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					                                   Princeton University
                       Woodrow Wilson School, Department of Politics,
                          and University Center for Human Values
                                  WWS 301/Politics 308
                             ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY

Professor Amy Gutmann
Louis Marx Hall 302
Spring, 1999
Lecture: Tuesday 10:30-11:50
Frick 120

Mr. Jacob Levy (Course Administrator)
Corwin Hall 243
Course web site:

         This course examines the nature and validity of arguments about moral issues in public
policy. We focus in Part I on the means of policies-the problem of "dirty hands"-and in Part II on
the ends of policies-the problem of "hard choices." We discuss throughout the responsibility of
citizens and those who govern in our names.

        Each week, except the first, there is a 90-minute lecture period (on Tuesday) and a
precept. The first week, there is a lecture on both Tuesday and Thursday (and no precept). I
devote part of many lecture periods to class discussion.

         Our aim in each unit of the syllabus is to identify the ethical issue, analyze it with the aid
of the assigned theoretical readings, and relate it to specific cases in public policy. The challenge
throughout is to consider how we-as democratic citizens or accountable officials-would propose
to resolve the ethical controversy in a way that is publicly justifiable. Some of the assigned
readings integrate the theoretical and practical concerns, but generally we have to undertake that
task on our own in lectures, class discussions, precepts, and writing assignments. Comments in
each unit serve as a guide to thinking and writing about the readings.

         The course is designed, on an experimental basis, to try to teach good writing beyond the
basics of the writing requirement. Our aim is to think clearly by writing clearly, and to write
clearly by thinking clearly. To this end, you are expected each week to submit short exercises, no
more than 300 words, to your preceptor. These exercises serve as a springboard for email
correspondence and office-hour discussions between you and your preceptor about your writing.
The weekly assignments also are intended to help you improve your two 6-8 page papers. As
important, the intense practice in constructing good arguments should more generally help refine
your writing and thinking. The email exercises will be graded, not individually, but as a whole.
By the end of the course, students should be able to present a strong case for positions that they
have good reason to think-and therefore wish to persuade others-are worth defending in public.

        The cases in the assignments are either in the Gutmann and Thompson casebook, Ethics
and Politics: Cases and Comments, Third Edition (indicated as GT), or in the course packet
(indicated as P). The paperback edition of the casebook (third edition) is available for purchase at
the University Store. The following required readings are also available for purchase (in
paperback) at the University Store: Dennis Thompson, Political Ethics and Public Office;
Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars; John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism; Ronald Dworkin, Life's
Dominion; and Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement. All other
required readings are included in the course packet that is available for purchase at Pequod Copy,
6 Nassau Street. All of the required readings, including copies of the course packet, are also on
reserve in the WWS Library.

Course Requirements:
         In addition to studying the assigned reading, you are required to: (1) submit short weekly
writing assignments (starting the second week of the course); (2) participate in precept and class
discussions; (3) write two papers (6-8 pages in length) based on the required reading; and (4) take
the final examination. There is no midterm examination.
         Each of the weekly assignments is due by 11 p.m. on Tuesday of the week in which we
discuss the topic. Each week there will be a question to answer, an assigned problem, or an
assigned topic for these pieces of no more than 300 words each. The assignments are to be turned
in electronically, by saving them in the appropriate file on the course's shared server; an
additional handout will explain the mechanics, or you can consult the course web page. Your
preceptor will return comments to you by noon on Saturday, in your folder on the shared server.
Some weeks you may be expected to revise a previous writing assignment; and you are free to
revise and expand a short assignment in writing one of your papers.
         One of the two 6-8 page papers is due by noon on Friday, March 12 (before spring
break). The other is due by noon on Monday, May 3 (the first day of Reading Period). Late
papers will not be accepted.
         The final examination will consist of three questions that you will be asked to answer in
three hours. At the time of the examination, I select the questions at random from a longer list of
study questions that I distribute ahead of time.
         Each short paper counts 20 percent. The email assignments, graded as a whole, count 20
percent. Participation in precepts and class discussions count 20 percent. The final examination
counts 20 percent. Each component of the course must be completed satisfactorily to receive a
passing grade for the course as a whole.

