Question 2

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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.

  1. 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:


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