions the idea – or did anyway – of “truthful hyperbole”.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, “truthful hyperbole” was the way that…the rather gentle way, in his book… Before he ran for office, he described his self-promotion and tendency toward exaggeration – some would say it goes well beyond exaggeration – as a difficult relation with the truth. The fact checkers have almost lost track of the false and misleading statements. And so Americans generally, I think, are grappling with how to understand their relation to their own government and to their own president.

I think that the bigger question is to ask why our fellow citizens, so many of them, chose this man to be president. And I think the first thing we need to do – those of us who disagree with President Trump and who don’t consider him necessarily fit for the presidency – to ask, what are the grievances that many of our fellow citizens felt so deeply that they turned to this man?

TONY JONES
What answer do you give to that when young, smart kids in your online university classes want to know how to deal with this? Because, I mean, obviously, it’s a backlash against the elites above all.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes.

TONY JONES
The people feel…who voted for him, feel like they’ve lost something and that he, somehow, was going to give it back to them.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes. And what they feel they’ve lost was a sense of dignity and pride and recognition. You know, these issues about building a wall with Mexico and preventing immigration and… These seem to be economic issues, but they are fundamentally, I think, about social esteem and recognition. People feel that elites are looking down on them. People feel…ordinary working people feel humiliated. And it’s understandable after several decades of a kind of market-driven globalisation that’s increased inequality and has also undermined the dignity of the kind of work that ordinary people do. So it’s no wonder that there’s a resentment, an anger, against elites and established political parties. And one thing that President Trump is very good at doing is speaking to anger and even a sense of humiliation. So those are the deeper grievances that I think are serious, and that those of us who don’t share Trump’s views need to address.

TONY JONES
You actually made a fundamental critique of social democracy and where it went wrong. We’re going to come to that a little later. But I’d like to move on to a few other questions. Let me get you on your feet, actually talking to this audience. The next question is from Georgia Lamb. Go ahead, Georgia.

WHAT SHOULD WE DEBATE?00:10:51

GEORGIA LAMB
Recently Australia has had a postal survey about marriage equality. In the prelude to the survey there were those who said we should not have the survey because it would generate a debate that may offend some people and tarnish Australia’s reputation of being a modern, progressive society. My question is, are there some topics in a democratic society that we should not discuss, and who is to decide?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, thank you for the question, Georgia. I don’t think there are questions that democratic societies should avoid discussing. We often say that moral questions are hopelessly controversial, will lead to disagreement, and so we should try to keep them outside the public sphere. I disagree. I think that’s a mistake. The debate about marriage equality is a good example. We had this debate. In many democratic societies around the world we’ve had it. You’ve had it here in Australia. And, though it raises very deep passions among some, on all sides, I think it’s important that we have those debates about same-sex marriage, marriage equality, because that’s the only way we can reason together as citizens, and really BE citizens – to engage in the moral disagreements that we know we have. And in Australia it led to a resolution. Not everyone may agree, but I think that’s a healthy debate to have had.

TONY JONES
You’ve often argued that people in modern democracies are afraid to tackle these moral issues, these deep moral issues.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes. Yeah.

TONY JONES
Why is that? And how do you break down that fear?

MICHAEL SANDEL
I think there are two reasons. First, politicians and political parties tend to fill the airwaves with narrow, managerial, technocratic talk, because it often spares them the need to engage in controversial questions like this. But technocratic talk doesn’t inspire anybody, and it’s one of the reasons people are so mistrustful of the political establishment. There’s a second reason we shy away from hard moral questions in politics, and that’s because we know, in pluralist societies, we’re going to disagree. So there’s a thought that the way to a tolerant society is to avoid engaging in hard debates about moral questions. So it’s understandable. But I think that avoidance does not truly lead to a tolerant pluralistic society.

TONY JONES
Is political correctness one of the problems here? That people don’t want to approach issues that might offend some people?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, it’s one example of this hesitation to engage directly with hard moral questions. I think a deeper kind of respect for fellow citizens with whom we disagree is not to sweep under the rug those moral disagreements, but to engage with them directly, to learn the art of listening and reasoning together, even where we disagree. Listening is a civic art, and listening in a deep way, trying to understand where the other person’s coming from, I think that leads, ultimately, to a more tolerant society than a strategy of avoidance.

TONY JONES
Alright. You’ve made a kind of an art form yourself. Millions and millions of people have watched your online teaching and some of the lectures that you’ve given. We’re going to give you the chance to actually do that. You do it on your feet. Michael is a passionate advocate for reasoned political discussion. He’s pioneered a new form of dialogue with the audience. And that’s one of the things people find so compelling about his teaching. So, let’s get you up on your feet now, Michael, and you can demonstrate one of your ethical dilemmas with this audience.

MICHAEL SANDEL
OK. Are they ready?

TONY JONES
Yes, they are.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL SANDEL
Alright, so, here, I get to ask THEM the question, right?

TONY JONES
Oh, yes.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, here’s a question I would like to put to you. See what you think. Let’s first take a survey, a show of hands. It’s about the role of money in relation to a hard, public question.

There was a Swiss town, a small Swiss town near Zurich. Very affluent. Quite a few millionaires in the town, in fact. Every town in Switzerland was allocated a certain number of refugees by the central government as a way of distributing the refugees Switzerland had taken in. Under the law, this town was assigned 10. They didn’t want to take them. They said, “These refugees won’t fit in here.” And so they had a referendum – “Should we take them or not?” Under the law, any town that refused to take its assigned refugees was subject to a fine. In this case, it amounted to about A$350,000. They had the referendum and they voted not to take the refugees, but instead to pay the money. Which they did. Here’s the question – did they do something wrong? Or, having paid the fine, did they fulfil their obligations under the law?

How many think…? Raise your hand if you think they did something wrong. And how many think they didn’t – that what they did fulfilled their obligations? Let’s begin with those of you in the minority, who think that what they did was OK. Why do you say so? Yes. What is your name?

TED TOROSSIAN
My name is Ted Torossian. And I believe they did nothing wrong because they broke no law. If they don’t like the law, they can change the law. As long as you abide by the laws, then you’ve done nothing wrong.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Ted, could I ask you a follow-up? Stay there.

TED TOROSSIAN
Sure.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Suppose you… You know, there are laws against speeding.

TED TOROSSIAN
Yes.

MICHAEL SANDEL
And suppose you were in a great hurry to get somewhere, so you said, “I’m going to speed, but I’m willing to pay the fine if I’m caught.” You’re caught, you pay the fine. Have you done anything wrong?

TED TOROSSIAN
I’ve done something wrong, I’ve broken the law – I paid for it.