Attention to Writing:
        Good writing is very valuable, and it takes time. In order to insure that students in the
course receive close attention to their writing, precepts are limited to no more than 10 students
each. Preceptors are committed to giving each student the requisite time and attention not only
within the precept but also outside of it, through email, office hours, and other times to be
arranged between students and preceptors. Each student should meet with his or her preceptor at
least once in each half of the semester. All the preceptors and I also meet in a weekly seminar to
discuss the subject matter of the course, good writing, and the best techniques of teaching both
                             Syllabus and Schedule of Lectures:

Introductory Lecture: Approaches to Ethics and Public Policy (February 2)
Jeremy Bentham, "Of the Principle of Utility," in The Principles of Morals and Legislation
[1823], pp. 1-7. (P)
Bernard Williams, "A Critique of Utilitarianism," in Smart and Williams, Utilitarianism For and
Against, pp. 96-99, 108-118. (P)
Thomas Nagel, "Two Standpoints," in Equality and Partiality, pp. 10-20. (P)

Part I: The Means of Policy

The Problem of Dirty Hands: Doing Wrong to Do Right (February 4)

Michael Walzer, "Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands," in M. Cohen et al. (eds.), War
and Moral Responsibility, pp. 62-82. (P)

Dennis Thompson, Political Ethics and Public Office, "Democratic Dirty Hands," pp. 11-39.
What moral principles should constrain the means that politicians and other public officials use in
making public policy? In pursuing important public goals may officials legitimately use means
that would otherwise be wrong? Walzer discusses the views of Machiavelli and Weber, two
important sources for our understanding of the problem of dirty hands. Walzer also presents his
own approach to the problem. Thompson suggests why democracy-and our responsibility as
democratic citizens-should make a difference in our understanding of the problem of dirty hands.

Violence and the Rules of War: The Decision to Drop the Bomb (February 9, 16)

Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, chs. 1, 3, 8-9, 16-17. Henry L. Stimson, "The Decision to
Use the Atomic Bomb." (GT) Colin Dueck, "Alternatives to The Bomb." (GT)

The use of violent means to serve political ends is the most striking illustration of the problem of
"dirty hands." In a framework that mixes consquentialist and deontological perspectives, Walzer
formulates and tries to resolve some of the most significant problems in the theory of justice in
war. The decision to drop the atomic bomb in World War II is among the most controversial uses
of violence in contemporary American history. Walzer also applies his theory to this case. The
case helps us consider a series of critical questions about the use of violence in politics: What is
wrong with violence? Is violence always wrong? Always wrong except to prevent violence? Or
only wrong if it causes more harm than good? What should be the content of moral rules of war?
Does the distinction between combatants and noncombatants make moral sense? Does the
doctrine of double effect make moral sense? How would you apply principles of morality in
evaluating the decision to use the atomic bomb in World War II?

Deception: Lies and Evasions (February 23)

Machiavelli, "How Princes Should Honour Their Word," in The Prince (1513), Ch. XVIII. (P)
Sissela Bok, Lying, pp. 17-31, 73-106. (P)
Case Graham T. Allison and Lance M. Liebman, "Lying in Office." (GT)

Deception is another morally problematic means that public officials claim to be justified by the
necessities of politics. Machiavelli suggests that politics makes deception by public officials
justifiable. Bok provides a more critical analysis of several forms of deception that arise
specifically in political life. "Lying in Office" includes a series of short examples that illustrate
the wide range of situations in which public officials are tempted to lie. We need to ask: What is
wrong with lying and deception? Is it always wrong to lie? What (if any) excuses and
justifications for lying are acceptable. Is there something special about politics that makes
deception inevitable, justifiable, or both? Under what conditions, if any, is it justifiable for a
public official to lie? Do degrees of untruth (from the incomplete statement to the blatant lie);
various audiences (the public, the press, subordinates, superiors, and officials not in one's own
branch of government); and various kinds of motives (national security, electoral advantage,
policy advocacy) make a moral difference?

Secrecy: Privacy, Publicity, and Public Office (March 2)

Jeremy Bentham, "Publicity," from An Essay on Political Tactics in The Collected Works, Vol. II,
pp. 310-15. (P)
Dennis Thompson, "The Private Lives of Public Officials," in Political Ethics and Public Office,
pp. 123-47. (P)
Case Jillian Dickert, "Privacy and Publicity: The Senate Confirmation of Justice Clarence
Thomas." (GT)
"Secrecy and Publicity in the The Clinton-Lewinsky Affair" (to be distributed.)

