Cornell College Department
About Cornell Academics Admissions Alumni Athletics Offices Library

Department of Politics

Department of Politics

225. Ethics & Public Policy

January 2012

Dr. Robert W. Sutherland, Instructor

Reading assignments are subject to change, so the online syllabus is the only definitive version. Check this site regularly, at least once every other day. Changes in reading assignments will not be made within 24 hours immediately preceding class meetings.

HOW TO REACH THE INSTRUCTOR: My office is in South 15; my extension is 4226. The best time to see me for a brief conversation is immediately before or after class. Other times are available by appointment arranged before and after class or by e-mail. Office hours are daily from 3-3:30.

MEETING TIMES AND TEXTS: We meet daily at 1:15-3pm, except for the 1st and last class. The time that a particular class ends may vary. The total of 50 hours of class time includes group meetings and exam reviews set outside of the times posted above. See the schedule below for more details. There is no textbook for this course. There is no textbook for this course


  • EXAMS & PAPERS: Three Exams (I-20%, II-20%, & III-20%) One Paper = 20% See below
  • QUIZZES and GROUP/SUBGROUP PERFORMANCE--20% The number of unannounced quizzes and the value of each quiz will vary.
  • Groups will be responsible for reading assignments, instructions or questions for what to look for in the reading, and discussion of the reading in class. The following roles should be determined early and assigned by consensus.
    • The coordinator of the group will organize the collaborative efforts of the group, including methods of contact, a time-line that meets the schedule below for questions and class discussion, and updates the instructor about questions or concerns of the group.
    • A group member will be assigned the task of keeping a journal of activity for the group and its members, including when and how long groups meet, who attended and for how long, what was decided, and which individual was assigned what task. The journal is due to the Instructor at the beginning of the class for which the group is responsible.
    • See schedule below
  • Outside of class and office hours, especially during the evening when I am less available, help in planning the readings, questions, and discussion is best gained from Neil McCray, a Politics Department work study student who knows this course and the ideas important to it better than almost any one else. He also has a wealth of experience in making effective arguments based on the ideas of the course. The hours that Mr. McCray spends with members of the class are part of his work study assignment. Contact:

CLASS POLICY: The most serious penalty for missing class is a missed quiz, individual or group class performance, or exam, which usually has significant impact on the final grade. Students who notify me by email BEFORE the class that they will be forced to miss will be allowed ONCE to use the average of scores on their other quizzes or exams in place of the missed quiz or exam. No make-up quizzes, exams, etc. will be given. Documented health absences will be considered on a case by case basis.

  • ACADEMIC HONESTY: Cornell College expects all members of the Cornell community to act with academic integrity. An important aspect of academic integrity is respecting the work of others. A student is expected to explicitly acknowledge ideas, claims, observations, or data of others, unless generally known. When a piece of work is submitted for credit, a student is asserting that the submission is her or his work unless there is a citation of a specific source. If there is no appropriate acknowledgement of sources, whether intended or not, this may constitute a violation of the College's requirement for honesty in academic work and may be treated as a case of academic dishonesty. The procedures regarding how the College deals with cases of academic dishonesty appear in The Compass, our student handbook, under the heading "Academic Policies--Honesty in Academic Work."
  • DISABILITIES POLICY: Students who need accommodations for learning disabilities must provide documentation from a professional qualified to diagnose learning disabilities. For more information, see: Students requesting services may schedule a meeting with the disabilities services coordinator as early as possible to discuss the needs and develop an individualized accommodation plan. Ideally, this meeting would take place well before the start of classes. At the beginning of each course, the student must notify the instructor within the first three days of the term of any accommodations needed for the duration of the course.
  • Portions of the Catalog on adding and dropping courses are incorporated here by reference.
  • GRADING SCALE for the course is A = 1750-2000, A- = 1650-1749, B+ = 1550-1649, B = 1450-1549, B- = 1350-1449, C+ = 1250-1349, C = 1150-1249, C- = 1050-1149, D+ = 950-1049, D = 850-949, D- = 750-849, F = 000-749. The number of points possible on any given exam or paper can be calculated by multiplying 20 points (A++) by the value (a percentage) of the exam or paper in determining the final grade. For letter grade equivalents, multiply the percentage times: 18 = A, 17 = A-, 16 = B+, 15 = B, 14 = B-, 13 = C+, 12 = C, 11 = C-, 10 = D+, 9 = D, 8 = D-.


