Outline and Readings
Lecture Outline Instructions
You will be asked to answer two questions from each part. Please answer these questions as fully as possible. I expect you to express your own views on these issues and defend them with reasoned argument. You will be not be graded on particular opinions you express but on the detail and cogency with which you express your views.
- How elitist is democracy in the United States and how elitist should it be? Define the political elite and discuss the manner in which it exercises influence in our country. To what extent is elite rule a good thing? To what extent is it a problem? How can the dangers of elitism be minimized?
- How egalitarian is democracy in the United States and how egalitarian should it be? What features of our political system make it more or less egalitarian? To what extent is egalitarianism a good thing? To what extent is it a problem? How, if we wanted to, could we make our political system more egalitarian? How could we make it less egalitarian?
- What are the structural limits on democracy in the United States? What are their effect on efforts to reduce unemployment and increase social welfare spending, with the hopes of creating fair equality of opportunity? Discuss and evaluate the proposals of either (please pick one) contemporary rightists (conservatives) or leftists (liberals) for dealing with or minimizing these limits? Are these proposals plausible? Do they meet the moral requirement for fair equality of opportunity, as far you think it should be met?
- From time to time, substantial political reform is on the American political agenda. Suppose that this is such a time. There is a debate about whether we can blame public problems such as the budget deficit, the fractured health care system, inadequacies in our elementary and secondary education system, or discrimination against blacks or gays on the nature of our political system. Some reformers think that in order to solve this problem our political system should become more majoritarian. Others say it should be more pluralist. Some say it should be more elitist, others that it should be more populist. Some say it should be more egalitarian, others say it should be more inegalitarian. Pick one of these policy areas and explain how public policy might change if our political system were shifted in these six different directions. Then tell me how, if at all, you think our political system should be changed, keeping in mind that this one policy area is not the only one our political system deals with. The best strategy for answering this question, I think, is to discuss, one at a time, the possible effects of a change in each of the 6 directions. Then you might want to consider some of the interaction effects of moving in two directions at once, for example, changing our political system in both an elitist and majoritarian way. Given the large number of permutations, you will not be able to consider all of these permutations but you might want to consider a few of them that strike you as particularly plausible paths to political reform.
- Present and evaluate the Solidarity (Rousseauian) argument for participatory democracy. Is there any way in which a Rousseauian kind of participatory democracy could be instituted in a society somewhat like our own?
- Present and evaluate the Self-development (Marxist-Millian) argument for participatory democracy. Is there any way in which a Rousseauian kind of participatory democracy could be instituted in a society somewhat like our own?
- Discuss the conflict between the application of the right to democracy to corporate government on the one hand, and the right to private property in the means of production on the other. Under what circumstances, if any, does the former right take priority over the latter? Be sure to present arguments on both sides of the issue as well as your own conclusions.
- Discuss the dangers of participatory democracy, particularly in light of the conflict between the Marxist-Millian and Rousseauian perspectives on participatory democracy? Given these dangers, would the introduction of some elements of participatory democracy a good idea? Can we enjoy some of the benefits of participatory democracy while controlling the dangers of it?