Publicity, as Bentham argues, is a valuable rule of politics. But privacy and confidentiality, unlike
deception, are themselves valuable. Secrecy therefore seems both to protect and to violate
important values. Thompson presents standards for discriminating between justifiable and
unjustifiable intrusions upon privacy, which can be applied and assessed in light of the case
studies. What is wrong with secrecy in government? Are Bentham's exceptions to the rule of
publicity adequate? Why is privacy valuable? What are the reasons for granting public officials
less privacy than ordinary citizens? Can the value of publicity in either case be reconciled with
that of privacy and confidentiality? If so how? If not, what value should be sacrificed and why?

Part II: The Ends of Policy

The Problem of Hard Choices: Competing Ends (March 9)

John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (Library of Liberal Arts), chs. 2-3, pp. 9-43. Robert Goodin,
"Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy," in Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy (1995), pp. 12-
27. (P)
Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, "The Promise of Utilitarianism," in Democracy and
Disagreement (1996), pp. 165-198.
Case Esther Scott, "The Risks of Asarco." (GT)

What is the fundamental difference between a utilitarian approach to choosing among competing
ends and an approach that counts not only consequences but individual rights as well? What are
the strongest arguments for and against each approach in politics? What are the most serious
objections to a utilitarian cost-benefit approach to policy analysis? Assess the strongest response
that a utilitarian can offer to these objections. What, if anything, makes cost-benefit analysis a
morally problematic way of determining policy with regard to the environment? In what ways, if
any, does Ruckelshaus's practice offer an alternative to cost-benefit analysis? A supplement to it?
Assess what you consider the strongest way of resolving the controversy in the Asarco case.
Distributive Justice: A Right to Health Care (March 23)

Charles Fried, "Equality and Rights in Medical Care," Hastings Center Report (February 1976),
pp. 29-34. (P) Amy Gutmann, "For and Against Equal Access to Health Care," in R. Bayer et al.
(eds.), In Search of Equity (1983), pp. 43-68. (P) Michael Walzer, "Security and Welfare," in
Spheres of Justice (1983), pp. 64-94. (P)
Case Pamela Varley, "Defunding Organ Transplants in Arizona." (GT)

Does government have a responsibility to secure certain basic opportunities for its citizens? If
not, why not? If so, what opportunities must it provide, and to what extent? Should the
government subsidize expensive life-saving treatments, such as organ transplants? The
controversy over the Arizona legislature's decision to stop funding most transplants poignantly
raises these questions. Consider the strongest moral case that can be made for and against a right
to health care. Should health care be considered a more important good than others? Which
others? What are the moral and practical limits of satisfying the demands of equal access to health
care? Was the Arizona legislature's decision to terminate funding for most transplants justifiable?
If a life-saving medical treatment is scarce and cannot be provided to all who need it, how should
it be distributed?

Liberty and Life: Legalizing Abortion (March 30); Funding Abortion (April 6)
Legalizing Abortion (Week of March 30):
Article by Judith Jarvis Thomson, in "A Defense of Abortion," in J. Feinberg (ed.), The Problem
of Abortion. (P).
Ronald Dworkin, Life's Dominion, pp. 4-117, 148-178. Richard Stith, "On Death and Dworkin,"
Maryland Law Review (1997), pp. 289-297, 328-358. (P).
"Submission to the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Medical Ethics, by the Linacre
Centre for Health Care Ethics," in Luke Gormally, ed., Euthanasia, Critical Practice, and the Law,
pp 115-133. (P).
Case Jack Hitt, "Who Will Do Abortions Here?" The New York Times Magazine (1998), pp. 20
ff. (P). Funding Abortion (Week of April 6): George Sher, "Subsidized Abortion," Philosophy &
Public Affairs, 10 (Fall 1981), pp. 361-72. (P)
Case U.S. House of Representatives, "Funding Abortion." (GT)

The abortion controversy is no more settled in philosophy than in politics, but we may make
some progress toward understanding it if we try to appreciate the force of the best arguments on
both sides or, more accurately, on the several sides.

