Table of Contents
Clashing Views on Social Issues, Eighteenth Edition
Unit: Culture and Values
- Issue: Does the Media Have a Liberal Bias?
YES: Fred Barnes, from Is the Mainstream Media Fair and Balanced? Imprimis (August 2006)
NO: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., from The Disinformation Society, Crimes Against Nature (Harper Perennial, 2005)
Fred Barnes, journalist, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, and TV commentator, argues that the mainstream media has a pronounced liberal bias. They do not hire conservatives, and an analysis of specific news stories shows their bias. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., environmentalist and political activist, agrees with Barnes that the media is biased but believes that it has a conservative bias. Surveys show that most Americans have many false beliefs that are fed to them by conservative talk radio shows and other conservative media outlets. Many media owners are very conservative and stifle investigative reporting.
- Issue: Is It Necessary to Become Less Consumerist?
YES: Gary Gutting, from Less, Please, Commonweal (January 11, 2013)
NO: Michael Fisher, from Review of James Livingstons Against Thrift: Why Consumer Culture Is Good for the Economy, the Environment, and Your Soul, Society for U.S. Intellectual History Blog, U.S. Intellectual History (March 22, 2012)
Professor Gary Gutting, holder of the Notre Dame Endowed Chair in Philosophy, praises the modern economy for its amazing progress in production and consumer benefits but also recognizes its negative effects on our character and authentic well-being. It has led to economic insatiability and shrinking of the common good. Therefore, he favors less consumption. Michael Fisher, graduate student in American history at the University of Rochester, summarizes in this review article the thesis of James Livingston that the consumer culture is good, not bad. Though Fisher supports Livingstons thesis, he does not agree with Livingstons positive view of advertising. Nevertheless, he and Livingston favor more consumption.
- Issue: Does Social Media Have Largely Positive Impacts on Its Users?
YES: Aaron Smith, from Why Americans Use Social Media, Pew Research Center Report (November 14, 2011)
NO: Janna Quitney Anderson and Lee Rainie, from Millennials Will Benefit and Suffer Due to Their Hyperconnected Lives, Pew Research Centers Internet and American Life Project (February 29, 2012)
Aaron Smith, senior research specialist of the Pew Research Center, presents the findings of his research project based on interviews in 2011 of 1,015 networking site users who reported on how they used social media. Their major use was for keeping in touch with family and current friends, and 87 percent also used it to connect with out-of-touch old friends. Janna Quitney Anderson of Elon University and Lee Rainie, research specialist of the Pew Research Centers Internet and American Life Project, report the findings of an opt-in online survey in 2011 of a diverse but nonrandom sample of 2,021 technology stakeholders and critics who report their expert opinion on the impacts of social media on the users. They report many positive and negative impacts.
Unit: Sex Roles, Gender, and the Family
- Issue: Is the American Family in Trouble?
YES: Isabel V. Sawhill, from The New White Negro: What It Means That Family Breakdown Is Now Biracial, Washington Monthly (January/February 2013)
NO: W. Bradford Wilcox, from Unequal, Unfair, and Unhappy: The 3 Biggest Myths about Marriage Today, The Atlantic Magazine (June 3, 2013)
Isabel V. Sawhill, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution and director of the Budgeting for National Priorities Project and codirector of the Center on Children and Families, points out that marriages in college educated families are not declining but they are declining significantly for the noncollege educated families, both white and black. W. Bradford Wilcox, associate professor of sociology and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, describes the positive situation of families today. The majority of marriages are happy and are much more equal and fair than decades ago.
- Issue: Can Women Have It All?
YES: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, from Sheryl Sandbergs Radically Realistic And Solution for Working Mothers, The Atlantic Magazine (February 20, 2013)
NO: Anne-Marie Slaughter, from Why Women Still Cant Have It All, The Atlantic Magazine (July 2012)
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, best-selling author, journalist, and a Senior Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy program, discusses the issues in Sheryl Sandbergs famous book, Lean In. Sandbergs advice to career women is not to opt out but to lean in, that is, to firmly choose both career and parenting. Unfortunately men still run the country so the societal changes that could facilitate Lean In are missing. Full commitment to both career and family will not be easy. Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Bert G. Kerstetter 66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and formerly dean of Princetons Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, explains why Sandberg is wrong and women cannot successfully pursue career and family at the same time. They must decide which to do well and which to do adequately but not avidly.
- Issue: Is Same-Sex Marriage Harmful to America?