MICHAEL SANDEL
No, but you paid the fine.

(CHUCKLING)

MICHAEL SANDEL
Just like they did in Switzerland.

TED TOROSSIAN
Well, that’s a good question!

(LAUGHTER)

TED TOROSSIAN
But their fine… Yeah, I guess you’re right, they did break the law.

MICHAEL SANDEL
I’m just asking.

TED TOROSSIAN
And they paid the fine. Yeah, I have to agree. They did something wrong.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Let’s hear from someone who thinks that what they did was wrong, even though they did pay the fine? Yes? Yes, please, the one that is sitting back there.

JADE BRIDGEMAN
My name’s Jade Bridgeman. I think what they did was wrong just because, like, they could’ve done something right while doing that as well. Even though they paid the fine, they could still use that $350,000 to maybe, like, set them up with a nice house or something, so…

MICHAEL SANDEL
In their own town or in somebody else’s town?

JADE BRIDGEMAN
In their own town. It might be a big town, I’m sure there would be room somewhere.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Alright, thank you for that. Who else thinks that what they did was wrong? Yes. And tell us your name.

JEREMY
My name’s Jeremy. I’m sort of comparing it to, say, a company polluting and then paying a fine in order to cover that. They’ve still done damage to the environment. They’ve got away with it – money.

MICHAEL SANDEL
OK. That’s an interesting analogy. Stay there for a minute. It’s Jeremy?

JEREMY
Yes.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Now, what do people think of that analogy? Jeremy says if a company pollutes and then pays the fine, we don’t say all is well. Kind of like the speeding ticket. We say they’ve been punished. They’ve been punished. They’ve still done something wrong. The fine doesn’t wipe the moral slate clean. Is there someone who disagrees with Jeremy? Who thinks that what they did was alright, provided they paid the fine under the law? Who can reply to Jeremy’s…?

TONY JONES
There’s a young man down the front here.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

ALEX
Well, I mean, if the government is right and this action is worth this much money, then the government can do more good with the money than the people have done bad with turning away the refugees, so they’re increasing the good in the world instead of decreasing it.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Alright, that’s interesting. What’s your name?

ALEX
Alex.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Alex. So, Alex is suggesting… Stay there. We’re going back to Jeremy and see if he can reply. Alex makes a pretty good point, doesn’t he? If the government has set the fine high enough…to cover the cost, the social cost of paying some other town to look after the refugees, or cleaning up the pollution the company has produced, why doesn’t that set the moral slate clean?

JEREMY
I don’t think it does, because it’s setting quite a bad example.

MICHAEL SANDEL
A bad example for whom?

JEREMY
For anybody else who wants to pollute or anybody else who wants to turn away from helping refugees.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Who else would like to respond? Yes. Go ahead.

RUBY
I feel like every different situation has a different moral high ground, so in this situation it’s difficult to say what they did wrong versus what they did right, because they clearly didn’t want the refugees. So if they were forced to take them, they definitely would have been racist or negative, most likely, because they didn’t want them there. So wouldn’t it have been better to put them in a town where the refugees would have felt more welcomed?

MICHAEL SANDEL
What’s your name?

RUBY
Ruby.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Ruby, would you say the same of countries? If there are some countries that don’t want refugees and would likely treat them not so well, they are therefore absolved of any responsibility to take them in?

RUBY
No, because the moral slate is different to the law slate, right? Because you might be cleared by the law, but you’re not cleared by your moral high grounds.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Thank you for that. What do you think?

WOMAN
Oh, me? Me?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes.

WOMAN
What about somebody who’s committed a crime? They’ve served their time in jail. Is that moral slate clean?

MICHAEL SANDEL
What do you think?

WOMAN
I sort of… Half and half. Because I don’t think the conviction and all that suits the crime because a South Australian paramedic had her jaw broken by a woman who was drunk.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yeah.

WOMAN
She got a suspended sentence and no criminal record because she was training to be a teacher.

MICHAEL SANDEL
You feel the penalties are sometimes too low.

WOMAN
Yes.

MICHAEL SANDEL
To fully reflect…

WOMAN
Yes.

MICHAEL SANDEL
What about the argument that…it is not just paying the penalty, whether it is a jail term or a monetary fine, but that the law sets a moral example, it teaches something? It teaches other citizens. So the polluting company, even after they pay the fine, has still done something wrong. They have set a bad example. By that argument, by Jeremy’s argument, the Swiss town has still done something wrong even after they pay the money, because they’re setting a bad example. Who would like to address that question?

TONY JONES
Michael, there is a gentleman right down the front here.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes.

MAN
I guess there’s a difference between the two cases because, like, if you ask, why do we have refugees? Because there’s a breakdown in a country. And by questioning the autonomy of the people in the country, then arguably, you’re creating that situation. With the environment, it’s different because we only have one environment. It’s a higher bar, I think. It is not a fair comparison.

MICHAEL SANDEL
We only have one environment, that is true, but Alex made the point, if the fine for polluting is high enough to clean up the damage, maybe a little bit beyond that to help deal with other environmental problems, isn’t it a good thing if a company pays the fine contributing to cleaning up the environment? What is the wrong? That is Alex’s argument, right? Speak directly to Alex. Tell him.

(LAUGHTER)

MAN
I guess the wrong would be if they do it again and just pay the fine because they can afford it. And then there’ll come a time that… It will come a time that they will do something like the oil spill in America that it has really damaged the environment. Because they got used to just getting fined small.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Cultivating a habit of wanton disregard for the environment, even though you’re paying each time the apparent costs of the pollution? What about that, Alex?

ALEX
Well, I think you can still set a high enough price that you can fix things, but if it’s so extreme that it damages something irreparably then…

MICHAEL SANDEL
You need a bigger fine.

(LAUGHTER)

ALEX
Yeah! I mean, you can… There are other problems that you can still fix… Like, there are an infinite amount of environmental problems. There are a bunch of environmental problems that you can fix. If one of them is damaged and the rest are fixed, there is still a lot more environmental…

MICHAEL SANDEL
And money can help.

ALEX
Yes.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Money can help. Alright. Well, I want to thank everyone who has joined in this discussion. Really well done.

(APPLAUSE)

MICHAEL SANDEL
Tony, I’d like to notice something about the broader principles that emerge from this discussion. One of them is a disagreement about whether, in principle, money can buy anything. If the fine is set high enough, whether all values can be captured in monetary terms, or whether there is a moral teaching to law, certain laws, against polluting, for example. Taking in refugees, for another. A moral teaching that even a very high fine, Alex’s proposal, can’t set right.