Legalizing Abortion: As you sort out the issues that divide Thompson, Dwokin, Stith, and the
Linacre Centre's submission, keep in mind that our chief concern is what the government's
position should be on legalizing abortion. Is it possible for the government to take a morally
neutral position on the permissibility of abortion? Must we decide whether the fetus is a person in
order to settle the abortion question? If we assume that the fetus is a person, does it follow that
women do not have the right to have an abortion? Does it make any moral difference whether a
woman voluntarily risks having a child? Can someone consistently believe that abortion is wrong
but the government should not prohibit it? Can we evaluate the state of affairs described in the
case independently of our belief in the rightness or wrongness of abortion?

Funding Abortion: Sher explicitly discusses the question of funding, and proposes a moral
compromise that he believes respects both pro-choice and pro-life positions. Funding is also the
issue in the debate in the U.S. House. Is it unfair for the government not to fund abortions for the
poor as long as they are legal? Is there a morally defensible principle other than fairness that
would favor funding? Is there a morally defensible principle that would oppose funding? Sher
suggests that legalizing but not subsidizing abortion is a fair compromise between the pro-life and
pro-choice positions, although it does not completely satisfy the moral claims of either. Is
compromise a reasonable way of provisionally resolving this public controversy? Are these the
best terms or are there better alternatives?

Life and Liberty: The Death Penalty (April 13)
Articles by David Conway, Jeffrey Reiman, and Ernest van den Haag in A.J. Simmons et al.
(eds.), Punishment (1995), pp. 261-73, 274-307, and 324-32. (P)
Dead Man Walking [Movie: showing to be scheduled]

Moral disagreement over the death penalty also runs deep for reasons that are worth taking
seriously, whatever position we ultimately hold on the issue. What are the fundamental values
that stand on the side of the state's taking the life of a person who is convicted of a heinous
crime? What are the fundamental values that stand on the side opposed to capital punishment?
Can these values be reconciled? What, then, are the strongest arguments for and against the death
penalty? To what extent do these arguments draw upon fundamental moral values? Upon
empirical claims about the deterrent effects (or lack thereof) of capital punishment? Who should
ultimately decide whether or not capital punishment is legalized in a constitutional democracy?
How should they decide?

Equal Opportunity: Racial and Sexual Discrimination (April 20)

John Kekes, "The Injustice of Affirmative Action Involving Preferential Treatment," in S. Cahn
(ed.), The Affirmative Action Debate (1995), pp. 193-204. (P)
Ronald Dworkin, two articles on affirmative action, The New York Review of Books. 10/22/98,
pp. 91-102; 11/5/98, pp. 56-60. (P)
Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, "The Ambiguity of Fair Opportunity," in Democracy and
Disagreement (1996), pp. 307-345.
"Affirmative Action at AT&T." (GT)
Affirmative Action in University Admissions (to be distributed.)

How should a society allocate valuable opportunities and social advantages such as higher
education and well-paying jobs? Is "to each according to his or her merit" the most defensible
principle by which to allocate higher education and well-paying jobs? If so, what is individual
merit in each case? If not, what other principle(s) might be relevant? What is the difference, if
any, between affirmative action and preferential treatment? With what principles does a policy of
preferential admissions or hiring come into conflict? Can preferential admissions or hiring
policies respect individual rights? Can they maximize social utility? Does it morally matter who
bears the burden of preferential policies? Is preferential treatment fundamentally unfair because it
disadvantages those who have themselves committed no wrong? Can preferential treatment be
justified for all members of a particular group, or only some, or none? Evaluate what AT&T and
the University of Texas did, and explain what you think they should have done. Are there good
reasons for using significantly different standards to assess admissions practices by public and by
private universities, or for using different standards to assess employment practices in
government and those in private corporations?
Concluding Lecture (April 27)
                                    WWS 301/Politics 308
                                ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY

6-8 pages
Due March 12 by 12 noon

You need not do any additional reading for the paper, but you should do additional thinking
beyond what you have done in any of your earlier writing exercises. Be sure to use your paper as
an opportunity to challenge yourself to think through a moral problem, rather than to summarize
the readings or lectures. The paper is an opportunity for you to try out a new argument or criticize
an old one, or both.