YES: Peter Sprigg, from The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex Marriage, website of the Family Research Council (2013)
NO: Liza Mundy, from The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss, The Atlantic Magazine (June 2013)
Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, identifies 10 negative effects of same-sex marriages. Many of these worries concern how various institutions are likely to change as a result of same-sex marriages, and how authorities are likely to change their regulations and enforcement practices. Liza Mundy, a Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation and author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Our Culture, reports on the numerous studies that show that same-sex marriages are more intimate, more egalitarian, less conflictful, and happier than heterosexual marriages.
Unit: Stratification and Inequality
- Issue: Is Increasing Economic Inequality a Serious Problem?
YES: Joseph Stiglitz, from Joseph Stiglitz: The Price of Inequality, AlterNet.org (June 11, 2012)
NO: Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, from Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts about Americas Poor, The Heritage Foundation, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder (September 13, 2011)
Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, professor of economics at Columbia University, demonstrates the vast inequality in America and argues that it makes the economic system less stable, less efficient, and less productive. It also endangers democracy and facilitates the capture of our political system by moneyed interests which leads to many other adverse consequences. Robert Rector is Senior Research Fellow in the Domestic Policy Studies Department, and Rachel Sheffield is a Research Assistant in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. They argue that inequality is not so bad because the poor are rather well-off when we look at all the facts. The living conditions of the poor have improved for decades. Most of the poor have consumer items that were significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago. They establish their thesis on countless facts such as 82 percent of poor adults reported never being hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food.
- Issue: Is America Close to Being a Post-Racial Society?
YES: Alvin Poussaint, from Obama, Cosby, King, and the Mountaintop, CNN.com (November 13, 2008)
NO: Lawrence D. Bobo, from Somewhere Between Jim Crow and Post-Racialism: Reflections on the Racial Divide in America Today, Daedalus (Spring 2011)
Alvin Poussaint is a professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School with a focus on child psychiatry. He argues that the election of Barack Obama may indicate that America is approaching the mountaintop that King preached about. Lawrence D. Bobo, the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, provides a scholarly analysis of racial inequalities. He explains how inequalities in America are constantly being recreated. Change occurs and is much celebrated, but change is successfully resisted in many subtle ways.
- Issue: Is the Gender Wage Gap Justified?
YES: J. R. Shackleton, from Explaining the Overall Pay Gap in Should We Mind the Gap? Gender Pay Differentials and Public Policy (Institute of Economic Affairs, 2008)
NO: Hilary M. Lips, from The Gender Wage Gap: Debunking the Rationalizations and Blaming Womens Choices for the Gender Pay Gap, Expert Advice for Working Women, www.womensmedia.com (2009)
J. R. Shackleton, a professor of economics and dean of the Royal Docks Business School at the University of East London, argues that the gender wage gap is not largely due to discrimination. It is largely due to the differential value of male and female workers in the employment market. Employers want profits, so they pay differently for different skills, commitment, and performance, and women choose less profitable training and limit their commitment. Hilary M. Lips, professor and chair of psychology and director of the Center for Gender Studies at Radford University, documents the continuing gender gap in wages and blames it largely on discrimination based on stereotypes and prejudice.
Unit: Political Economy and Institutions
- Issue: Is Government Dominated by Big Business?
YES: G. William Domhoff, from Who Rules America? Power, Politics, and Social Change, 5th ed. (McGraw-Hill, 2002)
NO: Sheldon Kamieniecki, from Corporate America and Environmental Policy: How Often Does Business Get Its Way? (Stanford Law and Politics 2006)
Political sociologist G. William Domhoff argues that the owners and top-level managers in large income-producing properties are far and away the dominant power figures in the United States and that they have inordinate influence in the federal government. Political scientist Sheldon Kamienieckis research finds that business interests do not participate at a high rate in policy issues that affect them, and when they do, they have mixed success in influencing policy outcomes. In fact, environmental and other groups often have considerable influence vis-à-vis business interests.
- Issue: Does Capitalism Have Serious Defects?
YES: Jerry Z. Muller, from Capitalism and Inequality, Foreign Affairs (March/April 2013)
NO: Chris Berg, from Why Capitalism Is Awesome, Cato Policy Report (July/August 2013)
Jerry Z. Muller, professor of history at the Catholic University of America and author of The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought, reports on how capitalism inevitably increases inequality because competition results in winners and losers. It is productive but it also increases commodification which erodes cultural values. It is a force for both good and bad. Chris Berg, a research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, Australia, and author of In Defence of Freedom of Speech, provides an enthusiastic defence of capitalism because it stimulates millions of innovations that improve millions of items that benefit us.
- Issue: Is Stimulus the Best Way to Get the American Economy Back on Its Feet?
