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The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations celebrated its new location on the Harvard Kennedy School campus (19 October) by honoring founders Gustave and Rita Hauser and hosting a public conversation When is an Open Society also a Just Society? The conversation was held with George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Institute, and Michael J. Sandel, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard, and was moderated by Christopher Stone, Hauser Center faculty director and Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice.
Stone moderated the lively debate about the intersection of market and moral values and the implications for an open and just society.
“There is a hidden contradiction between open society and capitalism” stated Soros, who then added that market fundamentalism – which he defined as the extension of market values to areas where it doesn’t belong – “has done tremendous damage and is in fact endangering our open society today.”
Sandel concurred that market and moral values do not always integrate well, citing an example of when a day care center in Israel started to charge parents for picking up their children late as a way to curb the tardiness. He said it actually had the opposite effect because the moral obligation of not inconveniencing the day care worker was replaced by a market value of paying for the service of showing up late instead.
In regards to the role and importance of nonprofits in mitigating this tension and aiding the building of open and just societies, Sandel said “civil society can be an instrument for cultivating a certain kind for civic virtue.”
Although Soros agreed, he also warned that “there is a contradiction between feeling good and doing good and that is a fundamental flaw,” but “the key is to put your public interest ahead of your personal interest.”
They suggested there needs to be a broad civic education project in order for citizens to better understand the effects of market and moral values on important areas of democratic and open societies.
The conversation between Stone, Soros and Sandel was followed by a dedication of the new Hauser Center office space in the Belfer building of the Harvard Kennedy School. To mark the occasion, remarks were delivered by Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust; David T. Ellwood, dean of Harvard Kennedy School and the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy; and Rita E. Hauser, president of the Hauser Foundation. The speakers cited the Hauser Center as a place of distinction which is effectively collaborating with schools, institutions and colleagues across the university – embodying the interdisciplinary nature of the nonprofit sector – and as a model for nonprofit centers at other universities.