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Internet Forums: Online Social Contracts

April 17, 2011

A typical support forum

Since the internet is a place where information can be shared and received by virtually anyone, it can easily turn into a state of nature. In this state, information is difficult to find and may be disorganized. Online forums are communities designed to allow users to post on specific topics and ask questions, answer questions, or showcase their accomplishments. Without forums, consumers would be completely reliant on support that a company provides. There would be no record of the less-than-frequently asked questions. I have gone to forums to find answers more questions than FAQs, Yahoo Answers, and phone support combined. So, how are these online communities related to a social contract? Forums generally have the following attributes:


The admins act as the sovereign of a forum. They have the most power and have the ability to delete posts, remove accounts, and even ban users. They are often the people who started the forum and ultimate power is vested in them. When a user joins a forum, he or she is subscribing to a contract which puts their membership in the hands of the admins in exchange for the benefit of the forum.


These members are the authorities just under the admins. Unlike the admins, moderators can be nominated by users. They are appointed by admins, but admins may hold polls so that members can vote on who they want to be a moderator. Moderators are the most likely members to regulate the day-to-day postings on the forum. Moderators can be seen as the power of the sovereign (such as a police force or a military that keep the respective society in order)


Regular members are the largest presence on a forum. A member who registers for a username often will check a box signifying that he or she has read and will abide by the terms of the forum. The rules of the forums vary, but often consist of a few basic principles: no racist or prejudice comments, no images that would be deemed inappropriate, and no posts that directly attack (flame) or belittle another member in an unreasonable way. Much like citizens in a social contract, members agree to a certain form of conduct in order to enjoy the benefits of the information that the forum presents. One often does not have to be a member of a forum to read it, but members can post their own questions which will often get a response quickly, depending on the size and involvement of the community.


Just like any authority under a social contract, forum authorities have ways to punish and eliminate members of the forum. A suspension is the lesser of the two punishments. It would likely be delegated if any of the rules of the forum are broken. The suspension is normally a period of time where the member cannot post on the forum. The period of time varies, just as a sovereign might delegate varying punishments.

A ban, on the other hand, is much more permanent. The member’s account is deleted. More serious, however, is an IP ban. If this happens, one cannot connect to the forum with his or her IP address. This means that the user cannot just create another member account and reenter the forum. The sovereign has “killed” one of the members.


I would say that a forum works more like a monarchy than any other form of government. Interestingly enough, Rousseau believed that a monarchy is able to wield the most power over its people. So, perhaps it is appropriate for forums to act like monarchies when governing the many users of the internet, who may have a tendency to be rambunctious as a result of their protection behind the curtain of their computer screens.

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The Perfect Republic – A Village in India

April 17, 2011

After an entire semester of political theory, all of you will be very apprehensive when you read the words ‘perfect’ and ‘republic’ in the same sentence and more so when they put next to each other. I want to tell the story of “Ralegan Siddhi”  – a small village in India.

It’s population is a mere 2500, quite normal for an Indian village. In 1975 it was a dismal place to be in. It was just another drought prone poverty stricken places in India where almost everyone was impoverished, had a bad illicit alcohol problem and were living on less that $2 a day. They lacked basic amenities and necessities. Comfort did not exist. Fast forward to today and Ralegoan Siddhi is one of the most thriving and productive place in the country. Every person in the village now earns close to about $11,000 a year, which is miles ahead of their previous state. It was truly a miracle.

So what exactly happened? No it wasn’t foreign investment, and no it was not industrialization. The man who brought about all of this is a social activist who goes by the name of Anna Hazare. A retired soldier, he was the pioneer in turning the place around by involving people in social restructuring schemes, which centered around environmental preservation and natural resource development.

He identified that the lack of access to water was the main reason the village was impoverished, and urged the villagers to donate their labor in reconstructing the village water tank and embankment. With these fixed, the village wells filled up for the first time in memory, and water for agriculture was ensured. Many improvements followed, which included building human capital through education, building up a thriving dairy industry, environmental conservation efforts and many other things such as health reforms and massive self-sustenance efforts such as biogas and solar power. Seems that the villagers managed to lift themselves out of a state of nature (Hobbesian or Lockein is up for debate) almost where they were suffering and are now in a pretty nice place financially and socially.