TONY JONES
Well, you tell that to the US Supreme Court and see if they agree with you, because they don’t seem to follow that principle.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Unfortunately not, because they have ruled that money is speech and under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, there can be no abridgement of freedom of speech and they have concluded – wrongly, I think – that any restrictions on campaign funding, even from big corporations, vast amounts of money…

TONY JONES
Is against the Constitution.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes, because it violates free speech. It equates money, just as you say, with speech, which connects with the issue we were discussing here, whether all values can be captured in monetary…

TONY JONES
Which is why politics is important, because if you are in politics, if you’re in power, you get to potentially appoint people on the Supreme Court whose views may align with yours, which is one of the strange things about the system.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes.

TONY JONES
Let’s move on to a que… ‘Cause we were talking about a really fascinating example to do with refugees and we have a particular question from the audience from Nilanthi Kanapathipillai.

REFUGEE DILEMMA00:27:09

NILANTHI KANAPATHIPILLAI
Thanks, Tony. I have just been to the Palm Sunday refugee rally in the city, in Melbourne. Do you think that it is morally right to imprison people indefinitely in a detention centre for years because they arrive into this country illegally on a leaky boat, fleeing from war and persecution?

MICHAEL SANDEL
No, I don’t think so. Though, I hasten to add that I have to be careful about coming as an outsider to preach when I come from a country that still to this day operates the detention centre in Guantanamo Bay. We have not resolved that problem. So, I think we all face the kinds of moral challenges and dilemmas that you raise. It seems to me there are a couple of levels to the question. First, do all countries, especially affluent ones, have a responsibility to take in…to do their fair part in taking in refugees in desperate need? Yes. That seems to me a moral requirement of any country, especially affluent ones, like ours.

TONY JONES
And, Michael, the Australian government would argue they do, through the orderly process of their immigration system, take refugees. They set a number and they take that number. What they draw a line at is people coming on boats of their own volition.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes, that’s the second level. There is a legitimate concern that there not be just a chaotic system of coming across in boats. So there has to be a way to regulate that. That is the second and competing consideration, which has led, I understand, to the current…

TONY JONES
Well, let’s go back to our questioner, Nilanthi. Do you want to come back to Michael and maybe explain the basis of your question about what is happening to those people? You can stand up to do it, if you wouldn’t mind.

NILANTHI KANAPATHIPILLAI
As in explain what is going on currently?

TONY JONES
Yeah.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Could we also ask her view about what she thinks the policy ought to be?

NILANTHI KANAPATHIPILLAI
I think it’s morally wrong and it’s sort of internationally declared illegal, but it’s still practised in this country under this government.

MICHAEL SANDEL
So, how would you resolve this impasse in a way that didn’t – as some worry – open the floodgates to a chaotic, disorderly system where whoever could get on a boat and pay people to transport them would find themselves at the shores of Australia? How would you address…? Because that’s the argument…

TONY JONES
Michael, I think Nilanthi, if I am right, is talking about the specific cases of people who find themselves in permanent detention.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Right.

TONY JONES
And here’s… The argument here is that, for the greater good, the government is prepared to effectively punish a small number of people who came on boats.

MICHAEL SANDEL
To set an example.

TONY JONES
To set an example for others to not come. It’s those people for whom the example is being set who are stuck in this limbo. So, what’s the moral answer there? Do you have one? Or the ethical answer?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, that’s a very hard moral position to take. Suppose, hypothetically, one could prevent all illegal immigration by choosing one person even, an innocent person, and treating them very badly. Torturing them, even. Hypothetically. Would that…? And suppose it worked. Would that be morally defensible, or would that be using someone for the sake of the greater good?

TONY JONES
Well, I mean, the government would argue, yes, the boats have stopped, so in a sense, it worked.

MICHAEL SANDEL
It did work.

TONY JONES
They took the greater good argument a litter further. They said we are stopping people from putting their own lives in danger because people were drowning on the journey and dying.

MICHAEL SANDEL
They were dying. Of course.

TONY JONES
So these people who are being made the example of, supposedly, are saving others. What do you think about that as a moral argument?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, I think it’s true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t address the fundamental moral question about, if one concedes that these people are suffering unjustly for the sake of the greater good, setting an example, preventing more people getting on boats, how far would we take that principle? In my country, we…during the George W. Bush administration, the administration argued…Vice President Cheney argued, that torture permissible if it achieves a greater good – getting the information we need to deal with al-Qaeda, for example. Structurally, the argument is similar – using some or treating one person or a number of people unjustly for the sake of the greater good. And the question is… If you’re a utilitarian, then that’s…that’s the right thing to do. But if you’re not a utilitarian, if you think there are certain fundamental human rights flowing from human dignity, then one is uneasy by those kinds…those ways of using people even for good ends and worthy and important ends. So that’s the moral…that’s the moral question.

TONY JONES
It is. It’s the moral question that no-one’s resolved in this country. I’m going to move on.

Remember, if you hear any doubtful claims on Q&A, let us know on Twitter. Keep an eye on the RMIT ABC Fact Check and The Conversation website for the results.

The next question comes from Ted Torossian, who we heard from a little earlier.

DEMOCRACY & POPULISM00:33:26

TED TOROSSIAN
Hi, Tony. My question is – the press quite often criticise people like Pauline Hanson and Donald Trump by accusing them of focusing on populistic policies, but isn’t democracy based on populism? So why is it so bad to propose policies that appeal to the majority of voters?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Right. Well, that’s a very important question. Uh, populism does speak to the will of the people and, ultimately, of the majority. The question is whether majoritarianism is a self-sufficient basis for governing ourselves. And the argument against sheer majoritarianism… Well, it goes back to the question we were just discussing – if you believe that human beings have fundamental rights in virtue of human…respect for human dignity, then you will think there are certain things that it would be wrong for the majority to do, even though they are the majority.

Torturing innocent victims, for example, if it achieved a larger good, violating people’s right to speak freely, violating religious liberty. So, I would answer Ted’s question with another hypothetical question – if there were a very unpopular minority religion and the majority would be happier by prohibiting that religion, would that make it right to do so?

TONY JONES
We’re not in Nazi Germany, which I presume is where you’re going.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, and that’s not the only case where these questions arise. So, violating freedom of speech, religious liberty, if the majority happens to dislike a certain political opinion or religious view, we would consider that undemocratic. Which suggests there’s a difference between democracy, broadly conceived, and majoritarianism. And some of what we’re seeing with versions of populism today that don’t respect the rights of minorities, for example, or their dignity, maybe are versions of populism that are not truly democratic, even though they may be supported by the majority.

