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OU on the BBC: Justice: What's a fair start?

Updated Tuesday, 22nd February 2011

Is taxing the rich to help the poor the right thing to do? Michael Sandel explores the question.

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A protest against spending cuts in Minnesota Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Fibonacci Blue under CC-BY licence The fifth of Harvard professor Michael Sandel's lectures on the philosophy of justice focuses on a simple but controversial question - is it just to tax the rich to help the poor?

The American philosopher John Rawls argued that in order to work out a fair social system, one must start from an imaginary position where everyone has the same opportunity to succeed in life. But is this ever possible in the real world? Sandel polls his students to find out how many of them are first-borns, and makes an intriguing discovery.

The programme can be seen for the first time on BBC Four, Tuesday 22nd February 2010. For more transmission details, and a link to iPlayer, visit

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Want to know more about philosophy, ethics and right and wrong? Consider these courses from The Open University:

Justice: A Citizen's Guide





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