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.
- 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:
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: