SOC 331 Social Justice & Ethics Entire Course
Moral, Legal, and Religious Perspectives on Social Justice.
In Chapter 1 of your textbook, justice is analyzed from three perspectives, each with its own set of relevant concepts. The text includes three case studies for consideration from each perspective. Select one (only one) of these case studies as the focus of your initial post in this discussion. Then analyze the selected case study from the justice perspective which accompanies it and answer the following questions.
a. If you select “Case Study 1.1 – Jacob Little and Walmart,” analyze it from the perspective of justice as a moral concept. Your analysis must address the following questions:
§ Did Walmart offer Jacob a just wage? Why or why not?
§ Was the alderman’s decision to let Walmart operate in the city just? Why or why not?
§ If you were the alderman, what would you do to more fully promote justice in the situation? Why?
b. If you select “Case Study 1.2 – Just Desserts?,” analyze it from the perspective of justice as a legal concept.
§ Was the court’s sentence for Mr. Allen just? Why or why not?
§ Was the court’s sentence for Mr. Brown just? Why or why not?
§ If you were the judge presiding over both of these trials, what would you do to more fully promote justice in them? Why?
c. If you select “Case Study 1.3 – Honor the Sabbath or Keep Your Job,” analyze it from the perspective of justice as a religious concept.
§ Did Chief Gerst treat Corporal Brown justly? Why or why not?
§ Did Corporal Brown act justly after his agreement with Chief Gerst? Why or why not?
§ If you were the Chief of TSU’s Police department, what would you do to more fully promote justice in the situation? Why?
The Justice of Climate Change.
In Chapter 1 of your textbook, the author identifies the possible causes and consequences of global warming/climate change as emerging issues loaded with implications for justice. He also analyzes the concepts of distributive justice, commutative justice, and retributive justice and suggests their relevance to conversations about how individuals, businesses, and nations should respond justly to evidence of global warming. These conversations are made more difficult by acrimonious debates about the quality of the scientific evidence that supports global warming hypotheses as well as the motives and integrity of various scientists on both sides of the issue. “Case Study 1.4 – Getting Warmer?” illustrates this problem.
Familiarize yourself with the debate highlighted in Case Study 1.4 by reviewing the required resources for this discussion. Then apply concepts of distributive justice, commutative justice, and retributive justice to answer the following questions.
a. How should the concept of distributive justice influence the response of the United States to evidence of global warming? Why?
b. How should the concept of commutative justice influence your response, as an individual, to evidence of global warming? Why?
c. How should the concept of retributive justice influence governmental and individual responses to business activities which emit substantial amounts of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases.” Why?
Justice from Four Perspectives: Family, Community, State, and Nation.
In Chapter 2, the author urges students to “look at justice through the lens of reason” by developing “frameworks that permit careful analysis and evaluation of competing views” (Dreisbach, 2013, Section 2.1). He provides an example of such a framework by analyzing how the concept of justice varies when viewed from the different perspectives of family, community, state, and nation. In this discussion, you will apply this framework to analyze justice issues arising from demands for the legalization of a traditionally prohibited behavior in the United States – same-sex marriage. Before responding, carefully read the discussion question below:
According to the revised 2010 Census, in the United States there were 131,729 same-sex married couple households and 514,735 same-sex unmarried partner households. As of December 2012:
a. Thirty-eight states have state constitutional provisions or other laws restricting marriage to one man and one woman;
b. Nine states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples;
c. One state recognizes marriages by same-sex couples legally entered into in another jurisdiction;
d. Eight states provide the equivalent of state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples (civil unions) within the state; and
e. Two states provide some state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples within the state (e.g., domestic partnerships, designated beneficiaries).
Consequently, in at least 30 states same-sex couples are denied the many legal and economic benefits that are available to married heterosexual couples. Additionally, in 1996 Congress enacted and President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which:
a. Defines marriage, for the purpose of receiving federal legal and economic benefits, as the legal union of one man and one woman; and
b. Permits a state not to recognize a marriage legally entered in another state between persons of the same sex.