  • I Empirical Foundations of Public Integrity: Power Corrupts?
    • Power Reviewed and related to Risk
    • Legitimacy and the Moral Sense
    • Social Networking in Ethics and Public Policy
  • II. The Constitutional Provision for Public Integrity
    • The Supreme Court and Public Service Ethics
    • Recent Court Cases & RICO Prosecutions
  • III. Declining Public Trust
    • Loss of Confidence in Government
    • Corruption Control and its effects
    • Investigative Journalism and its effects, esp. on the Clinton Presidency
    IV. Decentralization, community governance, and gaming designs

ASSIGNMENTS: (to be done before class on the day indicated below)

  • Day 1: Keltner, et. al. Power, Approach, & Inhibiition; Anderson & Galinsky, Power, Optimism, and Risk-taking
  • Day 2: Lammers, et. al. Power, Optimism, and Risk-taking; Wilson, Moral Sense
  • Day 3: Group Reading (80-100 pp) & Discussion on Social Network as it relates to Ethics and Public Policy
  • Day 4: Viewing Impulse, an adult, action film-noir directed by Sondra Locke;
  • Day 5: First Exam
  • Day 6: Roberts, The Supreme Court and the Law of Public Service Ethics
  • Day 7: U. S. v. Sun-Diamond Growers; Sabri v. U. S.; Skilling v. U. S.
  • Day 8: Group Reading & Discussion on Corruption Prosecutions under RICO & Honest Services Fraud: IL Gov. Blagojevich (40-60pp)
  • Day 9: Why People Don't Trust Government (1997)
  • Day 10: Second Exam; Assessment
  • Day 11: Group Reading & Discussion on investigative journalism, including various centers that promote them (60-80pp)
  • Day 12: The Pursuit of Absolute Integrity I; Cleared but still not Clean
  • Day 13: The Pursuit of Absolute Integrity II
  • Day 14: Group Reading & Discussion of disputed journalism: how scandal differs from corruption, esp. with reference to Pres. Clinton (60-80pp)
  • Day 15: Review & Discuss Impulse
  • Day 16: Group Reading & Discussion of Reality is Broken: why games make us better and how they can change the world (100pp)
  • Day 17: Third Exam
  • Day 18: Paper Due, Noon, South 15, HARDCOPY ONLY


Day 1: Keltner et. al.: How is power defined and distinguished from related concepts? What questions have guided past empirical studies of power and how does the current study extend previous approaches? Contrast behavioral approach and inhibition as related to social power and its determinants. Explain how power is related to each of the following: affect, social attention, social cognition, social behavior. What constraints moderate the effects of power. Anderson & Galinsky: How is this study related to Keltner et. al.? What new direction does it seek to explore and what thesis does it propose? What link between power and risk is shown in the five studies? What underlying or mediating mechanisms do the authors consider? What moderating factors are discussed? How does the study provide insight on "power corrupts?"

Day 2:Lammers et. al.: What question does this study pose at the outset and how is it related to the discussion in the readings of Day 1? What thesis is proposed here and how is it tested? What conclusion does it draw and what contribution does it make? Wilson: What question does the author pose and how does he propose to answer it? What is the "moral sense" and what evidence from child care does he offer to support the importance he attaches to it? What is the "paradox of attachment" and how is it related to sociability? What is "sympathy?" Distinguish it from altruism. Explain the connection between fairness and equity? How has the importance of equity been established experimentally? What does evolutionary biology/psychology offer to explain the moral sense and sympathy? What additional work does Wilson propose? What fault does Wilson find with modern moral and political philosophy and what rememdy does he propose? What deficiencies does he note?

Day 3: Readings and Questions to be determined.

Day 6: Roberts: What are three summary reasons supporting the argument that the Supreme Court has adopted an "individual responsibility model of official conduct?" What concerns have critics of the model expressed? How does such a model differ from the alternative model based on an "absolute immunity doctrine?"Why is the Bivens case important? What did the Court hold in Smith v. Wade (1983) and what burden of proof did it impose in later cases on plantiffs in constitutional tort cases? What rule is proposed by the Circuit Court in the Crawford case to reduce the burden of litigation on public servants and how did the Supreme Court respond? What are "regulatory ethics" and what price is required for their adoption and expansion? What are "anticipatory public integrity restraints" and what important support did the Court provide for them in the case involving Adolphe Wenzel? How is such support continued in Buckley v. Valeo and Crandon v. U.S. but limited somewhat in U.S. v. Nat. Treasury Union Employees? What impact has the "personal responsibility model" had on expanding the authority for administrative investigations? Illustrate with reference to LaChance v. Erickson?" How has the Court expanded the application of the Hobbes Act, except for a requirement stipulated in McCormick v. U.S. as modified by the Evans Case? What is the "intangible rights doctrine" and how is it advanced by Salinas v U.S.? What are the "hard lessons" that Roberts offers?

Day 7: U. S. v. Sun-Diamond: What is the "nexus" and need it be shown in order for there to be a violation of the "illegal gratuity statute?" What are Sun-Diamond's goals and interests? How does Secretary Espy figure in them, as shown by Independent Counsel Smaltz? Is there a nexus shown in the facts of the case? Does the District Court consider it necessary to show a "nexus?" What is the Supreme Court's reading of statute? How is bribery distinguished from and illegal gratuity? Why is an "official act" important, especially for the Independent Counsel and the Solicitor General. Why does the Court construe the statute more narrowly than the Government?

