*51. Does a utilitarian description of the state necessarily compromise the rights of the individual? Mill doesn’t think so. How might rights be used to protect the individual from the “tyranny of the majority”? How could a utilitarian defend a robust conception of individual rights?
*52. Recall John Rawls’ two principles of justice. Give a short argument detailing how those two principles might be derived from his “original position.” Rawls insists that, for the derivation to work, individuals must be self-interested and rational. Explain why this is so.
*53. Hobbes insists that humankind is naturally evil. Rousseau, on the other hand, believes in the natural goodness of humanity. What do you think? If humankind is naturally good, how does evil ever enter the picture?
*54. Write your own “state of nature” story. When and why does justice emerge? Does your society look like our own? If so, why? If not, what improvements have you made?
*55. Explain the “free rider” problem. Then, make a defense of being a free rider. In a corrupt society, should people be allowed or even encouraged to exploit the system? Is there any system in which being a free rider makes sense? Or is it always ultimately irrational? What would Hobbes say?
56. Discuss the “paradoxes of democracy.” It seems right that everyone should vote, for instance, but that’s only if everyone did his or her research and came to informed opinions. A well-researched passionate voter may have her vote nullified by an uncaring voter who never bothered to learn the politicians’ platforms voting the other way. The clever and well-informed have as much say in how the country is run as the dull and uninformed. That doesn’t seem fair to those who care about the outcome of the election. It also doesn’t seem fair to not let everyone have a vote. Is there a way to resolve the paradox?
57. Should the products of the labor of the community be shared equally? Or, should those who have worked harder and longer get more? Or, should those whose needs and wants are greater get a larger proportion? Or, should those who are more valuable to the community get more? A sense of natural justice has been appealed to on behalf of every one of these options. There are good arguments pro and con for all of them. Try to list as many as you can.
58. John Stuart Mill argues that no one should be deprived of his or her property that belongs to him or her by law. Consider the ways property comes into someone’s possession: purchase, inheritance, or theft. Assuming someone procured property legally, trace it back to the first owner. Did that owner have the right to sell it? How did the first person ever come to own anything? Some would argue that everything began by theft. If so, how does anyone have a legitimate claim to anything today? Imagine, for example, you buy a house on an acre of land. At one time that land was occupied by the Native Americans. Did they own it first? Did anyone? Did anyone have the right to sell it away from them? After many sales do you “own” it? The study of property rights starts with very difficult philosophical questions of “ownership.” Discuss.
59. Using the Declaration of Independence as a prime example of social contract theory at work, show how a citizen has not only a right but also a duty to overthrow his or her government should it become destructive to the ends described within the declaration. Discuss the tensions between the citizen’s duty to uphold the law and the citizen’s duty to abolish the law. How do unalienable rights support both duties?
60. One might be surprised to hear philosophers speak of ethics, justice, and care as different issues, in particular that theorists in the justice tradition have had little to say about care issues at all. Feminists point out that it is hard to shift orientations from justice ethics to care ethics and vice versa. An action that is just, fair, and right may be the opposite of an action that is compassionate, sympathetic, and merciful. Think of real-life examples where it would be better to be merciful and other examples where it would be better to be just. To use an example from Christian literature, if the wages of sin is death, and everyone sins, then justice is served by having everyone die. However, the sending of a savior supplants justice in favor of mercy. On the other hand, an example of when justice trumps mercy might be, in particular, child-rearing situations, where, if the child does not learn the natural negative consequences of his or her actions, he or she might repeat behavior that would be detrimental to his or her development.