YES: Joshua Holland, from Paul Krugman: We Could End This Depression Right Now, Alternet (May 24, 2012)
NO: Dwight R. Lee, from The Keynesian Path to Fiscal Irresponsibility, Cato Journal (vol. 32, no. 3, Fall 2012)
Freelance writer Joshua Holland and Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate economist and professor of economics and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, argue that while unemployment is high, the government must stimulate the economy to produce many more jobs and thus more earnings, which will increase spending, which will stimulate more business and jobs and more spending, and so on. When the economy has recovered, the government should institute policies to reduce the debt. Dwight R. Lee, the ONeil Professor of Global Markets and Freedom in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, argues that the Keynesian approach of Paul Krugman and others will have disastrous results for America. The Keynesian prescriptions are reasonable in the abstract, but when filtered through the political system controlled by special interests, the results are some short-run benefits but long-run costs including relative economic stagnation.
- Issue: Was the Welfare Reform the Right Approach to Poverty?
YES: David Coates, from Cutting Welfare to Help the Poor, in A Liberal Toolkit: Progressive Responses to Conservative Arguments (Praeger, 2007)
NO: Stephanie Mencimer, from Brave New Welfare, Mother Jones (January/February 2009)
David Coates, the Worrell Professor of Anglo-American Studies at Wake Forest University, argues that the 1996 welfare reform was badly needed to reduce dependency and encourage working and thus improve the lives of the poor. Thus it is a very successful policy. Stephanie Mencimer, staff reporter for Mother Jones, does not denigrate the current welfare law but documents the horrible way welfare is administered in many states. Many welfare workers deny many benefits to many people who qualify for welfare. Thus, many welfare benefits do not reach the poor.
- Issue: Are Teachers the Key to Greatly Improving American Education?
YES: Jal Mehta, from Why American Education Fails, Foreign Affairs (May/June 2013)
NO: Jen Scott Curwood, from 10 Big Ideas to Improve Your Schools, Scholastic Administrator (2013)
Jal Mehta, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, advocates radical changes to American 112 education, which is currently a complete failure. It is designed for the needs of a half century ago and does not prepare students for dealing with the kind of complex learning and critical thinking that the twenty-first-century U.S. economy demands. This will require that teaching must be made into a true modern profession. Jen Scott Curwood, senior lecturer in English education and media studies at the University of Sydney, agrees that K to 12 education must be improved but not in the radical way that Mehta proposes. She proposes 10 improvements including establishing professional learning communities, encouraging social networking, making collaboration a priority, reexamining staffing, and using free digital tools to enhance teaching and learning. Her approach is continuous improvement rather than radical change.
- Issue: Will Biotechnology Have the Greatest Impact on the Next Half Century?
YES: Presidents Council on Bioethics, from Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness (October 2003)
NO: Neil Gershenfeld, from How to Make Almost Anything, Foreign Affairs (November/December 2012)
The Presidents Council on Bioethics was commissioned by George Bush to report to him their findings about the ethical issues involved in the uses of biotechnology. Included in this selection are the expected positive benefits from the biotechnologies that are on the horizon. They could change society in major ways. Neil Gershenfeld, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of MITs Center for Bits and Atoms, argues that the coming digital revolution in fabrication will allow individuals to design and produce tangible objects on demand, wherever and whenever they need them. Widespread access to these technologies will challenge traditional models of business, aid, and education. In fact, it will transform how we learn, work, and live and produce great worldwide prosperity.
Unit: Crime and Social Control
- Issue: Is the Crime Rate the Best Measure for Understanding and Treating Crime?
YES: The Economist, from The Curious Case of the Fall in Crime, The Economist (July 20, 2013)
NO: Jacek Czabański, from Estimates of Cost of Crime: History, Methodologies, and Implications (Springer, 2008)
The Economist provides considerable data showing that the crime rate has fallen significantly in America and the rest of the developed world since the 1970s, contrary to public opinion. These data refute a number of cherished social theories such as the decline of marriage is a major cause of crime. They are useful in the treatment of crime and criminals. They also should be used to change the way criminals are treated and how the police operate. Jacek Czabański documents the enormous burden that crime imposes on societies. His calculations include pain, suffering, lost property, health consequences, the criminal justice system, and the costs of avoiding crime. Cost figures should guide the treatment and responses to crime.
- Issue: Should Laws Against Drug Use Remain Restrictive?