Day 8 : Readings and Questions to be determined.

Day 9 : Declining Public Trust: What is the magnitude of the declining trust in government across the last three decades or more and what are a few of the other public institutions that have suffered a decline in confidence as well? Why are the metrics of such decline suspect? Does such mistrust of government matter? What considerations would lead one to think not? What considerations lead to the conviction that mistrust of government does matter? What hypotheses about the causes of grown mistrust are proposed by the authors? Explain each in some detail.

Day 11 : Readings and Questions to be determined.

Day 12 : Pursuit of Absolute Integrity I: Why do the authors propose that we understand less about "public corruption" than is often assumed by those who who so sweepingly and loudly condemn it? Be specific about reasons to doubt such an assumption. How old is the project to control corruption and how is it related to U.S. political history? What changes in the scale of the project are asserted by the authors? What three visions of corruption control have shaped the project during the twentieth century? Be able to explain specific features of each, especially the most recent one. Cleared but still not Clean: Who is Lee Martin, where did he work, what did he do, what was he accused of and why, how did State Attorney Rundle echo one of the serious problems associated with panoptic corruption control, and how was she later forced to acknowledge the State Attorney's Office mistake. Who is Merrett Stierheim and why is he important?

Day 13: Pursuit of Absolute Integrity II: What impact does the panoptic vision of corruption control have on the pathologies of public bureaucracies? Be able to explain specific features about each of the seven pathologies discussed. What concerns do the authors express about the two strategies discussed by Osborne and Gaebler for adapting to bureaucratic pathologies? What trends do the authors predict will shape the corruption control project in the future and what is likely to be the impact on public administration? What "new discourse" is needed, according to the authors and how would it apply to police corruption? What "fine-tuning" of the project do they propose? What paths do they suggest for reaching beyond the "panoptic vision?"

Day 14 & 16 : Readings and Questions to be determined.

Day 15: Paper Topic: Use the following quotations and questions as the basis for an essay (1000 words approx.) about the dynamics of a "moral sense" in the relationship between Lottie and Stan?

Mankind's moral sense is not a strong beacon light, radiating outward to illuminate in sharp outline all that it touches. It is, rather, a small candle flame, casting vague and multiple shadows, flickering and sputtering in the strong winds of power and passion, greed and ideology. But brought close to the heart and cupped in one's hands, it dispels the darness and warms the soul. James Q. Wilson, 1993. The Moral Sense. Free Press. p. 251.

The dismal situation waste and wild:/ A dugeon horrible on all sides round/ As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames/ No light, but rather darkness visible/ Served only to discover sights of woe,/ Regions of sorrow, doleful shades where peace/ And rest can never dwell, hope never comes/ John Milton, Paradise Lost. I.60-66

Questions on Impulse

  1. After carefully reading the last paragraph of The Moral Sense, what evidence in the film highlights the role of power and money as "strong winds" that threaten to extinguish light?
  2. After carefully reading Milton's Paradise Lost I.63, where Satan's "dismal situation" is described, explain how Impulse makes "darkness visible"?
  3. What "winds" push Lt. Joe Morgan and how is he related to Tony Peron on the scale of "dismal" figures?
  4. How would you describe the moral sense of ADA Stan Harris? Is his self-control and good judgment in question? Why or why not? What evidence supports your explanation? What is at issue in the exchange between Harris and Mason on the subject of "predictability?"
  5. How does Impulse confirm Wilson's discussion of character and its significance in public life, especially in the evolution of Mason's character?
  6. The closing moments of the film are discounted by some and applauded by others. How do you rate them? What, if any, reversal does the film suggest in Wilson's discussion of the moral sense and gender?

GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR WRITING PAPERS: An "A" paper includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Good, clear, complete discussion of major parts of the topic,
  • a penetrating thesis statement connecting the parts to each other,
  • accurate, skillful use of argument and evidence supporting the thesis
  • a strong conclusion anchored in an extension of thesis, argument, and evidence,
  • no more than one error per page of the sort outlined in English Simplified.

Lesser papers may be adequate on the parts but often rely on familiar phrases from class discussion and readings. Such papers may have a clear thesis but it is more weakly stated. Argument and evidence may be systematically offered but not finely gauged to the difficulty or complexity of the issue. Obvious objections to an argument go unaddressed. Transitions become increasingly tentative in papers of lesser quality. Conclusions are marked by broad, sweeping, implausible generalizations or simple restatements of major points made. Finally, proofreading is hastily done in lesser papers and stylistic errors are thus more numerous.


Maintained by:
600 First Street West, Mt. Vernon, Iowa, 52314 ©2003 Cornell College; All Rights Reserved