TONY JONES
We’ve got quite a few questions to get through. I’m going to move through as many as we can. We’ve got a question from Nick Rose.

NICK ROSE
Yeah. Thanks, Tony. This kind of leads on to the previous discussion, where our ability to understand the world has improved significantly since democracy was first conceived. But that often requires highly skilled and highly educated individuals to understand very complex theories related to subjects such as climate change, economics and health. So, does that mean democracy, in which every person’s vote is considered equal, is no longer effective in today’s world and ultimately doomed to fail us?

TONY JONES
Michael, I think we could answer that in the context of China, for example, where democracy doesn’t exist, but they may do a better job at dealing with climate change than other places.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, the argument in China – the defenders of that system say that decisions and governance should be based on merit, rather than on democracy for reasons like the ones that were just raised. John Stuart Mill, the philosopher, suggested that educated people should have more votes than ordinary people. Now, that would be one way of addressing this question.

TONY JONES
Do you think that might work in America?

MICHAEL SANDEL
You know, I think a lot of the experts we’ve had, with lots of degrees and social prestige, have made a lot of pretty bad decisions.

TONY JONES
Well, this actually goes back to your critique of social democrats, in the sense that they became technocrats in a sense.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes.

TONY JONES
It’s as if they lost touch with their own base.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes. I think that expertise, whether it’s scholarly expertise or technocratic or economic expertise, has, actually, not a very good record. Certainly not in my country over the last 50 years. One looks at the Vietnam War, the best and the brightest were in office when the Vietnam War was undertaken. And then we had the Iraq War, which was a colossal historic blunder. We had a version of globalisation that did not distribute the benefits widely enough, generating the backlash we’re seeing today. So I think it’s important to distinguish between expertise, technical or economic expertise, and sound political judgement.

And the difference goes back to questions of moral judgement that we were discussing earlier. Technocratic or economic expertise by itself does not yield sound political judgement, because it often misses the moral dimension that citizens together can deliberate about when hard ethical questions come.

TONY JONES
Shall we just quickly go back to our questioner, Nick? Does that ring true to you?

MICHAEL SANDEL
What do you think?

TONY JONES
Is that an answer that you’re comfortable with?

DEMOCRACY DOOMED TO FAIL00:36:17

NICK ROSE
Yeah, but, look, I think part of the problem is getting trust from society as well, because a lot of the experts are not trusted anymore.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yeah.

NICK ROSE
And maybe, as well, it’s not just trust, it’s the idea of the inconvenient truth. People are in denial or don’t want to make sacrifices, for instance, even though they hear the evidence as to what is really happening. So that’s more in line of what I was thinking of – how do we get the trust back from people who have spent a lot of their lives studying and understanding complex theories, and then relying on the public to help make decisions that I guess they know is the correct thing to do?

TONY JONES
OK, we’re going to take that as a comment, and we are going to move on to our next question, from Alex Stefas.

PRIVACY & MARKET00:40:21

ALEX STEFAS
In the wake of the recent Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, it seems the right to personal privacy is again under threat. A core concern of your political philosophy has been a critique of market society and the growing trend of market thinking and values dominating every aspect of our lives. In the age of big data, where our movements and activities are increasingly commoditised, what should be the role of the state to protect the individual from these market forces?

MICHAEL SANDEL
That’s an important question, especially in the wake, as you say, of the Facebook scandal, really, and the loss of personal data and privacy protections. I think that we need to have a big public debate about how to regulate these social media and data companies. So far, they have avoided regulation, saying that, “We are creating community, we’re bringing the world together.” But it has a darker side to it, which is exactly what you bring out.

Not only is our privacy being violated, but, essentially, the business model is to give us a service for free – it seems free – and in exchange, to sell information about us to advertisers, so they can sell us stuff. That’s the business model. And the reason these companies are so valuable is that they are selling to advertisers all of our personal information. And it’s having an impact, too, on the way news is promulgated.

TONY JONES
Well, we saw that, of course, from the Russian interference in the US election, when they created fake news, sent it to targeted people in certain parts of the country whose votes might be influenced by it at a critical time in the election.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes.

TONY JONES
It does suggest that democracy is under threat from technology. What do you think?

MICHAEL SANDEL
I think technology can be both friend and foe of democracy, and right now we are seeing the dark side, and I think we need to rein in the conduct, the behaviour, of these companies. Suppose they didn’t give us the service for free, but had to sell us a subscription. Or suppose we were paid every time they made our data available to an advertiser.

TONY JONES
That’s one way to end poverty, I suppose.

MICHAEL SANDEL
But I think we’re in for a long-overdue debate about how to rein in the unaccountable power of these companies.

TONY JONES
Let me move on. As you can see, Michael Sandel is a unique guest, but if you’re one of those people who’s always wanted to be on the Q&A panel, we’ve got a program just for you. To mark the 10th anniversary of Q&A, we’ll be having our first People’s Panel. And we’re looking for smart citizens who can tackle the big questions alongside our politicians. So, go to our website to find out how you can submit a short audition video to tell us why you should join the Q&A People’s Panel.

Our next question comes from Colin Lok.

IS PHILOSOPHY DEAD?00:43:44

COLIN LOK
The late physicist Stephen Hawking provocatively stated that, “Humans are a curious species. We wonder, we seek answers. Living in this vast world, people have always asked a multitude of questions. Traditionally, questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” Could you provide your thoughts on those words and speak for the value of an education in moral and political philosophy, when politicians are so keen to promote education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – what’s commonly called STEM?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes, Colin, thank you for that. With all respect, I disagree with the quotes you’ve given from Stephen Hawking. I don’t think philosophy is dead and I don’t think science, however dazzling, can replace it. Nor can technology. I think that education in the STEM subjects is enormously important, but even more important is an education in the liberal arts, the humanities, including philosophy. Because science and technology, for all their wonders, can’t tell us how they, science and technology, should be used for the human good.

They can’t tell us what is the meaning of a just society. They can’t tell us what we owe one another as fellow citizens. These are questions that only we can decide. And the tough thing about the prestige of science and the momentum of technology in our time is that our smart machines seem so smart that they seem to make unnecessary the hard, messy, sometimes contentious activity of reasoning together as citizens about the good life, about the just society. And that’s why I think, especially in an age of technology and big data, it’s all the more important to cultivate in students, but also in citizens, the ability to reflect on justice and the good life and to learn how to reason with one another where we disagree.

TONY JONES
Such a passionate and profound answer, I think we’ll just move on to our next question, which is from Luca Beare.