Below are some examples of paper topics. Feel free to choose your own topic in accordance with
the guidelines above.

1. Is a consequentialist calculation a sufficient basis for justifying the use of bad means in
politics? Is it a necessary basis? Discuss with regard to one of the case studies in the first half of
the course.

2. Is violence only wrong if it causes more harm than good? Discuss with reference to the
bombing of Hiroshima.

2a. Writing only a few months before President Truman accepted his advice to use the atomic
bomb against Japan, Secretary of State Stimson said that the "rule of sparing the civilian
population should be applied as far as possible to the use of any new weapon." In defending his
recommendation to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Stimson wrote that: "My chief purpose was
to end the war in victory with the least possible cost in the lives of the men in the armies which I
had helped to raise." Was Stimson right in the first instance or the second? On what terms, if any,
was the dropping of the bomb justified?

3. How sound is the doctrine of double effect, and its distinction between combatants and
noncombatants, in determining justice in war? Discuss with regard to the conduct of World War

4. Pick one of the cases related to secrecy (Thomas/Hill or Clinton/Lewinsky). What criteria
should citizens use when determining when the demands of democratic publicity should override
the demands of privacy? Give reasons why the criteria you defend are better than the alternatives.

4a. "If you think that the Senate was right to hold public hearings on Thomas/Hill, then you
cannot consistently approve the Senate's decision to deliberate behind closed doors about the
Clinton/Lewinsky affair." Give reasons why you agree or disagree with this position. Be sure to
present the best arguments for the other side.

4b. How should the Senate Judiciary Committee have handled Anita Hill's allegations against
Clarence Thomas so as to best reconcile or balance the competing values of publicity in
democratic government and respect for the private lives of public officials? Be sure to explain
why publicity and privacy are valuable in the first place.
5. Discuss what difference, if any, there is between a consequentialist and deontological answer
to the question "Should Jim shoot the Indian?" and what difference, if any, your answer has for
evaluating an actual political decision that we have covered in the course.

6. By what moral principles and under what conditions can deception in politics be justified?
Develop your answer by reference to several examples of deception in "Lying in Office."

7) Evaluate and compare the role that consent plays in deciding whether to justify the deception
by John Lindsay and by Elizabeth Jackson in the two mini-cases on "Lying in Office."

8) Compare the role that several different (and important) moral considerations play in justifying
or criticizing the deceptions in two or more of the mini-cases of "Lying in Office."

9. Present the strongest arguments against a utilitarian approach to choosing among competing
ends in politics and respond to those arguments. Alternatively, present the strongest arguments in
favor of a utilitarian approach and respond to those arguments.

10. To what extent, if any, does Ruckelshaus’s practice in "The Risks of Asarco" offer a
defensible alternative to a utilitarian cost-benefit analysis?

11. Why is it important—or is it important—that citizens and public officials are willing and able
to address the strongest arguments that support positions in a political controversy that they
oppose? Respond with reference to at least one political controversy discussed in the first half of
this course.

12. Are there any morally relevant differences that would justify giving more or less publicity to
the allegations that Clarence Thomas was lying about his behavior toward Anita Hill than the
allegations that Bill Clinton was lying about his behavior toward Monica Lewinsky? Be sure to
say what values can be served by publicity and secrecy in each of these cases.
                        WWS 301/ POL 308: Ethics and Public Policy

Second Short Paper
Due May 7
Sample Paper Topics

(1) What difference, if any, would a utilitarian approach to choosing among competing ends and
an approach based on individual rights make in deciding how to allocate scarce resources? What
are the strongest arguments for and against each approach? Discuss with reference to the
controversy over funding organ transplants in Arizona.

(2) Defend what you consider the strongest method(s) of resolving the controversy in the Asarco
case. In so doing, consider whether Ruckelshaus's way of handling the regulation of Asarco offers
an alternative or supplement to the method of utilitarian (cost-benefit) analysis.

(3) On what basis can the strongest moral case be made for or against a right to health care?
Consider whether and why health care is properly considered a more important good than others.
Which others? Use examples from the reading and case study.

(4) What would acceptance of equal access to health care require of the government? What are
the moral and practical limits, if any, of satisfying the demands of a principle of equal access to
health care? Illustrate your argument with examples from the readings and case study.