But that is not the best part. A participatory form of government was set up within the village. Here is a diagram of the structure of governance:

Societies of citizens work on all important issues relating the village, and on the other hand, committees that represent the interests of all factions of the population (youth, women, education, religion) are present as well. These (and more not shown in the diagram) are answerable to the head of the village or the Sarpanch.

This structure reminds me of the lectures professor LaVaque0Manty gave on Marx. I think Marx would be proud to see this village.

In conclusion, Ralegaon Siddhi is an example of a model village. It brings together a lot of concepts which we talked about – a strong leader (Machiavelli), State of Nature (Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau), reformation and revolution (Rousseau) and economic motivations (Marx).

Do you think it is?

[Please Comment]

Solnit and the North Carolina Tornadoes, Storms

April 17, 2011

After hearing and reading about the disastrous tornadoes that struck North Carolina this past week, I couldn’t help but to think back to Rebecca Solnit’s “The Uses of Disaster.”  For those of you that haven’t heard, there was a series of three days of storms and tornadoes that fatally hit parts of the southwestern United States.  North Carolina received the majority of the disaster, while Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma were affected, as well.  Latest reports claim that at least 39 total people were killed.  Andy Mussoline, a meteorologist, claimed “I expect that total to rise, unfortunately.” (Barnett).  The surrounding areas were greatly affected, as well.  “Many communities have downed trees, downed power lines and a significant amount of debris on the roadways” (Barnett).  The following video shows a view of some of the damage.

Now, after reading about this disaster, I think Solnit’s views about the togetherness and generosity of people after disasters are evident in this instance. One report from a Lowe’s Home Improvement exemplifies the unusual camaraderie discussed by Solnit that resulted from the disaster.  In this instance, the manager of this Lowe’s saw the dangerous storm approaching and “he hustled more than 100 customers and workers” (Berger) to the back of the store before it collapsed.  Despite the building being completely destroyed, all of the customers and workers were able to escape the situation safely, mainly because of the manager’s valiant effort.  This example proves the “rare sense of fellowship in an atomized region” (Solnit) that Solnit describes after a particular disaster.  In this situation, the manager acted valiantly to help save not only himself, but the people around him, as well, which included customers that were most likely completely strangers to him.  This proves Solnit’s claims on disasters bringing people together, but her feelings of “sense of excitement,” and “ordinary life positively festive” (Solnit) are not exactly portrayed in this case.  Just days after the tragedy, people are not exactly enjoying the moment or in relief.  After seeing two young children trapped under trees, local homeowner Guillermo Villela cannot see anything but tragedy: “I see a lot of disaster. It’s bad.” (“Tornadoes, Storms Pummel NC”).  Moreover, an Iraqi war veteran posed some pretty disturbing thoughts when comparing the disaster to his experiences in the war: “He did two tours of duty in Iraq and the scene was worse than he ever saw in Iraq — that’s pretty devastating” (Berger).  Even with the heroic efforts of certain people, the tone and attitude in the environment following this disaster is far from upbeat and optimistic.  While Solnit’s ideas of continuity and togetherness between people comes to light in this situation, it is obvious that the encouraging and memorable atmosphere, which she highlights in many cases, does not exist in the affected regions.

Works Cited
Barnett, Ned. “UPDATE 2-Death Toll Hits 39 after U.S. Tornadoes, Storms | Reuters.” Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | 17 Apr. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <;.
Berger, Joseph. “North Carolina Bears Brunt of Tornado Rampage.” 17 Apr. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <;.
Solnit, Rebecca. “The Uses of Disaster: Notes on Bad Weather and Good Government.” Web. 17 Apr. 2011.
“Tornadoes, Storms Pummel NC ::” – Raleigh News, Weather, Triangle Traffic and NC Lottery. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <;.
“U.S. Storms Kill More than 40 –” – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <;.