CAN WE KNOW THE TRUTH?00:46:39

LUCA BEARE
Hi. My question is, can humans know anything for sure, and can we ever know the truth?

(LAUGHTER)

TONY JONES
A small question for a philosopher.

MICHAEL SANDEL
I’m not sure.

(LAUGHTER)

TONY JONES
I tell you what, though – what scientists can do is put up cameras in the woods so they know when a tree falls.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL SANDEL
I think that we strive to understand the natural world around us, and one another, and we have to, in that striving, presuppose the possibility that we can get it right without ever knowing at any moment whether we have the full and final and adequate answer. Whether we’re inquiring into the natural world as scientists or whether we’re trying to understand our neighbours, our fellow citizens or, for that matter, our family members. Are we ever sure we understand fully even our own loved ones?

TONY JONES
Well, I’m sure they would all say the answer to that is no, in my case. But, anyway, let’s move on.

(LAUGHTER)

TONY JONES
Our next question is from Rachel Worsley.

COMMON GOOD V’s INDIVIDUALISM00:47:53

RACHEL WORSLEY
While we can all agree that politicians should lift their game and work for the people, rather than engage in ideological fights, shouldn’t we give greater acceptance to libertarian parties that promote individualism and smaller government?

MICHAEL SANDEL
It sounds like you’re tempted by that thought. Well, libertarianism generally refers to the view that property rights should be given greater emphasis in governance than claims on behalf of society at large or the common good. And one of the difficulties with libertarian theories of government is the conception of the person that they depend on. They tend to depend on the idea that we own ourselves and that we are ultimately self-sufficient as human beings and as moral beings, and that the best way to live our life is to decide for ourselves without being influenced by our social circumstances, our upbringing, our tradition. Ideally, we think for ourselves.

TONY JONES
Is this the notion that stems from Immanuel Kant’s ideas?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, some would say it goes back to Locke’s idea of private property, which he says, ultimately, derives from the fact that we own ourselves. And I am not persuaded by the idea that we own ourselves. It seems liberating – “Nobody can tell me what to do.” But if I think that I own myself, then is that really consistent with self-respect? The demands of dignity and self-respect require even certain restraints. I can’t sell myself into slavery, even if I choose to. Should I be able to? I don’t think so. What about selling out my liberty if someone pays me enough?

What about taking on degrading jobs at odds with human dignity? These are the questions that arise on the pure libertarian view that I own myself and therefore can do with myself, to myself, whatever I want.

TONY JONES
We’ll bring our questioner back in on this.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yeah.

TONY JONES
But does it mean that you don’t have to, if you adopt this philosophy, think about or worry about the common good?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes. Or, to put it more favourably to the libertarian view, that the common good simply consists in each individual’s preference added up. And I think that’s an impoverished view of the common good, but our questioner may disagree.

TONY JONES
Do you have a thought on that? Do you want to respond, I mean?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Go ahead.

TONY JONES
Have libertarians been unfairly maligned here?

RACHEL WORSLEY
I mean, it depends who you’d speak to. I must make a confession – like, I’m speaking on behalf of a friend tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL SANDEL
We’ll phone them up!

RACHEL WORSLEY
But I do agree with the last point, that we must have a reasoned debate about these issues. And I can see the appeals of libertarianism where, you know, you own yourself, you’re self-sufficient, we can’t rely on other people. But at the same time, I also acknowledge your criticisms about the limits of libertarianism and how it should fit within the common good. So, I guess I sort of have a split view of it and I guess, in a way, I was asking this question a little bit as a devil’s advocate sort of view.

TONY JONES
Alright, let’s go to someone else who has got a pretty profound question. Millie Welling.

HUMAN LIFE00:51:29

MILLIE WELLING
Hi. Firstly, I would like to say I am a huge fan and I absolutely love your Harvard Justice series. Secondly, I’d like to ask you when, if ever, is it morally acceptable to take a human’s life?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, Millie, that’s a hard question.

TONY JONES
That’s a question that you do pose with your trolley example from time to time.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yes.

TONY JONES
It would be interesting to see you on the spot having to answer it.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Right. I’m not keen to do it!

TONY JONES
(LAUGHS) Tell people what the… Very briefly explain the trolley dilemma…

MICHAEL SANDEL
Alright.

TONY JONES
…and then we’ll see whether you have your own answer to it.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Alright, well, the trolley dilemma is this – you’re driving a trolley car going down the track and at the end of the track, you see five workers. You try to stop, but you can’t. Your brakes don’t work and you know that if you crash into them, they’ll all die, all five. There’s a side track with one worker, and you can turn. What should you do? Should you turn onto the side track knowing that you’ll kill the one? And everybody says, “Yes, that’s the right thing to do. It’s tragic. You kill one, but you save five.” So that would be a case in response to Millie’s question.

TONY JONES
So, Michael, what do you think? Because I’ve always wanted to ask you that ever since I saw you pose this to a question of poor students out there who had to come up with their own ideas, but you’ve never answered it yourself.

MICHAEL SANDEL
I try to avoid it.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL SANDEL
But, well, no, I would turn. I would turn and kill the one, but the harder question is the follow-up, which is this time you’re not the driver. You’re standing on a bridge overlooking the trolley car track. You see the trolley car coming down. Its brakes don’t work. The five workers are still there. You’re not driving, there’s no side track. But you see a very heavy man standing next to you on the track and you realise that if you pushed him onto the track, he would block the trolley car. He would die but save the five. I know, it’s grim.

(LAUGHTER)

TONY JONES
It’s not only grim, it’s just a theory. Because what if you pushed this fat man down, killed him and the trolley went on and killed the five as well, then you’ve killed six people.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well…

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL SANDEL
No, but you have to accept the premise, Tony, of the hypothetical, otherwise…

TONY JONES
Fair enough, OK.

MICHAEL SANDEL
So, would I push the guy over? Now, it would seem I’d be committed to doing that because in the first case I was willing to sacrifice one to save five. Why not in this case?

TONY JONES
Yes.

MICHAEL SANDEL
That’s the dilemma, Millie, right?

MILLIE WELLING
Yeah.

MICHAEL SANDEL
And so, you want to know…? No, I would not push the guy over, but then the burden is on me, or on all of us, to say, “Why does that seem so wrong, pushing the one and…?”

TONY JONES
Why, Michael…? I mean, I could give you a simple answer that it’s actual murder. It’s an active murder of this gentleman who’s done nothing.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Right.

TONY JONES
But what’s your answer?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, it might begin with that thought. But it would… But then the worker in the first case standing on that track was also innocent. He hadn’t done anything. He didn’t deserve to die either.

