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Justice: What’s the Right Thing To Do?
Chapter 1: Recommended process: Answer pre-reading questions below BEFORE you start Sandel. Then read through Chapter 1 carefully one time and then go back through it a second time and answer the questions below. Then answer the post-chapter questions.
Pre-Reading Scenario and Questions:
Imagine that an ice storm and blizzard unexpectedly hit the upper Midwest. There is no electricity in most Chicago area towns and neighborhoods. There are two feet of snow and it is going to take at least a week for the city, county and state to clear roads enough to be passable. There is no electricity within two miles of your house. Grocery stores were mostly cleared out right before the storm hit. For the few that have some meat, fish, dairy, fruits, vegetables and water, due to the electricity outage, their products need to be emptied out as soon as possible due to spoilage. Most stores can’t open though, due to the lack of transportation for their employees. You need to find food, water and somewhere with at least some heat. After 24 hours you have had no luck. On the second day you walk two miles in the other direction and you find one convenient store where an employee is unlocking the door. You and ten other people rush in. There are some groceries that you think are still good due to the cold temperatures inside the store. You get a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a container of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and two gallons of bottled water. Although not ideal, you think you can live off of this for a few days. The clerk tells you that your total is $90. You only have $20. You asked how he determined the price? The clerk says that each gallon of milk or water is $20 each. The other items are $10 each. You argue that he is charging you significantly more than the marked prices on the products. The clerk argues that he hasn’t had a chance yet to change the prices on the stickers and that this is a business and he needs to maximize his profits. If you can’t or won’t pay that amount, he is sure that someone else will. You can’t get more money because ATM’s are not working. You take the loaf of bread and container of peanut butter for $20 and leave for the long walk home. When you get halfway home you realize that your elderly neighbor probably can’t get out and his Meals on Wheels delivery will probably not be arriving for several days. You have no idea what she’ll eat.
1. Should the clerk charge you more than the marked price on each item? Why or why not?
2. How do you think the clerk should determine how much to charge you for the items?
3. Should you sue to storeowner for price-gouging, since your state has laws against such practices? Why or why not?
4. Are there times when raising prices is fair/just and times when it is not fair/just? How would you decide?
5. If your elderly neighbor dies from the cold and lack of food, who’s fault is it?
Chapter 1 Reading Guide and Questions:
1. The belief in medieval times of how the exchange of goods should be determined was different from how market societies function today. Explain the difference.
2. What is the argument for enforcing price-gouging laws? What are the underlying values of this argument?
3. What is the free-market economics argument against price-gouging laws? What are the underlying values of this argument?
4. Do the categories of “supply” and “demand” and how this relationship purportedly works accurately relate to the distribution of goods in a disaster situation like Hurricane Charley? Why or why not?
5. Page 6—Sandel organizes his book according to 3 different categories: welfare, freedom and virtue. He believes that all arguments about what the meaning of justice is, fit into one of these three categories. Most chapters in the book give an overview of one method used for making decisions. Each method fits into one of those categories above.
6. According to Sandel, the standard case for unfettered markets rests on two claims—name and explain using the 3 categories.
7. What are the arguments against unfettered markets, using the 3 categories?
8. How does Sandel explain the place of “outrage” as a moral source?
9. How does the discussion of outrage relate to Sandel’s 3 categories?
10. What arguments might someone make if they fit into the “virtue” category?
11. How does Sandel describe the differences between ancient theories of justice and modern theories of justice? Do you understand this?
12. According to Sandel, what is the Purple Heart argument really about?
13. How are the underlying values of the welfare, freedom and virtue categories different?
14. What arguments were given for and against bailing out some companies during the financial crisis?
15. Do you think the companies should have been bailed out? Why or why not? Into which category do your arguments fall in Sandel’s configuration? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your arguments?
16. What arguments were given for and against giving executive bonuses?
17. Do you think the executives should have been given bonuses? Why or why not? Into which category do your arguments fall in Sandel’s configuration? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your arguments?
18. What is the role of “moral desert” in people’s arguments on the bailout/bonuses topic?
19. Should CEO’s make 344 times the pay of the average worker? Why or why not? Into which category do your arguments fall in Sandel’s configuration? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your arguments?
20. Reflect on your initial reactions to the trolley stories and the goatherd situation. Continue figuring out the patterns that exist in your own determinations of what should be the case.
21. On page 28 Sandel outlines the steps he thinks we go through when we make a moral decision. Write this down in a place where you can refer to it throughout both of the books that we read and when you are participating in the discussion boards. Part of the purpose of this course is for you to adopt this method of reflection, at least for the duration of the course. Be careful about weighing in quickly with your unreflected-upon opinion and maintaining your position no matter what others say. Entertain everyone’s position on the issues and don’t assume you are correct.
22. What is the point of Plato’s cave analogy?
Post-Reading Questions:
1. Which category did you tend to fit into in this chapter?
2. Have you thought about your underlying value system prior to this?
3. What do you think you tend to weigh most heavily when making a decision?
4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of how you make a decision?
These questions are the most important questions to answer.
1-Explain the reasons that someone might give for being in favor of price-gouging laws (use your own words–do not quote the text).
2-Explain the reasons someone might give for being opposed to price-gouging laws (use your own words
3- Do you think that the categories of “supply” and “demand” accurately explain how the distribution of goods in a situation like Hurricane Charley? Explain your answer.
4- Sandel believes that people’s conceptions of justice fall into one of the three categories of welfare, freedom, or virtue. Based on what you’ve read in this chapter, which of these categories do you think you’ll fall into? Explain your answer.
5-What arguments were given both for and against bailing out companies during the financial crisis?


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