(5) Was the Arizona legislature's decision to terminate funding for most transplants morally
justifiable? If so, how can the distribution of a life-saving medical treatment on the basis of
wealth be justified? If not, how can a government avoid the problem of the bottomless pit of
spending social resources to satisfy every need of every member of society?

(6) Must we decide whether the fetus is a person in order to settle the abortion question? If we
assume that the fetus is a person, does it follow that women do not have the right to have an
abortion? Does it make any moral difference whether a woman voluntarily decides to risk having
a child?

(7) Can the situation of abortion providers and of access to abortion that is described in the case
study be evaluated independently of one's belief in the rightness or wrongness of abortion?
Evaluate the situation described in the case study from the most defensible pro-choice perspective
and the most defensible pro-life perspective, and offer reasons for why one perspective is more
defensible than the other.

(8) Evaluate the arguments for and against funding abortion that were invoked in the debate in the
U.S. House of Representatives. Is it justifiable for the government not to fund abortions for poor
women as long as abortion is a legal and constitutional right? In answering this question, be sure
to consider what principle(s) favor funding and what principle(s) oppose it.

(9) Sher suggests that legalizing but not subsidizing abortion is a fair compromise between the
pro-life and pro-choice positions, although it does not completely satisfy the moral claims of
either. Is compromise the best available resolution to the public policy question? If so, are these
the right terms? If not, what is a better resolution?
(10) What are the ethical and empirical considerations that stand on the side that favors and on
the side that opposes capital punishment? Can these considerations be reconciled? If so, how? If
not, how should the controversy over capital punishment be decided?

(11) Under what conditions and for what reasons, if any, is giving preference in university
admissions to disadvantaged minorities justified? In answering this question, be sure to consider
the strongest arguments against the position you defend.

(12) Evaluate the AT&T settlement. If you are critical of any part of it, explain what you think
AT&T should have done, and why. If you support any part of it, explain why it is better than the
alternatives. In either case, be sure to indicate the criteria you are using to evaluate the different
parts of the settlement.

(13) Explain whether and why it is morally consistent either to oppose the death penalty and
support legalized abortion or to support the death penalty and oppose abortion. Be sure to draw
upon arguments from the readings and case studies.

(14) What principles should be used to decide what medical procedures are funded by the
government for indigent patients? Answer with reference to both the controversy over funding
organ transplants in Arizona and the controversy over funding abortion.
                                WWS 301/Politics 308
                            ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY
                   Professor Amy Gutmann,

A brief checklist for writing a good paper:

Remember to do all the reading ahead of time and begin working on your paper far
before the deadline. Before you write a final draft, check that you can honestly say yes to
the following questions.

Before I begin writing, do I have in mind an interesting and intellectually challenging
question or problem raised by the lectures and readings? [If you are having difficulty
choosing a topic, jot down some of your ideas and contact your preceptor.]

At the beginning of the paper, do I succinctly state the question that I propose to answer
or problem that I shall try to resolve? [A good writer typically re-writes the introduction
many times, and does not finalize it until the paper is completed.]

In the body of the paper, do I offer a systematic set of arguments? [It is far better to make
a few strong arguments rather than many weak ones.]

Do I address the strongest challenges to my arguments? [Try out your arguments on your
fellow students who disagree with you and invite them to respond.]

Have I carefully edited and proofread the paper? [Read the paper over once more after
the last time you make any substantive changes in the argument. Ruthlessly delete
repetitions, polemics, cliches, and flowery rhetoric.]

Remember: If, after working long and hard, you are not making progress, contact your
preceptor or me for help.
                                WWS 301/Politics 308
                            ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY

Due Feburary 9 at 11 pm

The Decision to Drop the Bomb on Hiroshima

"No man, in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in his hand a weapon
of such possibilities for … saving those lives, could have failed to use it." (Henry
Stimson, "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb").

"In the summer of 1945, the victorious Americans owed the Japanese people an
experiment in negotiation. To use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without
even attempting such an experiment, was a double crime." (Michael Walzer,

Begin a discussion against either Stimson’s position or Walzer’s position on terms that
are most likely to command your opponent’s attention and respect.