TONY JONES
So you had a split-second decision in that case.

MICHAEL SANDEL
It’s split-second here too! I either push or I don’t, right? So I think it has something to do with something we were talking about before when we were talking about the refugee situation. At least in certain situations, we don’t believe it’s right to use the person, even if it serves the common good, the general welfare. Somehow, respect for human dignity… And this does go back to Immanuel Kant. Respect for human dignity, Kant thought – and I think he was right – means there are certain things it would be wrong to do to a person. Taking their lives, sacrificing them, even for the general welfare of the world, if it meant violating their human dignity. And pushing this guy seems to be in that category.

TONY JONES
I am going back to Millie, who has got her hand up. Go ahead, Millie.

MILLIE WELLING
You used the terms ‘actual murder’ and ‘dignity’…

MICHAEL SANDEL
That was Tony – ‘actual murder’.

(LAUGHTER)

MILLIE WELLING
Oh, sorry. I was wondering if you could define those so that we have a clear understanding.

TONY JONES
I’m sorry, I can’t define them for you.

(LAUGHTER)

TONY JONES
I’m not a philosopher. I was just being practical.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, I would say, in the case of… Well, actual murder could… Well, is it actual murder even when I push the guy? Maybe not, because I know he’s likely to die if I aim well and he actually…

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL SANDEL
But I am hoping, if it turned out he survived, miracle of miracles, I would be happy. I would be happy. So, I am not deliberately killing him.

TONY JONES
He’d be dismembered on the track and you would be happy.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, my aim is to protect the five. And I am using him as an instrument, as a tool, and that’s what’s objectionable.

TONY JONES
OK, but we’re going to go with Immanuel Kant here, aren’t we?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, I think I would go with Immanuel Kant in this case.

TONY JONES
There’s a lot of people with their hands up, but I’m going to move on to the next question. Sorry, guys. Some of you have already spoken. Fareeza Khan has a question.

DO THE RIGHT THING00:56:25

FAREEZA KHAN
Hi, Michael. My question is, as humans, are we innately pre-disposed to do the right thing or are we affected by the environment and the circumstances, and therefore learn to do the right thing?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Both. Both. If we didn’t have to learn, well, I wouldn’t have much of a job for one thing.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL SANDEL
But… Philosophers would be out of business. But, more than that, we all have to learn. We know this… Put aside philosophers. The way we raise our children. We strive mightily, don’t we, to teach them? Growing up, from the age of childhood, we know that we are constantly learning and sometimes wondering about right and wrong. And we may have a certain tendency toward empathy or respect for persons or wanting to do the right thing. But that tendency, that bent of us as humans, needs cultivation and direction and nurturing, and sometimes it’s not so obvious what’s the right thing do. And so, cultivating our capacity to be good people.

TONY JONES
This is actually one of your… One of your fundamental preoccupations is the good life.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Right.

TONY JONES
How to achieve it, what it means.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yeah. Right.

TONY JONES
Could you just explain that in philosophical terms, briefly? I know that’s kind of a crazy thing, because you spend hours talking about it.

MICHAEL SANDEL
No, no. Well, I would say, and this goes back to Aristotle, who emphasised the good life is the aim of human beings. He said that the good life is not just the contented life – having enough to eat, food on the table, shelter. The good life is cultivating our human faculty for reason and for judgement, and that means we have to practise by deliberating with other human beings. And that’s why we can’t realise the good life in a purely private existence. Now, these days, that cuts against the grain of many modern assumptions. We think that the ultimate – this goes to the libertarian idea – that the best way to live is to be self-sufficient, to be autonomous, not to be dependent.

TONY JONES
And back to Immanuel Kant again.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, he contributed through this idea about autonomy. John Stuart Mill emphasised not conforming, the good life means not conforming. And there is a lot of truth in that. And yet, I think there is also truth in Aristotle’s idea that we can only really live the good life by sharing in a common life with fellow citizens, deliberating with them about the best way to live. The best way to live is always the best way for us in a community. Now, what…

TONY JONES
So, are you… Just to cut across briefly, are you…is your essential philosophy communitarian?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, that label has been applied to me, and I have been uneasy with it for this reason. Something communitarian means majoritarian, to go back to the discussion with Ted. And I don’t think the majority can define, by itself, simply because it has more votes, what’s right and what’s wrong. So if communitarian means majoritarian, I’m not one. But if communitarian means that the good life ultimately requires being embedded in a shared life with fellow citizens, reasoning, arguing together about the best way to live, about what’s just, what’s unjust, then, yes, in that sense, I think justice and the good life can’t be cut off from community. I guess that is how I would put it.

TONY JONES
Brilliantly done. Now, there’s time for one last question. It comes from Carolynn Valbuena.

EVOLVING DEMOCRACY00:01:00

CAROLYNN VALBUENA
Hello. In conversations about democracy and its failings, one of the things we no longer talk about is the next step in its evolution. We know that the features of democracy, as we know it today, were added to it over long periods of time by different civilisations. If we regard democracy as a project for the ages, then we must re-examine the model and build on it. I’m interested in exploring your views about how we should evolve democracy in the global age, or what features or concepts or instruments should we add so that it can continue to lead us to the good life?

TONY JONES
Michael, we have talked about some of the pitfalls. What about how you take things forward?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Right. And it’s an especially hard question today, when democracy is facing hard times. Many people are turning away from democracy. The quick answer these days offered by many would be technology will provide the next stage of democratic evolution. And there was a time not long ago when people thought that social media and Twitter were the great hope for modern democracy, because now we could communicate with people in distant places, we could organise rallies. President Trump has made quite a bit of use of Twitter and not all of it is admirably democratic, in my view.

But the larger question, my larger doubt about technology as the saviour of democracy, is… I think what we are learning in this technological age is that democracy requires communication now on a global scale, but also human presence. Gathering together in a place like this, it goes back to Aristotle’s idea of the assembly in ancient Athens, which was the birthplace of democracy. People were present to one another. They looked one another in the eye. They heard the timbre and the tremor of one another’s voice. They laughed and interrupted and argued together.

Now, we can do some of this at a distance, and I think we should explore… The experiment we did with my justice course, putting it online, was an attempt to use new technology to promote global public discourse. I am all for that, but I am also aware of the necessity of human presence. Like a gathering such as Q&A has every week, to hold politicians to account, but also to cultivate the art and the habit of listening to one another with mutual respect, even where we disagree.

TONY JONES
I have got one final question for you, and that is what has changed since you were a very young schoolboy, class president, and you interviewed Governor Ronald Reagan…

MICHAEL SANDEL
I did.

TONY JONES
…in front of your school?

