In your opinion, how does the principle of separation between church and state compare in theory and in practice in the United States? Provide specific examples.
The Establishment Clause was aimed at prohibiting state sponsored religion leading to the doctrine of separation of church and state. Thomas Jefferson referred for the first time this separation as “wall of separation between Church and State.” This principle is a unique American vision. As far as the interpretation and meaning of Establishment clause is concerned, there are three major theories.
According to the strict separation theory, the religion and state should be separated to the greatest extent possible. While the government remains completely secular, the religion is left to the society. However, an absolute separation of government and religion or an absolute prohibition of government assistance to religion may threaten the free exercise of religion. The neutrality theory expects the government to remain neutral to religion. The government does not favor one religion over the other. The Supreme Court recommended a symbolic endorsement test to be used in the evaluation of neutrality. The accommodation theory supports an interpretation of Establishment Clause to mean that the court should affirm the importance of religion in American society and it should accommodate its presence in the government.
However, Government connection to religion is pretty much common. Some of the examples include religious colleges, religious social service agencies, aid to religious hospitals, government sponsored chaplains in military, the Pledge of Allegiance, government officials invoking god’s name during public speeches and holidays. Although American public is supportive of the idea of separation, but fall of markedly when religious practices like school prayer are mentioned. In other words, the public attitude and practice appears ambivalent as they support religious practices supporting state.
In your opinion, what is the difference between censorship and prior restraint? Be as specific as possible, and support your arguments.
The term censorship as I understand means the power with government or any agency to prohibit or restrict all or part of an expression. In modern times, films, television, news reports, news papers, books and periodicals can be subjected to censorship because of the objectionable nature of the content. Censorship may be imposed officially by the government or the religious body, if they feel that the information threatens political, social or moral order. In other words, with censorship in place, the publication of objectionable material is prevented.
Censorship usually refers to official or government mandated act designed to suppress information in interest of social and political order and morality. Therefore, when an individual or an institution decides to restrain their expression, it would not be called censorship.
There can be two different forms of censorship such as preventive and punitive. Prior restraint is a form of preventive censorship. For example, if the government requires that a news reporter subject his story to the government scrutiny before getting it published, it would be an example of prior restraint.
In addition, under special political circumstances the government may impose prior restraint with the implication that the violation of the prior restraint could be a punishable offense. Under the First Amendment, the government can initiate measures to curb expression or publication of content under prior restraint. The speaker or writer will need to get a license or permission before speaking. In addition, under judicial injunction, certain forms of speeches are brought under blanket ban.
Based on what you know, how would you reform the Social Security program in order to ensure that it does not go bankrupt? Who would be most affected by your reforms? And how confident are you that your reforms would be accepted by politicians and the general public?
Given the current state of social security, there is an urgent need to reform social security because social security is currently in trouble financially. In addition, high taxes do not let many families save enough.
When we compare social security and retirement plans, it is found that the retirement plans offer more benefits and more flexibility. This is because, unlike social security program that uses payroll taxes in designing benefits, the retirement plans are able to generate more benefits from the contributions made by the workers. In addition, while social security program is like one size fits all, the retirement plans are designed to meet the specific needs of the workers. For instance, the retirement plans for the police and fire fighters have greater disability benefits and greater flexibility including benefit payment options.
A better reform approach would be to create personal retirement accounts. This would possibly give more benefits than social security. The current system does not guarantee benefits and in coming decades the Trust Fund is going to run dry. The social security reform should be realistic enough to offer only as much benefits as the system can afford. Personal retirement accounts will be more beneficial to younger workers in comparison to the social security. It will also help low and middle income workers to gradually build a large corpus of funds to benefit their children.
In proposing reform, it is important that the benefits of social security should not be touched for those who are near retirement or those who depend on social security. Social security reform is not an issue that will attract unanimous approval from politicians and people. However, the approach should be to build a consensus and undertake the reform in several phases overtime so that the harms are minimized.
Affirmative action, in my opinion violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. However, there is a reason for allowing race in Affirmative Action programs. Preferential treatment to the disadvantaged creates a level playing field. Nonetheless, the big issue around affirmative action programs currently being debated is why race, not economic conditions should be a criterion for affirmative action programs. It is argued that race allows for diversity, so some universities use this program in to favor disadvantaged race.
I would favor economic condition as a factor more relevant to affirmative action than the factor of race. This is not to deny that diversity is not important or that those who are racially disadvantaged should be denied preferential treatment. Economic condition has a great deal of correlation with race and, therefore, no injustice would be meted out to the race by inclusion of economic condition in affirmative action.
With the inclusion of economic condition in affirmative action, in my opinion real justice would be done to everyone cutting across racial spectrum because poor people are in all races. In addition, giving preferential treatment on the basis of race stigmatizes a race. The race receiving preferential treatment also feels less confident in their abilities.