To help you think about what you might do, begin by picking the position as stated
above—either Stimson’s or Walzer’s—with which you disagree more. Then, in
approximately 150 words, state that position succinctly and in a way that shows that you
understand the moral strength of your opponent’s position. Be sure to state a general
moral principle—not one that is apparently self-serving or tailored to defend just this
particular position—that supports your opponent’s argument.

Then, in approximately another 150 words, respond to your opponent’s argument. Do not
try to respond comprehensively (which is impossible in 150 words). Respond by pointing
out the single greatest moral weakness in your opponent’s argument. Try to make your
argument in such a way that your opponent can recognize the strength of your argument,
just as you can recognize the strength in his.
                                 WWS 301/Politics 308
                             ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY

Due February 16 by 11 p.m.

Evaluating the Decision to Drop the Bomb on Hiroshima

Your assignment is to begin evaluating Truman’s decision to drop the bomb on
Hiroshima where you left off last week. Here’s how to proceed.

Imagine a smart and morally serious student who is taking this course and who has read
your first writing exercise. (By all means, talk to some students in the course and
exchange your first writing exercises with them. Try to defend your position against that
of at least one student who disagrees with it.)

Take approximately 150 words to make this other student's argument. Make sure it is
stronger than the one you first offered on your opponent’s behalf. An argument can be
stronger in several senses. (1) It may invoke or rely upon a more important moral
principle or set of facts about the case. (2) It may be stronger by virtue of claiming less. It
may acknowledge some truth in the opposing view (as a result of the first round of
argument) and show that, conceding this truth, there is still a case to be made overall in
its favor. (3) It may more clearly express any or all of the above.

Then take approximately 150 words to respond to the opposing argument of your fellow
student. Defend your own position on Truman’s decision to drop the bomb in a way that
should change your fellow student’s mind or at least lead her to acknowledge some truth
in your perspective. Keep in mind the various ways in which you can strengthen an
argument. Don’t lose sight of the fact that your fellow student is smart and morally
serious. She might change her mind if you could offer a sufficiently strong response to
her moral argument. Even if she does not, she will better understand why someone as
smart as you disagrees with her. Your challenge is formidable because her argument is
stronger than the first one you made (in the first writing exercise) on behalf of your
opponent’s position.
                                 WWS 301/Politics 308
                             ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY

Due February 23 by 11 p.m.
Deception: Lies and Evasions

A morally relevant distinction is one that identifies a characteristic that helps one decide
whether or not an action is justified (or to what extent it is justified). One example of a
morally relevant distinction is whether or not the most important purpose that the
deception serves is publicly defensible, although not all deception that serves a publicly
defensible purpose is justified. (This is one reason why we need to look for more than a
single morally relevant distinction.)

Use this writing exercise to find morally relevant distinctions between uses of deception
in two mini-cases. In mini-case #1, President Kennedy engaged in deception in the course
of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In mini-case #2, Mayor John Lindsay deceived in the course
of an electoral campaign. Without attempting to decide whether these uses of deception
were justified, clearly and succinctly (300 words total) describe the two or three most
morally relevant distinctions between the two cases and provide a reason why each is a
morally significant distinction. We will use these distinctions in class on Tuesday to
evaluate the deception in these and other cases. For now, just focus on the significance of
the distinctions themselves.

300 Words, Due March 2 by 11 p.m.

Democracy depends on publicity. Unless we know what public officials are saying and
doing, we cannot hold them accountable. Protected by secrecy, public officials can use all
sorts of bad means to pursue all sorts of bad ends. Yet democratic citizens also value
secrecy. Secrecy preserves human confidentiality and dignity. We may want to use
secrecy selectively to focus our attention on matters that are more politically relevant
than (for example) the sexual lives of public officials.