MICHAEL SANDEL
I did.

TONY JONES
What’s changed since then?

MICHAEL SANDEL
Changed in the world or in me?

TONY JONES
Well, we know what’s changed in you quite a lot, but it was an interesting period.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Yeah.

TONY JONES
You were fundamentally opposed to many of Reagan’s views and yet you had a civil…or report that you had a civil dialogue, and he handled it very well.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Right. This was…I was… I think I was 18 years old, my last year in high school, and I had a kind of debate with Ronald Reagan, who was not yet president. He was the governor of California. I had very long hair. Everyone in the school disagreed with him. But we were struck… And we were struck by the respectful way he listened, even to a young kid like me. I thought I could outdebate him until I actually encountered him and he was good at listening. And I think maybe what has changed, certainly trust in government has declined since the early 1970s, when this event occurred.

TONY JONES
Probably President Ronald Reagan had something to do with that, actually.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Well, that’s a very interesting point.

TONY JONES
We won’t go into detail.

MICHAEL SANDEL
Trust in government, belief in politicians and political parties, the belief that the political system can be a force for good. That belief, I think, is deeply eroded. And we talk about the need to restore trust. It came up in our discussion earlier. I think, before we can restore trust in government, government and politicians have to become worthy of trust. In many ways, the loss of trust reflects the fact that established political parties and politicians have failed to lead and to create a just society and to respond to globalisation in a way that shares the benefits, rather than heaps all the rewards on those on top.

So, I think that what has changed is really a deepening disillusion with politics, the world of politics, and, ultimately, with democracy, and I would say the greatest challenge of our time is to find ways and moments to enable democratic citizens to be citizens, to learn how to sit together as we are here, to reason together about what makes for a just society. And we have precious few resources and places for this, which is why I so admire this venue, Tony.

TONY JONES
Well, thank you, Michael, for giving us some trust in the idea of civilised discourse. Thank you very much for that.

That’s all we have time for tonight. Please thank our very special guest, Michael Sandel.

(APPLAUSE)

MICHAEL SANDEL
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you.

TONY JONES
Thank you, and a big thanks to the University of New South Wales Centre for Ideas, who’ve brought Professor Sandel to Australia. You can continue the discussion with Q&A Extra on NewsRadio and Facebook Live, where Tracey Holmes is joined by Sydney University professor of political philosophy, Duncan Ivison.

Now, next week is Easter Monday. Q&A will take a break. We’ll be gathering our Easter eggs and then we’ll be back on Monday, April 9, broadcasting live from Dandenong, taking a closer look at the issues of crime, immigration and race that have been pushed onto the national agenda in that place. I’ll see you then. Goodnight.

 

Dirndl and Lederhosen

Dr. Axel Munz was today a guest in the Deutswche Welle. This is why I googled the following about dirndl and lederhosen and copied it. It says that 

  • Traditional Bavarian costumes have had a resurgence in popularity

 

 

 

Tradition makes a comeback for fashion-conscious Bavarians

By Catriona Davies for CNN
February 28, 2011 — Updated 1001 GMT (1801 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Traditional Bavarian costumes have had a resurgence in popularity
  • Prices for dirndls range from 50 euros to 2,500 euros
  • Young people wear the costumes for Oktoberfest, weddings and parties

CNN’s global series i-List takes you to a different country each month. In February, we visit Germany and look at changes shaping the country’s economy, culture and social fabric.

(CNN) — To an outsider, lederhosen and dirndl — the traditional costumes of Bavaria — may seem like an outdated symbol of a bygone age, last seen in “The Sound of Music.”

But the outfits — short leather dungarees for men and wide skirts with corsets for women — have become must-haves for the young and fashion-conscious of Munich in south Germany.

They are particularly popular at Oktoberfest, Munich’s annual beer festival attracting 6.4 million visitors, and increasingly at fashionable parties and weddings.

The German edition of Vogue magazine regularly features Bavarian costumes in its September issue, according to Simone Egger, a researcher in cultural studies, and shops open around the city every August specifically to sell Oktoberfest costumes.

When you see someone in dirndl or lederhosen they look wonderful.
–Lola Paltinger, fashion designer

Lola Paltinger, a designer who sells couture dirndls for 2,500 euros, or about $3,440, said: “When I first went to Oktoberfest everyone was in jeans. The only traditional costumes were dark, sad and unfashionable.

“Now they come in bright colors, modern designs and are more comfortable. It still has a wide skirt and a corset, but it’s one you can breathe, eat and drink in.”

Paltinger began designing dirndls as a project at her fashion college, and after an apprenticeship with Vivienne Westwood, began her own business.

She said: “I was sitting outside at the Oktoberfest with my friends talking about what we were going to do for our diplomas. The atmosphere of the Oktoberfest got to me and I just thought of doing traditional costumes.”

When she started her business 11 years ago, Paltinger sold about 20 dirndls a year. She now sells 1,000 a year, both custom-made and off-the-rack, and supplies 20 to 30 weddings.

She said: “When you see someone in dirndl or lederhosen they look wonderful, and you are really disappointed later when you see them in normal clothes. The dirndls in particular are very sexy and feminine.

“For women there are bright colors and modern styles, but for men you can’t really do lederhosen in a modern way. In my opinion, there’s nothing nicer than a real, traditional lederhosen.”

Of course, most people can’t afford to buy their outfits from designers like Paltinger. You can pick up a new dirndl for 50 to 60 euros or lederhosen for 120 euros, according to Karoline Graf of the Munich Tourist Office, and there is a thriving second-hand market.

Paltinger said: “Many, many shops sell dirndl and lederhosen in the run up to the Oktoberfest. Some of them just open up especially and sell them very cheaply, made in India. It’s a big business.

“Some people say it’s not good to sell cheap ones, but I think it’s really nice that so many young people want to wear them and pay homage to Bavarian tradition.”

Angermaier, a traditional clothes business with two stores in Munich and other temporary stores in high season, has seen lederhosen sales double over the past 10 years. Sales of dirndls have risen 500% over the same period.

Axel Munz, director of the company, said: “The customers have become younger and more trendy. Fashion has found its way into tracht (traditional costumes).

“People wear traditional costumes at weddings, special events or folk festivals, but mainly they wear it at the Oktoberfest.”

Egger, a researcher at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, wrote a diploma thesis on the popularity of traditional Bavarian costumes.

She said: “About 10 years ago I noticed all the young people wearing dirndl and lederhosen and thought ‘what’s going on?’ I’m a cultural scientist so I wanted to find out why.

