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Department of Politics

Department of Politics

225. Ethics & Public Policy

October 2013

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 9-9:30am..

MEETING TIMES AND TEXTS: We meet in College Hall Room 15 daily at 9:30, 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.


  • EXAMS & PAPERS: Three Exams (I-20%, II-20%, & III-20%) One Essay = 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 Gerin Eaton, a Politics Department work study student who knows this course and the ideas important to it better than almost any one else. The hours that Ms. Eaton 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.

  • EDUCATIONAL PRIORITIES: This course supports the Educational Priorities and Outcomes of Cornell College with emphasis on knowledge, communication, and citizenship.
  • 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."
  • ACCOMODATING RELIGIOUS PRACTICES: Every effort will be made to avoid conflicts between the demands of this class and the religious practices of students within it. The key to success in doing so requires alerting the instructor in the first three days of class, if a student has even the slightest reason to believe that such a conflict may arise. Students who wait until after the first week of the term to express their concerns will find the instructor less receptive to student concerns about potential conflicts.
  • 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 . Public Integrity & the Moral Sense: Power Corrupts?
    • Power Reviewed and related to Risk
    • Legitimacy and the Moral Sense
    • Politics and the Moral Sense
  • II. The Constitutional Provision for Public Integrity
    • The Supreme Court and Public Service Ethics
    • Recent Court Cases and doubts about Honest Services Fraud
  • III. Declining Public Trust
    • Loss of Confidence in Government
    • Corruption Control and its effects
    • Investigative Journalism and its effects
    IV. Decentralization, holistic approaches, community governance, and gaming designs

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


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? To what extent is the thesis counterintuitive and how later do the authors attempt to reconcile their thesis with the more intuitive one? 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: Monroe et. al.: What was meant by an "innate moral sense" among those who first used it and who are they? Who are the "intuitionists" and why are they important to the argument made here-? What question remains open even today about the "innateness' of a moral sense? What contributions were made by Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and Hume to extend discussion of a moral sense? Where does James Q. Wilson stand on the question? What is the relevance of Jerome Kagan's reseach for a human moral sense?What are the limitations of his research? How does a concern for justice and fairness arise out of the work of evolutionary biologists and behavioral economics and what is the basic premise for which they claim to have inferential evidence? How is it related to "psychological egoism?" What traits does DeWaal claim are shared among social mammals? Which trait is emphasized by behavioral economists? How does Marc Hauser conribute by his discussion of a "universal moral grammar?"What emphasis is lent to the role of emotions in moral behavior by the research in moral psychology and neuroscience? What are the background assumptions and basic tenets of moral sense theory? What questions remain for further resarch? Why is loyalty so complicated? What distinguishes concrete from abstract loyalty and what ties the former to politics understood as "civil housekeeping." What does Elshtain mean by saying, "Even if you claim you are nobody's servant, you serve somebody." Why is it important?

Day 4 : 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 6: 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? Sabri v. U. S.; Skilling v. U.S.: How are the following two doctrines related: "intangible rights" and "honest services fraud"? What was the impact of the McNally Case on the Intangible-rights doctrine? What statute did Congress pass in response? What does Skilling allege about paragraph 1346 and how does Justice Ginsburg, writing for the Court, respond? What are the "core crimes" in "honest services" doctrine? What does the Government seek? Does the Court grant it? What conclusion does the Court come to about whether Skilling's conduct violated 1346 and why?

Day 7: Eliason: What distinguishes honest services fraud (HSF) from bribery, as described by Eliason? Why has HSF been seldom tested & little scrutnized? What are the consequences? Details? What is the main purpose of Eliason's article? Distinguish between the crimes of bribery and gratuities, with careful attention to their common elements and differences. What distinction remains between bribes and gratuities after the Sun Diamond case? What dilemma has led to considering alternative approaches? Why is the Valdez case significant? What is unique about the McNally case? What standards for HSF have emerged as circuit courts have responded to appeals after Congress addressed the concerns of the Supreme Court in McNally? What concerns does Eliason express about the growing use of HSF? How does Eliason propose to address these concerns? How does Eliason proposed to modify the gratuities statute? What impact does the change have on the "moonlighting" defense?

Day 8 : Pursuit of Absolute Integrity: 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.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?"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?Muffingate: What is "gotcha idiocy" and how is it related to "gotcha news?" How culpable are investigative, legislative, and administrative figures intangled in this farce?

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 growing mistrust are proposed by the authors? Explain each in some detail.Complexity Thinking in the Fight Against Corruption: Explain the various approaches to corruption and the effort of Transparency International to develop a "more general definition." What are the main features of the "complexity thinking paradigm" as it emerges from the study of complex adaptive systems? When corruption is considered by means of such thinking, what features are highlighted? When anti-corruption is considered by means of such thinking, what features are highlighted? What are the key findings and recommendations for South Africa?

Day 11 : Viewing Impulse

Day 12 : Group Readings and Questions on ObamaCare: Should we pay the premium or pay the penalty?

Day 13: Group Readings and Questions on Reality is Broken

Day 14: Group Readings and Questions on Immigration

Day 15: Discussion of Impulse

Day 16: Group Readings and Questions on Campaign Finance Cases.

Essay Topic: View Impulse and then use the following quotation and questions as the basis for an essay (1000 words approx.) about how the moral sense wanes and waxes 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 darkness and warms the soul. James Q. Wilson, 1993. The Moral Sense. Free Press. p. 251.

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. What "winds" push Lt. Joe Morgan and how is he related to Tony Perone on a scale of diminished to eclipsed "moral sense? "
  3. 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?
  4. What is at issue in the exchange between Harris and Mason on the subject of "habits" and "predictability?" To what extent does the difference between them these two characters reflect the difference between a linear and non-linear way of thinking about corruption?
  5. Does the closing 20-30 minutes of Impulse draw together or separate the characters and approaches to understanding corruption? Does it try to do both? How?
  6. The closing moments of the film are discounted by some and applauded by others. The key to a well thought out assessment lies in understanding what Mason has on her mind immediately before the closing scene as well as the choice she finally makes.
  7. How does Lottie's choice confirm the truth of the quotation and suggest the potential for a combination of the two ways of thinking about evil & corruption?

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.


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