During the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, Senators and their staff made
numerous decisions, both large and small, in which they gave priority to considerations
of either secrecy or publicity. For example, Harriet Grant decided not to pressure Anita
Hill to come forward out of a concern for how publicity might damage Hill (E &P, p. 77).
For your writing exercise, select one--and only one--decision (other than the one just
mentioned) from "The Senate Confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas," and state as
precisely as you can the values of privacy and publicity that are at stake in that decision.
Then offer the best brief argument you can-comparing the values of privacy and publicity
that are at stake-either in favor of or against the decision you have selected for discussion.
                                WWS 301/Politics 308
                            ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY
Fifth Writing Exercise
Abortion and the Sacredness of Life
500-600 words (NB: Not the usual word limit.)
Due Tuesday, March 30, at 11 pm

This week's assignment asks you to identify and articulate the central argument in one of
two selections from the reading, and then offer a strong counter-argument, which shows
that you understand the force of the original argument.

The relevant selections are Dworkin, Life's Dominion, pp. 84-94; and Stith, "Death and
Dworkin," pp. 337-347. Each selection discusses several issues, responds to various
objections, and makes more than one argument. But each also has a central argument,
which it is important to understand. In the writing assignment on Anita Hill and Clarence
Thomas, we asked you to identify a single decision moment. Here we ask you to identify
the most important argument.

Here's how to proceed: Choose the selection that defends the position contrary to your
own on abortion. (You may select either if you are undecided.) In 250-300 words,
identify and explain the central argument of the passage, making the argument in your
own words as persuasively as you can given the space constraints. Then, in another 250-
300 words, make the strongest counter-argument or criticism, being sure that you show
that you recognize the force of the original argument.
                                 WWS 301/Politics 308
                             ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY

Writing Exercise for Week Nine
Funding Abortion
300 words

This writing exercise asks you to take a position on whether, in light of the fact that there
is a constitutional right to abortion in the United States, a policy of not subsidizing
abortion for poor women is a morally defensible compromise for pro-choice advocates to
make to pro-life advocates, and to defend your position with one major argument.

Here's how to proceed:

If you think that no subsidization is a morally defensible compromise (in light of the
constitutionality of abortion in this country), explain why in one paragraph (with your
single strongest argument). In another paragraph, explain what you would say to the poor
woman who cannot afford an abortion while her middle-class counterpart can.

If you think it is not a morally defensible compromise, offer your single strongest
argument for why it is not. In another paragraph, explain what you would say to
opponents of legalized abortion who complain that it is bad enough to live in a society
that condones the unjustified killing of unborn children, but subsidizing such killing is
still worse and far more than they should be expected to bear.

Due April 13 by 11 p.m.
300-400 words

If you favor capital punishment, identify and respond to the single strongest argument
that is opposed to capital punishment. If you oppose capital punishment, identify and
respond to the single strongest argument that defends capital punishment.

Helpful hint: If you find it easy to respond to the argument you have chosen, you
probably have not chosen the strongest one.
                                 WWS 301/Politics 308
                             ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY

Final short writing assignment:
Affirmative Action
Due 4/20/99 at 11 pm

"This is not fair," critics of racial preferences in university admissions argue. Racial
preferences undermine fair opportunity of admissions based on merit.

The abolition of racial preferences is unfair, supporters argue. Racial preferences are
necessary for fair opportunity in our social context.

In two paragraphs, briefly describe the single strongest understanding of fair opportunity
that each side of this debate can invoke against the other. Be as careful, fairminded, and
morally convincing in both your descriptions as possible. Your readers should be hard
pressed to tell which side you are on.

Post-Final Writing Exercise
Due Thursday, 4/29, at 11pm.

The purpose of this assignment is for you to evaluate the writing exercises, not for us to
evaluate them (or you).

Many ethical issues in politics inflame and polarize people. In your writing assignments,
you have been asked to take a stand on such issues, and also to justify your views to
others, to understand opposing arguments, and to think carefully and imaginatively about
the competing values that are at stake in search of a resolution that is better than the
available alternatives.

Your preceptors and I have all been very impressed with the quality of your responses to
these assignments. We now want to know what your own assessment of their value has
been. We therefore ask that you reread all of your short assignments in the order that you
wrote them, and then write us an evaluation in a paragraph or two (or however many
words you need to convey your thoughts). In your evaluation, please reflect on whether
the assignments helped you to acquire or improve your deliberative and argumentative
skills and virtues, and whether and why you think these (or other) skills and virtues are
important in a democratic society.

Please feel free to add any additional thoughts about the writing exercises and their
relationship to the course more generally. We would also be interested in knowing what
features of the course you think should stay the same or change for next year.