“At the beginning, it was just for the Oktoberfest, but now it is for parties and sometimes weddings. Nowadays pretty much everybody in Munich and the surrounding region has at least one traditional outfit.”

She added: “The choice to wear traditional costumes appears to be more than just a fashion trend.

“Possibly, a mobile society wishes to demonstrate affiliation. In times of international networking, local and regional references become even more important.”

She added that the first to take up the fashion were 16 to 18-year-olds who felt free to wear traditional costume precisely because there was no pressure from their parents to do so.

Gabriele Hammerschick, chief buyer of traditional clothes for the clothes store Lodenfrey, said customers had become younger in recent years and bought dirndl and lederhosen all year round for weddings, parties, christenings, Christmas and of course, Oktoberfest.

She said people had rediscovered tradition for its permanence in a fast-paced world.

Graf said: “Twenty years ago, no young men or women would go out in traditional costume because it wasn’t fashionable.

“Now teenagers, students, people of all ages wear them.”

 

More

Going non-traditional

This is about the movie “My Happy Family”.

NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2017 – NANA EKVTIMISHVILI, SIMON GROSS: MY HAPPY FAMILY/CHEMI BEDNIERI OJAKNI (2017)

Peter and I watch quite regularly ‘Der Tag’, that is a program on the Deutsche Welle (DW). Today film director Simon Groß was interviewed on that program. Simon pointed out that he made the above movie together with his wife and that to have a close working relationship with your wife may cause some problems.

In the  movie,. the middle aged school-teacher,  who  lives with her husband in an extended very large family, decides she has to move out and live on her own because ‘she cannot breathe”.

This movie is set in Georgia, ” where the language has a special lilt, and where any festive gathering means people will sing, in a rich, resonant chorus. . . .”

Here is a bit more of what it says in one of the reviews to the movie:

“Manana and Soso live with her family, which she’s sick of (and we can see why). They consist of her querulous and bossy mother (Berta Khapava), her brother, her grandfather, her husband, son Lasha (Giorgi Tabidze) and daughter Nino (Tsisia Qumsashvili) and daughter’s husband, augmented on occasion by aunts, uncles and other relatives, as needed. The big squabbles concern Manana’s decision to move into a cheap apartment on her own, leaving her husband and all the rest, but the squabbles themselves show us why Manana would want to take this liberating step. It’s not that she can’t get along with her husband. She can’t breathe.

Her departure is against the wishes of everyone over 25. But it’s a foregone conclusion we’re aware of from the first scene, when she views a sunny if shabby flat in an unfashionable but quiet neighborhood. The price is right, and the decision is made. The objections confirm its validity. But will Manana stay with this decision? Will the tomatoes she plants on the balcony bear fruit? Stay tuned – though the film ends with a question mark, as it should. The conflicts here depicted between traditional and nuclear families, couples and independence, aren’t easily resolved. . . . .”

http://www.chrisknipp.com/writing/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3592

I am intrigued by the questions that come up because of the movie’s ending. Who knows the answers to all these questions:

Is it better to live in a traditional or in a nuclear family?

Is it better if couples live together or is there some benefit to a couple’s relationship if they each have their own place?

What makes for happy families?

 

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0344144/

 

 

Screenshot 2017-07-15 12.40.13

http://www.simongross.de/

 

First Day of Spring 2016, Uta’s Diary

Here in Australia it is the first day of spring today. I just discovered in SPIEGEL ONLINE INTERNATIONAL the following interview:

Expert on MH370 Disappearance: ‘There Is Absolutely No Mystery To What Happened’

Interview Conducted by Marco Evers

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/mh370-disappearance-that-fuselage-is-in-one-piece-says-expert-a-1107149.html#

Some time ago Marco Evers did another interview about the disappearance of MH370:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-captain-bill-palmer-on-fate-of-mh370-a-960464.html

So, what really happened? Will we ever know for certain?

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I want to come back now to some of the verses I saw in Canberra in the National Museum. Before we entered the museum, we asked whether we were allowed to take pictures. We were told yes, we could take pictures, but only for personal use.
Some pictures I took of these verses, turned out all right, others are too blurred. I have to learn to wait for the right moment before I take a picture. I wished, I could do the blurred pictures again! Well, maybe some other time (!).

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Spiegel Interview

 

Jane Goodall Interview: ‘Even Chimps Understand Sustainability’

Interview Conducted By and Johann Grolle

Jane Goodall spent years observing chimpazees in the wild. She discovered that the animals can murder and wage war. As an environmentalist, the British activist now spends more time observing humans. She says she still has hope in people.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-interview-with-primate-researcher-jane-goodall-a-1056465.html

The Meaning of Life – Mary Robinson

Presented by Geraldine Doogue, Compass explores the interface between religion and life as experienced by individuals and communities – including ordinary Australians, public leaders, religious thinkers and philosophers. #ABCcompass, Sundays 6.30pm

The Moral Compass

Series 29 | Episode 27CCDOCUMENTARY/FACTUAL27 mins

Geraldine Doogue debates the hot-button moral, ethical and religious controversies of our day in this smart and entertaining Compass series, The Moral Compass.

To enquire about obtaining a copy of this program please contact ABC Program Sales 1300 650 587 or progsales@abc.net.au

 

http://www.abc.net.au/compass/s4289196.htm

Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first woman President, talks to Irish broadcasting legend Gay Byrne about the people, ideas, values and beliefs that give her life meaning.

A brilliant lawyer and human rights activist before entering politics, she famously challenged the influence of the Catholic Church in Irish society and helped to bring about changes in the law concerning contraception, divorce and homosexuality. And yet she remains the product of a traditional religious upbringing and education and sees those values as the moral engine behind her continuing work for human rights and what she calls climate justice.

 

 

Peter B. Todd :

31 Aug 2015 9:51:23am

Splendid interview with Mary Robinson who respects the great religious traditions of the earth while alluding to a numinous principle implicit in cosmology and in the evolutionary process from which humankind’s symbolic consciousness has emerged. Humanity not only participates in a numinous dimension but also in co-creative divinisation by directing the future cosmic evolution. Her comment on Christ was particularly insightful. The implication seemed to be that Christ was an epiphany of a continuing incarnation of God in history as articulated by the fourteenth mystic Meister Eckhart and in the work of such contemporary thinkers as the Jesuit palaeontologist Teilhard de Chardin. This concept of God is archetypal and NOT that of an anthropomorphic, interventionist, creator. I elaborate these ideas in my book “The Individuation of God: Integrating Science and Religion” (Chiron publications 2012) and in my Skype interview with Bruce Sanguin

LINK: http://brucesanguin.com/interview-with-peter-todd/