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Philosophy and the Community

This focuses on the individual as a member of a community. Thus, write a eight- to ten-page research paper based upon a current event/pressing social issue that is relevant to your community. You should address the following points in your analysis:

- Identify a social issue
- Identify news articles that present at least two different points-of-view on the issue
- Explain why the issue is relevant to your community
- Explain the nature of religious belief and identify the social norms and religious values/beliefs that inform the various perspectives on the issue
- Explain a relevant ethical theory
- Explain a relevant political theory
- Analyze how the chosen theories might approach the issue, including the relevant considerations and the ultimate conclusion reached. You will be expected to explain the relevant theories with support from the course texts (with particular emphasis placed on the primary texts) and from pre-approved secondary sources (including, but not limited to, the course text, online lectures, and a list of suggested online resources).

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Identify a social issue.

My issue is unionization, or more specifically, the lack thereof. The broader concept here is one of social equality and the mechanisms by which some kind of egalitarianism can be reached. Unions are just a part, but an important part, one that has contemporary relevance.

Union membership has plummeted in the US, and, not coincidentally, as American wages have stagnated, or, according to some estimates, declined. Most certainly, as American productivity per worker has gone though the roof, wages have not kept up. So, where does that surplus go? Only to the owners and the state. No one disputes these facts: a) labor productivity has gone up, b) union membership has gone down, and c) that income equality has grown. Now, whether unions are good or bad is another matter.

Identify news articles that present at least two different points-of-view on the issue.

Greenhouse, S. (August 4 2011) Labor's Decline and Wage Inequality. New York Times, Business Day
This article cites many sources that claim union decline equals wage decline, which in turn, promotes income inequality. From 1973 to 2007, as everyone knows, private sector unions declined to the point where only 8% of private sector workers are unionized. During this exact timeframe, private sector wage inequality increased by a minimum of 40%.

(Study citation here: Western, B and J. Rosenfeld (2011) Unions, Norms, and the Rise in U.S. Wage Inequality. American Sociological Review 76(4), 513-537)

Pethokoukis, J (Feb 7 2009) Study: Unions are Bad for Economic Growth. US News and World Report: Money

The basic argument here is that unionization is a bad thing. It is a bad thing not relative to labor's wages or productivity, but that it distorts return on investment. The study that US News reports on was sponsored by the RAND Corporation, and deals largely with the relation between unionization and declines in stock prices (values). In short, the RAND corporation holds that unionization, over time, causes a loss for the firm of roughly $40,500 per voting union member. This is adjusted and averaged from 1961-1999 for every 48 month period. The variables are not so much the existence of a union, but the victory of a union: firms see a decline of that value every 48 months when a union is formed or scores some important victory over management.

(Study citation here: Lee, David and Alexandre Mas (2008) Long-Run Impacts of Unions on Firms: New Evidence from Financial Markets, 1961-1999. RAND Corporation

In terms of labor productivity relative to wages, see:

Greenhouse, S (Jan 13 2003) Our Economic Pickle. New York Times Sunday Review, New York edition, SR5

Explain why the issue is relevant to your community.

One of the most important aspects of this issue is that productivity, while wages of stagnated, has gone up by leaps and bounds. For example, in 1950, it would take a 40 hour week (at least) to produce the value that a worker can produce today in 10 hours.

In the third article from the NYT cited above, labor's share of the GDP has declined from 50% in 1973 to around 40% in 2001. Since then, the decline has been even steeper. From 1973 to 2011, worker productivity, adjusted for inflation, increased by about 80%, while wages have grown, since 1973, by, at most, 7-8%. Since 2001, profits have increased for firms while wages have declined. Also from 2001, the median income for American households declined, as the economy grew. No one disputes that, from 1973 to today, the size of the US economy has increased monstrously, though this seems to have no impact on wages whatsoever. There is no denying that the surplus from this massive surge in productivity has been put into the pockets of owners, executive managers and the state.

It is difficult to see how this is unimportant to my community or any community. Since these are national figures, all of America has seen this injustice. As firms move offshore, states pass right to work laws, income equality increases, unions decline and corporate profits increase, unionization and labor's share of the GDP is falling.

Explain the nature of religious belief and identify the social norms and religious values/beliefs that inform the various perspectives on the issue.

In most of the pagan world, inequality and hierarchy was considered normal and natural. With the exception of a handful of Roman slave rebellions, equality was impossible, undesirable and unnatural. The social structure of places like ancient China, the caste system of India, the Spartan system and even the republic of Plato all strongly show how important hierarchy was in the ancient world.

Christianity however, introduced a concept of equality where all human beings are morally equal, have free will and are capable of virtue. While some pagan societies did have sporadic egalitarian movements, it was not a part of the pagan worldview. Frederich Nietzsche went out of his way to show the superiority of the hierarchy in pagan Greece over the equality-fetish of the church, where all possessions were shared equally. ...

Solution Summary

The expert identifies a social issues. The issues relevant to a community are explained. The nature of religious beliefs are determined.