Spring 2003



Ben S

"A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Minister Walk into an Essay: A Defense of >Offensive Humor"



There has been a recent upturn in the amount of scholarly attention fixed on the ethics of humor. This renewed interest is a mere resumption of the debate over humor that has raged throughout history. This paper is intended to fulfill a useful role in that discussion, and to turn the dialogue to a greater appreciation of humor. The insight that drives this paper is that we must give offensive, politically-incorrect humor a far greater latitude than we would give offensive, politically-incorrect "serious" statements. Humor is more cognitively complex than serious speech, and is thus an effective educational tool. It can help advance dialogue between two or more parties who might otherwise be unable to engage in dialogue, as well as influence the opinions of any passive third party observers of a humorous exchange. It has the potential to be an extremely effective dialogic tool in a pluralistic, multicultural deliberative democracy.



Ben K


You Can't Handle the Truth: dishonesty and democratic dirty hands



Is dishonesty used by democratically elected leaders as a tactic for political, social or economic purposes is defensible?  Recognizing that the democratic politician is held to a higher ethical standard because of a) the nature of politics and b) the ethical relationship forged in trust between leader and people, it seems obvious that the answer is no.  Some political theorists, most notably Niccolo Machiavelli and Michael Walzer, argue the contrary, however and maintain that certain immoral acts by a politician are justified.  Defenders of this ‘dirty hands’ principle generally use a consequentialist calculus, weighing the benefits of an action versus its costs.  Unfortunately for the aforementioned theorists, when dealing with ethics in a democracy, consequentialism is unfit for judging the actions of democratically elected leaders.  A deontological judgment, derived from the nature of democratic association is far superior to the weighing of unforeseen consequences.  Accordingly, lying by democratically elected leaders is never justified or excusable because deceit contradicts the principles of established democratic governance, violates the trust necessary to sustain democracy, and marginalizes the moral worth of each individual citizen.



Matt O


Taking the Initiative in California:

Direct Legislation & The Threat of Majority Tyranny”



This paper provides an examination of California’s initiatives and popular referenda since 1970 that have explicitly targeted minority rights, asking the question whether these instances are evidence of the occurrence of majority tyranny through the institutional devices of direct democracy.  A theoretical discussion of majority tyranny and the factors that may contribute to its occurrence is offered.  The future viability of direct democracy is evaluated via reforms that could be made to secure and safeguard the rights of political minorities.



Nic F


“The LDS Church: American or Not Are the political, social, and internal policies of the LDS  Church

consistent with liberal democracy?”



This paper focuses on the political and social policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), as well as the internal oppression that exists with its membership. John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty is used as a lens to help analyze whether or not these policies a consistent with a liberal democracy. Numerous case studies current and past are used to help understand these issues. The final section of the paper compares the LDS interpretation of their own history to a more liberal interpretation.



Locke L


“Beefing up the Pork: A Study of Congress' Pursuit of Distributive Benefits”



This paper describes distributive politics as a phenomenon in Congress that works against the general good of the nation. With re-election being primary in the minds of congress-people, they sacrifice the common good in exchange for distributive benefits and packages in their districts. The paper specifically looks at military spending after September 11, 2001, a time when Congress would assumedly be most interested in looking out for the common good of the nation, with defense of the nation at the top of its agenda.  Looks at how even at this time, pork barrel politics remained high on Congress' agenda and examines the way that the defense budget was cut to further distributive spending. This paper uses the case study of the Defense Appropriations Bill FY02 to prove the theory of distributive politics, which suggests that congress will abandon the good of the nation in order to pursue personal goals of re-election.



Golsima S


The League of Extraordinary Men: Is the Wolfowitz-Bush Preemption Doctrine Ethically Justifiable?”



This paper provides an examination of the Wolfowitz-Bush doctrine of

preemption. The paper specially looks at the application of the doctrine

to nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq to determine if the doctrine of

preemption is ethically justifiable. In order to determine the

justification the Wolfowitz-Bush doctrine, the doctrine is tested against

just war theory, international law, and consequential moral theory.



Rowena Z


“The Post Genome Condition: Challenging Performative Genomics