On the other hand poverty is not a slur. It is not a characteristic that could be associated with one race alone. Poverty has its basis in family conditions and it could not necessarily have hereditary association. It is just a misfortune or accident based on special circumstances.
Also, it is in the national interest to include socioeconomic condition in affirmative action because it would not amount to favoring one group over the other. This would lay a true foundation of justice.
In “Give Me Your Sandwich,” Dinesh D'Souza presents a moral argument about “those pulling the wagon,” what do you understand this argument to mean? Is there a proper balance of people pulling vs riding in the wagon? Please provide a detailed answer.
The argument focuses on the disadvantaged segments in our society, the way to create a just society as well as the role of those who are well off and of the government. The claim of the argument is that when the government forces people to give through taxes to lift the poor, the moral basis of social equity is lost.
The wagon pullers are those who pay taxes or contribute to the society while those sitting in the wagon are those that need help and assistance because they are poor. Every society has wagon pullers and those sitting in the wagon. However, the problem begins when you are forced to pull the wagon by the government. The problem compounds further when the number of those riding the wagon goes on increasing thereby burdening the wagon pullers who begin to feel exhausted and would prefer to sit in the wagon.
Ideally, the idea of pulling wagon is to help and assist members of a society so that eventually they would feel strong enough to get off the wagon but when the number of wagon riders begins to grow, it should be considered a serious threat to the economy of the society. There is also an element of morality involved in this analogy. Wagon pullers volunteer to pull the wagon because it would help the wagon riders but when the wagon pullers are forced to pull the wagon and wagon riders think they rightfully deserve to ride in the wagon for as long as they want, the moral element is lost.
The role of the government should be to create conditions that no one has to ride the wagon or that the wagon riders go on diminishing over time. However, when the government begins to play Robin Hood, the morality is lost and it becomes a political issue leading to social divisions and dissensions.
According to the movie Generation Zero, what are some of the root causes that lead up to the 2008 economic crash in the United States? What is the theory presented by the movie regarding the role culture played in the collapse? Have Congress and the President taken appropriate steps to prevent a future crisis?
Generation Zero is a movie about the cultural crisis our society is suffering since a long time with severe consequences. In fact a major consequence of this cultural degeneration accumulating over time resulted in the financial meltdown of September 2008. The claim made by the movie is that capitalism or Wall Street was not responsible for the economic downturn. The movie blames the American people’s obsession with zero for the financial problems facing them.
The movie has a lesson to offer that the citizens must act decisively at this point of time for the situation not to worsen further. The nation is marching ahead to bankruptcy and therefore, the people of America must take a firm action. The nation’s foundational principles including its freedom are in danger. The biggest source of threat is not from outside, but from the government. The responsibility for the present crisis has to be taken by both the political parties. The greatest threat is anticipated, according to the movie, from radical left.
The movie blames the selfish baby boomers for the crisis leading up to the burgeoning federal debt difficult to manage. Baby boomers known as generation zero have brought the American society and economy to the brink of bankruptcy as the next generation will have to begin from zero.
Cultural self indulgence is probably at the root of the crisis. The politicians who sought to impose the culture of control and social engineering aimed at bad policy measures brought about the real harm to the American economy and society. The community reinvestment act was the catalytic factor behind subprime mortgage lending. The degeneration of Wall Street and Washington collaboration promoted consumption at the cost of production. The rules that allowed Wall Street to evolve into a casino and the trade deals that hurt America’s manufacturing strength brought America to the precipice of crisis resulting in the financial meltdown.
According to the movie, the society goes through cycles and the current crisis phase is cyclical as the crisis of the past including the Great Depression or WWII or the Civil War. The cycle of high was witnessed after the WWII in the 1945-65 period of consolidation. The next cycle was “The Awakening” in the 1966-1986. At that time, the children of “The High” turned into adolescents and were lavished with material comforts their parents lacked. The next cycle was the 1987-2007 phase identified as the unraveling. This was the period when baby boomers were at their prime pounding the economy to dust with the all devouring culture of consumption at the cost of complete neglect of productive economy.
Soon enough the phase of crisis set in 2008 as a consequence of the self-indulgent philosophy of 60s with its devastating consequences. It is not difficult to agree with the film that the culture of indulgence and consumption can leave a devastating impact on society. It is this culture that leads to reckless indiscipline and inability to take tough financial decisions. It is a mass amnesia that catches nearly everyone and when they wake up, it is already too late.
The other important but degenerate cultural element is greed. The greed of Wall Street bankers led to the financial trouble. In their greed they forgot about the consequences. The basis of the greed from which the entire society suffers has to be traced in the generation that was taught to indulge and splurge in.
What are the strongest arguments for a school vouchers system in the public school elementary education system? According to the movie “The Cartel” does increasing school aid make public education better, why or why not?
Milton Friedman in 1950s recommended educational vouchers. It was hoped that the introduction of vouchers system would improve the quality of primary and secondary education in America. Although vouchers system has been controversial in recent years, the advocates of the vouchers system think that it goes on to improve the quality of education.
