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Instructions: In 1500-2000 words, answer one of the following questions. Papers must use a recognized citation system – e.g. Chicago or MLA – and must be double-spaced throughout

1. In 2017, Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Ro Khanna introduced joint legislation in the Senate and House to address growing income inequality in the U.S. The Grow American Incomes Now (GAIN) Act substantially expands the Earned Income Tax Credit to raise the incomes of low- and middle-income Americans. The cost of the bill – $1.4 trillion over 10 years – would be funded by raising taxes on high-income earners. What is Rawls’s difference principle? What is Rawls’s argument for this principle? How might Rawls’s difference principle lend support/justify the GAIN Act? Suppose that the GAIN Act would be effective in raising the incomes of low-income Americans and would not substantially disincentivize high-income Americans from performing productive work, would the U.S. Congress act justly by passing it? Why or why not? It will useful to consider how libertarians such as Robert Nozick would object to Rawls’s position.

2. Some cities in the U.S., including Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, and Boulder, have passed soda taxes in order to reduce consumption of soda and decrease the prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Opponents of soda taxes argue that they are objectionably paternalistic and regressive. What is Mill’s harm principle? Do soda taxes violate it? Why or why not? Are soda taxes a just way to reduce soda consumption and improve public health? Why or why not? Are there are policy options that are ethically defensible? For example, would it be permissible to prohibit SNAP recipients from using their benefits to purchase soda? Why or why not?In answering this question, assume that soda taxes are effective at reducing consumption of soda and improving public health.

3. If more Americans are infected with COVID-19, hospitals may need to start rationing care, including access to ventilators, ICU beds, and critical health staff. Suppose the North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services asks you to devise a plan that North Carolina hospitals may use to ethically set priorities among patients who need access to critical care in order to survive. What would you advise hospitals to do? To devise your plan, please work through the following questions. What is utilitarianism? How would a utilitarian set priorities among patients needing care? How might a utilitarian approach lead to older patients having a lesser chance of receiving care than younger patients? How might a utilitarian approach lead to people with co-morbidities – i.e. people already suffering from other chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes – having a lesser chance of receiving care than people without co-morbidities? Are these two consequences fair? Recall too that because of the social determinants of health, people with co-morbidities may be more likely to be low-income and racial minorities. On the whole, is a utilitarian approach to setting priorities just? If not, what is a just approach? First-come first-served? A Lottery? Priority to the worse off? To answer this question, it might be helpful to use the following table which outlines some typical patients hospitals are likely to encounter. Please also read Ezekiel J. Emanuel et al.’s paper, “Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the Time of COVID-19,” and Sheri Fink’s “The Hardest Questions Doctors May Face: Who Will be Saved? Who Won’t?” (both on Sakai).

Patients in need of a Ventilator




Socioeconomic Status

Chance of Survival with Access to Ventilator

Life Expectancy (if treatment successful)



Obesity, type 2 diabetes




























Chronic lung disease





Evaluation Guidelines

The purpose of this paper is for you to provide a reasoned defense of a position on the above question. Your paper will be evaluated in accordance with the following guidelines:

1. Thesis: Does the paper advance a clearly formulated thesis? Is the scope of the thesis appropriate? Or, does the paper set out to accomplish too much or too little?

2. Understanding and Reconstruction of Text/Positions/Arguments: Does the paper demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the text/arguments/positions under discussion? Does the paper support its interpretation of the text by appeal to textual evidence? Does the paper reconstruct the positions/arguments under discussion in a systematic way, making clear the way in which the different components of the argument/position fit together? Or, does the paper only present a superficial understanding of the text/arguments/position? Is the paper fair to the positions/arguments under discussion by reconstructing them charitably? Or, does the paper reconstruct the arguments in a way that fails to recognize their strength.

3. Strength of Argumentation: Does the paper present strong arguments to support its thesis? Does the paper consider possible objections to its position? Or, does the paper present arguments that invite immediate objections or that commit fallacies? Do the thesis and arguments of the paper consider the complexity of the issue under discussion? Or, does the paper advance claims that are overbroad or too general?

4. Organization: Is the paper well organized? Is its structure apparent to the reader? Does the paper proceed in a rational fashion? Does the paper contain a helpful introduction and conclusion?

5. Clarity of Expression: Is the paper clear? Does the paper use simple language and grammatical sentence structure? Does the paper define the concepts that it introduces?


A Paper: An “A” paper will defend a clearly formulated and tightly focused thesis. It will be clearly written and will be organized in a rational and coherent manner. It will demonstrate a strong grasp of the material under discussion and will reconstruct the arguments under discussion in a systematic way. It will support its thesis with strong arguments that do not invite immediate objections and that appreciate the complexity of the issue under discussion. As well, it will consider well thought through objections to the positions that it defends.

B Paper: A “B” paper will defend a clearly formulated thesis. Though appropriately focused, the thesis may be either too narrow or too broad. It will be well organized and clearly written. The paper will demonstrate a good grasp of the material under discussion, but it may not do so entirely comprehensively or systematically. It will support its thesis with good arguments; however, these arguments may need work in a number of respects.

C Paper: A “C” paper will demonstrate an adequate grasp of the material, but will not present it in a comprehensive or systematic way. It will have a thesis, but the thesis will lack focus, either being too narrow or too broad. It will present arguments to support its thesis, but these arguments will require more thought and consideration.

D Paper: A “D” paper will demonstrate a very minimal understanding of the material and will fail to engage with it in a critical way. It is poorly organized, and is difficult to follow.

F Paper: An “F” paper will demonstrate very little grasp of the material and will fail to engage with it in a serious or critical way. It will fail to provide a complete answer to the assignment.

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