Analyze both the distributive and commutative justice of this complex situation from each of these different perspectives:
a. A same-sex couple who was legally married in one state but whose private sector jobs require them to live in another state that legally restricts marriage to traditional hetero couples.
b. The highly urbanized and socially liberal community, in which that same-sex couple lives, where the city government grants city employees who are registered domestic partners (regardless of sex) the insurance and other fringe-benefits it grants to legally married (heterosexual) couples.
c. The mostly rural state where they live, which some observers characterize as being part of the “Bible-belt”.
d. The nation of the United States of America which is governed by President Barack Obama who has instructed his Department of Justice to not defend DOMA when its constitutionality is challenged in the federal courts (several of which have held parts of the law to be unconstitutional).
Justice and Socio-Economic Class.
In Chapter 2 of the textbook, the author describes meanings for the concept of socio-economic class and analyzes how perceptions of justice may be influenced by class distinctions in American society (see Section 2.4). He also references the related views of two provocative and thought-provoking contemporary scholars. Robert H. Frank provides an economic analysis, and Charles Murray offers a socio-cultural interpretation. In this discussion, you will summarize the perspective of one of these scholars and evaluate its relevance to understanding how class influences beliefs about justice. Review the questions below and select one (only one) of these scholars as the focus of your initial post.
a. Robert H. Frank.
Debates about distributive justice among economic classes often characterize the outlook of the rich as libertarian, the views of the poor as egalitarian, and the perspective of the middle-class as utilitarian. This over-simplified framework may translate into conflicting ideologies about the role of government in achieving economic justice. On one extreme are libertarian proponents of the free market and on the other extreme are egalitarian proponents of socialism. In the middle are a variety of “mixed” approaches to the role of government in the economy that promote utilitarian concepts of distributive justice – the greatest good for the greatest possible number of people. Cornell University economist Robert Frank, in his recent provocative book, The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good, rejects – but not completely – both the libertarian and egalitarian extremes. Instead, he advocates a new role for government that encourages individuals toward self-interested economic behavior that also advances the economic welfare of all members of the community. In your initial post, summarize Frank’s arguments – both his criticism of the libertarian and egalitarian extremes. Then, analyze his proposals on how to achieve greater economic justice for the whole community. Finally, evaluate the relevance or usefulness of his views for understanding how economic class differences may influence perceptions of distributive justice. Do you think his views may be appreciated as just by rich people? Poor people? Middle-class people? Explain your conclusion. To help you successfully complete this discussion, review the following resources in the order they are listed:
§ Darwin, the market whiz
§ Robert Frank on ‘the Darwin economy’
§ Robert Frank: ‘The Darwin economy: Liberty, competition, and the common good’ [Radio broadcast]
b. Charles Murray.
Commutative justice rests on a shared understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all parties to the basic social contract that holds a society together. On one level, the U.S. Constitution might be characterized as part of the social contract on which the American political system is based. But on a deeper, more fundamental, level, the social contract includes shared values which shape our expectations of others and ourselves with respect to morality, culture, self-reliance, and collective responsibility. Charles Murray, a political scientist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, calls into question the relevance of the social contract which he sees as the source of “the founding virtues” on which American civic life depends. In his recent provocative book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, he argues that “Our nation is coming apart at the seams” – “not ethnic seams, but the seams of class” (Confessore, 2012). He focuses on what he sees as the social and moral collapse of the white working class and the growing cultural gap between them and the white upper class. In your initial post, summarize Murray’s description of the white working class and the white upper class. Also, analyze the basis for his pessimistic outlook about government’s ability to solve this problem and re-invigorate America’s social contract. Finally, evaluate the relevance or usefulness of his views for understanding how socio-economic class differences may influence perceptions of commutative justice. Do the white working class and the white upper class no longer have a shared understanding of the rights and responsibilities of the basic social contract? Explain your conclusion. To help you successfully complete this discussion, review the following resources in the order they are listed:
§ Tramps like them: Charles Murray examines the white working class in ‘Coming Apart’
§ Can the working class be saved?
§ Charles Murray on white America [Radio broadcast]
State vs. Federal Marijuana Legalization.
