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SOC 331 SOCIAL JUSTICE &

ETHICS
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SOC 331 Social Justice & Ethics

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 aldermans 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 courts sentence for Mr. Allen just? Why or why not?
Was the courts 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 TSUs 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 samesex 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 samesex 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 samesex 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 oversimplified 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
Franks 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 Murrays description of the white working class and the white
upper class. Also, analyze the basis for his pessimistic outlook about
governments ability to solve this problem and re-invigorate Americas 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 governments 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 states 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 nations
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 patients 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

termadoption 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 societys 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)

Burkes 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 todays
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
Amendments 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, lifewithout-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 Tuckers 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 Karlas case or do they
have value more generally to merit consideration as a more just approach
than retributive justice?
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