YES: Herbert Kleber and Joseph A. Califano Jr., from Legalization: Panacea or Pandoras Box? The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (January 2006)
NO: Jacob Sullum, from The War Over Weed, Reason (January 2013)
Herbert Kleber, the executive vice president of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), and Joseph Califano, founder of CASA, maintain that drug laws should remain restrictive because legalization would result in increased use, especially by children. Kleber and Califano contend that drug legalization would not eliminate drug-related violence nor the harm caused by drugs. Jacob Sullum, Senior Editor of Reason, uses a review of two books to establish that the legalization of marijuana clearly has more benefits than costs. The books are: Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, and Mark A. R. Kleiman (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Smoke Signals: A Social History of MarijuanaMedical, Recreational, and Scientific, by Martin A. Lee (Scribner, 2012).
- Issue: Are We Headed Toward a Nuclear 9/11?
YES: Brian Michael Jenkins, from Terrorists Can Think Strategically: Lessons Learned from the Mumbai Attacks, Testimony Series (Rand Corporation, January 2009)
NO: Graham Allison, from Time to Bury a Dangerous LegacyPart I, YaleGlobal Online (March 14, 2008)
Brian Michael Jenkins, senior advisor to the president of the Rand Corporation, in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, posited that a team of terrorists could be inserted into the United States and carry out a Mumbai-style attack, as terrorism has increasingly become an effective strategic weapon. Graham Allison, Harvard professor and director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, affirms that we are not likely to experience a nuclear 9/11 because nuclear terrorism is preventable by a feasible, affordable agenda of actions that
would shrink the risk of nuclear terrorism to nearly zero.
Unit: The Future: Population/Environment/Society
- Issue: Does Immigration Benefit the Economy?
YES: Robert Lynch and Patrick Oakford, from The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants, Center for American Progress (March 20, 2013)
NO: Steven A. Camarota, from Testimony Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law (U.S. House of Representatives, September 30, 2010)
Robert Lynch, Everett E. Nuttle Professor and chair of the Department of Economics at Washington College, and Patrick Oakford, research assistant at the Center for American Progress, show that legal status and a road to citizenship for the unauthorized will bring about significant economic gains in terms of economic growth, earnings, tax revenues, and jobs and the sooner we provide legal status and citizenship, the greater the economic benefits will be for the nation. The main reason is that the immigrants will produce and earn significantly more than they cost and the results will ripple throughout the economy. Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, argues that immigrations benefit to the economy is so tiny that it should be ignored. On the other hand, immigration reduces the income of the poor with whom many immigrants compete for jobs.
- Issue: Is Humankind Dangerously Harming the Environment?
YES: John Harte and Mary Ellen Harte, from Alarmism Is Justified, Foreign Affairs (September/October 2012)
NO: Ramez Naam, from How Innovation Could Save The Planet, The Futurist (March/April 2013)
John Harte, professor of ecosystem sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, and Mary Ellen Harte, a biologist and columnist who writes on climate change and population, argue against those that deny that there are limits to growth that expected technologies could not easily take care of. They claim that environmental and resource optimists ignore massive evidence of environmental problems and risks and belittle the concerns of thousands of scientists. Ramez Naam, a computer scientist, author, and former Microsoft executive, argues that innovations will deal with the serious issues of population growth, peak oil, resources depletion, climate change, and limits to growth. After reviewing some of the recent great accomplishments and some of the risks facing the planet, he shows how ideas and innovations have solved similar crises in the past and then gives reasons for being optimistic about the future.
- Issue: Is Economic Globalization Good for Both Rich and Poor?
YES: IMF Staff, from Globalization: A Brief Overview, International Monetary Fund (May 2008)
NO: Ravinder Rena, from Globalization Still Hurting Poor Nations, Africa Economic Analysis (January 2008)
IMF Staff examine both positive and negative effects of globalization and conclude that economic globalization contributes greatly to world prosperity. Ravinder Rena, an associate professor of economics at the Eritrea Institute of Technology, argues that globalization produces many benefits but also produces many negative impacts. The poor and poorer countries are the most harmed by globalization.
- Issue: Should Government Intervene in a Capitalist Economy?
YES: Joseph E. Stiglitz, from Government Failure vs. Market Failure: Principles of Regulation, paper prepared for the conference Government and Markets: Toward a New Theory of Regulation, February 13, 2008, Yulee, Florida (2009)
NO: Walter Williams, from Future Prospects for Economic Liberty, Imprimis (September 2009)
Joseph E. Stiglitz, University Professor at Columbia University, argues that the government plays an essential role in enabling the market to work properly. Capitalism runs amok if it is not regulated to protect against abuse and ensure fairness. Walter Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, argues that the founders defined a small role for government in the Constitution and protected the freedom of individuals. Now the role of government is increasing and individual freedoms are declining. The free market has achieved great prosperity for America and the intervention of government has had net negative impacts.