Households are free to choose the voucher system provided they decide to send their children to private schools. The voucher from the government covers some or all cost of education. The program, in the opinion of the advocates encourages competition while giving households greater choice. It is also a kind of incentive system for schools to improve the quality of educational services they provide to students.
Although there are many opponents of vouchers system claiming no improvement in education service is observed as found in several studies, the proponents too cite studies to claim the advantages of the voucher system to the low-income households. These studies indicate that low-income students in private schools achieve higher score on standardized tests in comparison to the children with similar background and characteristics enrolled in public schools.
The real advantage for the vouchers system in my opinion is for a low-income student interested in academics. If there was no voucher system, he might not have been able to study. While most of the nations, world over promote education at their cost, the quality of education is poor. The voucher system allows a poor student to get the best quality education at low or no cost. Therefore, voucher system is certainly advantageous for households that could not have afforded quality education for their children.
Movie Cartel highlights the failure of education system in America. According to this movie, increasing school aid does not make public education better. The problem lies with the Teachers’ Unions that are referred to as Cartel in the movie. The cartel perpetuates the legacy of poor education by putting in obstacles for reforms. They would not allow removing the bad performing teachers.
It should not be forgotten that the state of education in America is much poor in comparison to many other nations, although America is among the richest nations in the world. In other words, if money or aid alone could improve the quality of education, the students of American schools would have been doing academically better but they are generally poor in mathematics and science.
In addition, there is the problem of waste and corruption. The school chosen to be shown in the film is the New Jersey public school. In the New Jersey area, more budget money is allocated in comparison to other schools. If greater level of funding can address a problem area in education, the school should have improved. However, the problem lies with administrative inefficiency and corruption and a comparison with Maryland brings out the glaring contrast.
The teachers union as said earlier is a part of the problem, not solution. They lobbied for budgetary increase at a time when the nation was going through the financial crisis and many other agencies were busy slashing their spending.
Construction costs and corruption go together. There was no monitoring over construction costs and the agency undertaking the construction in the New Jersey schools got away with corruption because of poor accounting while the public loss was estimated between half to one billion dollars.
It is nearly impossible to fire tenured teachers even if their performance is below the expected level. There are obstructive rules in place originally put by teachers union. These rules protect the inefficient teachers, while accountability and fairness suffers. By keeping the bad teachers, the good teachers suffer. There is an instance of an illiterate teacher who went on to teach for 17 years in California.
What roles did the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary play in the development of civil rights? Please provide examples for EACH branch.
The development of civil rights has a long history that is not easy to capture in the limited space here. Even before the civil rights movement of 1960s, historical steps in respect of civil rights were taken. However, immediately after WWII, in December 1946, when Harry Truman was the President, the President’s Committee on Civil Rights was established. The job of the committee was to investigate the state of civil rights in the nation. The committee on Civil Rights was disbanded in 1947. The committee addressed the issue of racism in America.
It was during the course of civil rights movement that the executive, legislature and the judiciary had the opportunity to participate in the development of civil rights. Civil rights movement was at its intense height between 1955 and 1968. There were a large number of civil disobediences and nonviolent protests when the dialogues between the protestors and the government authorities were quite common. Some of the well known protests included the one in Alabama known as Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955–56) and in North Carolina known as Greensboro sit-ins (1960).
During this phase, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed which is considered a major legislative achievement. The other notable legislative achievements during this period included the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The status of African-Americans was raised and they were treated as equal without discrimination.
Over years, the judiciary increasingly came to take progressive view on the question of civil rights, while the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education was the landmark judgment that did away with segregation in education.
A land mark piece of civil right legislation in the U.S is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 enacted in July 1964. It prohibits discrimination on religion, race, color, sex, ethnicity and nationality.
However, it is important to remember that civil rights did not come over night but was the result of centuries of struggle against Jim Crow. Neither can we claim that civil rights have now been granted in entirety or completely, for there are still subtle forms of discriminations going on.
There have been long struggles, both violent and non-violent and there have been ideological struggles before civil rights have been granted in fits and measures. There have been oppositions from politicians, judiciary and legislature whenever a segment of progressive people with progressive thoughts cutting across racial divide recommended new civil rights.
Nevertheless, the roles played by the three – executive, legislature and judiciary – have been critical factors in the progressive gains made in civil rights. The executive understood the problem inherent in discrimination in a civil society, the legislature framed laws and the judiciary gave landmark judgments that gradually dismantled various forms of discriminations.
The powers given to enforce the civil rights act of 1964 were quite weak in the beginning but gradually they were strengthened. The Congress had the authority to legislate. Under Article 1 (S.8), there is the power to regulate interstate commerce, while the citizens get the equal protection of law under the 14th Amendment. The 15th Amendment gives everyone the voting right without discrimination. This Act became a law when President Lyndon Johnson signed it on July2, 1964.