Thursday, September 1, 2011

Essay 1

Essay 1: Finding our way between Ethics and Economics

For this first essay, we will compose a short (3-4) page essay focused primarily on developing a thesis and supporting it. We will focus more on research later; for now, let’s just practice developing a claim and supporting it. For this essay, you can write about almost anything that has something of a connection to our readings or to our class discussions. Here’s some general topics you might consider writing about:

1. Compare and contrast the ideas of two different theorists we have read, and develop a thesis that shows how their different assumptions about ethics leads to different ideas about economics. Don’t worry about explaining everything about their ideas. This isn’t a report, but rather a paper focused on developing your own argument. An easy way to approach this paper would be to pick a quote from each writer and focus your paper entirely on showing the important differences that develop from the different ideas each writer expresses in those quotes.

2. Apply some of the ideas we have been discussing to current events. Pick an idea or two from a writer or two and attempt to explain what these show about a contemporary debate in current affairs. What would Hobbes say about the way we finance pharmaceutical research, for example. What would Mandeville think of restrictions on immigration? These are just a few examples of what you could write about. You could also combine this with option 1 and write about differences in how classical theorists might explain contemporary events.

3. Pick a provocative quote from one writer we have read and explain some of its larger implications about the relationship between ethics and economics. If you had a strong reaction to something one of the writers we read said, try to formulate in a more formal, analytic language what that is and then explain the nature of your reaction. What larger implications does this quote present?

4. Take a look at the new Dean Baker book, which IS available for free online. Here Baker goes into a lot more detail about some of his claims. Evaluate some of Baker’s more detailed analyses. Explain or define the relationship between this more extensive presentation and what we read earlier. Rather than just agreeing or disagreeing with Baker, try instead to demonstrate how things become more complicated as the details become more specific.

Whatever option you pick, or whether or not you pick one of the above options, try to avoid falling into the twin dangers of offering a book report or a harsh polemic. Avoid opinionated language like “I think,” “I believe,” “is wrong,” “is right,” “is good,” “is bad,” “contradicts him/herself,” etc. Also avoid summarizing or listing a series of facts without connecting them back to your thesis or explaining why they are important. The easiest way to do this is to present a clear thesis that sympathetically approaches your subject matter without becoming overly enamored of it.

I’ll primarily be looking for three things: a clearly defined and argumentative thesis; formal, analytic language; and a detailed analysis of the thesis and its implications. For citations, use MLA style (a works cited list with in-text citations). Bring a rough draft of ~2 pages for 9/9. The final is due 9/16.

Download the Word file here.

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