For this assignment, you will again follow the suggestion to “look at justice through… frameworks that permit careful analysis and evaluation of competing views” (Dreisbach, 2013, Section 2.1). Again, you will apply his framework for analyzing how the concept of justice varies when viewed from the different perspectives of family, community, state, and nation. In this assignment, you will apply this framework to analyze justice issues arising from recent successful efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use in two states and medical marijuana in several other states. Before responding, carefully read the assignment prompt below. By the end of 2012, eighteen states and the District of Columbia had legalized medical marijuana use, under various circumstances, and two states had legalized recreational marijuana use. Legalization proposals are pending in other states. At the same time, the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act (CSA) bans the possession, production, sale, or distribution of marijuana, even when such activity is technically in compliance with state law. Moreover, the Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of federal enforcement of the CSA against individuals who were in possession of or were growing marijuana for medical use in compliance with California law. Analyze the retributive, commutative and distributive justice of this complex situation from each of these different perspectives:
a. A recreational pot smoker who lives in a state that recently legalized growing, possessing, selling, and distributing, through state-regulated dispensaries, limited amounts of marijuana for medical use.
b. A parent living in the same state, concerned that her 12-year-old will be exposed to new and significant risks of addiction to pot that will be readily available in their community.
c. An HIV patient, also living in this state, whose doctor advises that smoking small amounts of marijuana will probably relieve some of his pain.
d. The Chief of Police of the city where these people live, who has urged the City Council to enact new local zoning and other regulations that will make it virtually impossible for medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city.
e. The state’s new Medical Marijuana Board, which is empowered to permit and regulate dispensaries but is without the power to withhold permits, merely because of local opposition in a particular community.
f. The President and Attorney General of the United States who are responsible for enforcing the CSA as well as upholding the nation’s obligations to implement anti-drug treaties that it has ratified.
From your analysis of these various perspectives, draw a conclusion about how to achieve the most just resolution to issues involving the availability of marijuana in American society.
Distributive Justice Across the Generations.
In Chapter 3 of your textbook, the author discusses how demographic differences, such as age, influence understandings of distributive justice. He also reviews how libertarian, utilitarian, and egalitarian theories of distributive justice enter into conversations across demographic divides. The soaring cost of health care, the limitations of the economy in paying for health care, and the growing proportion of the population who are over age 65, have given rise to serious discussion, at times acrimonious, about the possible need to or the justice of rationing health care to that age group. A common definition of rationing is withholding some specific medical treatments for reasons other than a patient’s desire to have the treatment (e.g., Medicare not paying for certain treatments for very elderly patients). In your discussion, you must, from the perspective of distributive justice, summarize the major arguments on both sides (the pros and cons) of the issue of whether health care should be rationed to the elderly. You must also characterize these arguments according to whether they are primarily libertarian, utilitarian, or egalitarian in nature. Finally, you will evaluate these arguments from your view of distributive justice, explaining both how your personal life experiences and your own libertarian, utilitarian, or egalitarian views influence your evaluation.
To help you successfully complete this discussion, review the following required resources:
a. Callahan, D., &Nuland, S. B. (2011, June 19). The quagmire: How American medicine is destroying itself. The New Republic, 242(8), 16-18. Retrieved from the EBSCOhost database.
b. Rationing by any other name: Reasons for resisting the push to limit medical care
c. Should we ration end-of-life care? [Radio broadcast]
d. Rationing health care at end of life: Student handout 3
Distributive Justice and Scarce Natural Resources.
In Chapter 3 of the text, the author calls attention to how struggles for scarce natural resources will pose increasingly difficult problems of distributive justice in the future, on both the local and global levels. “Case 3.4 – Fracking Friction” (in Section 3.4) explores this issue in the context of fracking for natural gas.
Suppose that the connection between fracking and adverse health effects is as yet an unproven possibility. Do individuals’ health interests outweigh the property interests of energy companies in withholding information about fracking chemicals, which they claim are trade-secrets? Why or why not?
Your initial post must, from the perspective of distributive justice, explain your response to the above questions as they relate to Case 3.4. Consider the issue from both sides (the pros and cons). Incorporate arguments that draw upon libertarian, utilitarian, and egalitarian views of distributive justice.
