Spring 2005 Course Description

Seminar on Topics in Public Policy

Section Title: Political Values and Ethics
Instructor(s): Max Sherman
Course: P A 388K - Seminar on Topics in Public Policy
Unique Number: 62770
Day & Time: Tuesdays, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Room: SRH 3.101
Waitlist Information:Martha Harrison, 512-475-8621
Notes: same as LAW 397S

Description: This course examines what many people would consider to be a contradiction in terms -- political ethics. Yet the proper role of ethics in the art of governing has been a fundamental question in Western Civilization since Plato. This seminar will consider to what extent ethical questions and issues arise in politics today. We will review how this subject has been treated in philosophy, literature, journalism and history. While we will be dealing with contemporary issues, we will try to place these in the larger context of the eternal issues of politics: i.e., the conflict between ends and means, the tension between liberty and equality, the use of power, the universal or relative nature of ethical standards, among others. We will explore whether there is any difference between personal and political ethics. The objective of the class is not to arrive at the "right" answer to any of these questions, but to reinforce in both student and teacher the awareness that ethical considerations underlie virtually all political issues and choices.

Because this is a seminar that is dependent upon an informed discussion, members of the class are expected to attend all weekly sessions, to read all assignments, to think about the issues raised by the readings, to display familiarity with the readings in class discussions, and to participate actively and knowledgeably in the conversation. Class participation will count 20 percent of the final grade. The remaining 80 percent will be calculated as follows: two short papers (1,000 word maximum) 15 percent each; one long research paper (2,000 - 2,500 word maximum) 25 percent, an oral presentation of the long paper 20 percent, and questions asked during other oral presentations 5 percent. Please note the emphasis placed on the oral presentation. The expectation is that class members will treat this as a presentation to a legislative committee.

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