To help you successfully complete this discussion, review the following required resources:
a. Fracking secrets by thousands keep U.S. clueless on wells
b. Fracking: Abundant energy, but at what cost?
c. Is fracking making people sick? [Radio broadcast]
d. Fracking our food supply
Commutative Justice and Embryo “Adoption.”
In Chapter 4 of the textbook, the author examines commutative justice as arising from contractual relationships – a specific contract among particular parties or a broader social contract on which a community or nation is based. He also discusses how the interpretation or enforceability of a specific contract may be influenced by the principles and values that are part of the broader social contract.
At the end of 2012, more than 600,000 frozen embryos are being maintained in cryopreservation storage facilities in the United States. Some of them are the subject of agreements in which one party transfers one or more embryos to another party for implantation. Such agreements may be called “Embryo Adoption Agreements,” although there is controversy over the use of the term adoption since the legal status of an embryo is different from that of a living child. In recent years, there have been a number of legal disputes arising from these agreements. Cynthia Marietta describes one of these disputes, McLaughlin v. Lambert, in her article, Frozen embryo litigation spotlights pressing questions: What is the legal status of an embryo and can it be adopted?
First, carefully read this article. Then, in your initial post, analyze the issues of commutative justice in this case, and apply the principles discussed by both Marietta and the textbook (see Section 4.4). Be sure to consider whether values that are part of the broader social contract (e.g., the U.S. Constitution) may influence how the specific contract between the two couples in this case should be interpreted justly. Consider this case from both sides of the dispute as well as from the perspective of society’s interest in the status of frozen embryos.
Commutative Justice and the National Debt.
In Chapter 4 of the text, the author examines commutative justice across the generations (see Section 4.5). This idea arises from the writings of British political thinker Edmund Burke (1790):
“Society is indeed a contract… a partnership in all art, a particular in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born…”
(Reflections on the French Revolution, para. 165)
Burke’s idea of a social contract between generations is often cited in contemporary debates about the spiraling nation debt of the United States. What do young and old citizens living today owe, as a matter of commutative justice, to generations of citizens who are not yet born? Is it just for today’s citizens to demand policies (e.g., low taxes and high levels of government service) that create huge debts for future generations to pay?
Retributive Justice and Mandatory Life Imprisonment for Juvenile Offenders.
In Chapter 5 of the textbook, the author examines retributive justice from the standpoint of the means of punishment (Section 5.2). He calls attention to the length of prison sentences and, in particular, the issue of mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declared laws that require judges to impose life-without-parole sentences for juveniles to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.” The decision (Miller v. Alabama) was a 5-4 split in the Court – which is typical of many such decisions that apply the cruel and unusual punishment provision.
Your initial post must analyze the retributive justice issues of mandatory, life-without-parole sentences. Consider the facts of Miller v. Alabama: Defendant Miller, a 14-year old boy, with an accomplice beat the victim with a baseball bat and set his trailer on fire with the victim inside. Defendant Miller was tried as an adult for capital murder while committing arson.
Is a mandatory, life-without-parole sentence just in such circumstances? Remember that “just” may or may not be the same as “constitutional.” Summarize both the pros and the cons of your answer to this question, and critically evaluate these pros and cons, applying principles of retributive justice discussed in the text. Your evaluation must respond to the pros and cons, giving persuasive reasons why you agree with some and disagree with some.
Alternative to Retributive Justice.
In Chapter 5 of the text, the author discusses four alternatives to retributive justice: corrective justice, reformative justice, restorative justice, and transformative justice (see Section 5.3).
In “Case Study 5.5 – Dead Woman Walking,” the text describes the circumstances that led to the 1998 execution in Texas of Karla Faye Tucker. Before she was executed she requested, but was denied, clemency. Her cause was supported by many political, correctional, and moral leaders.
Would the application of any of the four alternatives to retribution have produced a more just outcome? Your initial post must explain and apply each of the four alternative theories of justice to Karla Faye Tucker’s case. Also, critically evaluate each of the alternatives in the circumstances of her case. Why does each theory produce a more or less just outcome than the approach actually followed by the State of Texas? Finally, is the utility of each alternative limited to the unusual circumstances of Karla’s case or do they have value more generally to merit consideration as a more just approach than retributive justice?