Is Charity Truly How Hobbes Described it?

April 17, 2011

Ryo Ishikawa after a win.

A week ago, the 2011 Masters golf tournament came to an end with a victory by Charl Schwartzel. However, earlier in the week, before the major began on Thursday, there were a few stories that were closely followed by the media. One was Tiger Woods’ return to Augusta after his game had been steadily improving over the last few tournaments. Another was Phil Mickelson’s pursuit of a fourth green jacket, even though he had won the Shell Houston Open the week before (a feat that has never been accomplished). And the more heart-warming story of the week was that Ryo Ishikawa, a 19 year-old professional golfer from Japan, had promised to donate his 2011 winnings to help the disaster recovery in his native country after its devastating earth quake on March 11.

Ishikawa claimed that Japan wanted him to play not only the Masters, but also finish his regular schedule on the PGA Tour. Many sports journalists and PGA beat writers admired Yo, Ishikawa’s nickname, for not only the selfless gesture, but also for his maturity and how he has handled the situation. With much of his family still living in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami hit, he has played quite well on the Tour since then. However, I began to wonder, was the gesture really selfless? After all, he could always have taken a year off from the tour and gone back to Japan to help with the relief efforts. The entire situation reminded me of Hobbes’ view on charity, and his view on human nature, versus that of Rebecca Solnit.

In a lecture back in February, while we were discussing Hobbes, Professor Lavaque-Manty gave us an example of how Hobbes viewed charity. In an excerpt from John Aubrey’s Brief Lives, he mentions that Hobbes gave an old beggar a decent amount of money because it pained him not to do so. In brief, he gave the man money to help himself feel better. Hobbes’ thought that at least a little piece of every charitable act we do is selfish is consistent with his state of nature.

According to Rebecca Solnit in “The Uses of Disaster” uses people’s reactions to various natural disasters to argue against Hobbes’ view on humans. Her theory more agrees with Locke that people are good and that people help one another in the state of nature. I have typically agreed with this view. But recently, I have had to question if people actually perform charitable acts for themselves or are the acts out of selfishness.

For example, when people tell you about an positive experience that they had while volunteering, the most common thing that people say is, “It makes you feel so good about yourself”. Some might add that helping others makes you feel good about yourself, but ultimately it always comes back to them. I believe that the Ishikawa gesture was very nice, it was something that he did not have to do, and people would not have cared. He could have even just donated his winnings from the Masters and people would have been just as pleased. But, to a degree, his donation to the relief effort is his way of justifying him playing the rest of the Tour season, as are most acts of charity.

Machiavelli and College Football Coaches

April 17, 2011

By: Brendan Lapinski

Everyone who follows sports or even watches sportscenter from time to time probably has heard of multiple cases of college football coaches “cheating” to get players to come and play for them at their school. These transgressions include calling or texting high school recruits at inappropriate times, hosting dinner parties for recruits, or turning a blind eye to players already on the roster selling their jerseys or equipment for money. These transgressions seem to follow the best and most successful programs also: Pete Carroll at USC which resulted in a two year bowl ban, loss of 30 scholarships, and forfeiture of losses from the 2004-2005 and all of the 2005-2006 seasons, Urban Meyer at Florida helping recruit for another sport to land a wide receiver. The point of all this is, the best programs of the last 10 years have all had some kind of recruiting violation attached to them and this brings up my question. Would Machiavelli approve of their behavior? I tend to think yes because head college football coaches are like a prince in a way. They have to create and maintain an honest image to the public and be seen as a good, honest, hard-working, and truthful person. But at the same time they have to not only be successful off the football field but on it as well and the pressure to satisfy both these needs eventually will lead to cutting corners. Machiavelli in “The Prince” says that a prince has to maintain a good image but also be willing to act immorally for the good of the people, get your hands dirty. The recent and proven allegations against Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel in which he knew about his players selling their jerseys and whatnot for cash but he turned a blind eye and didn’t report these violations of the rules in order not to basically surrender the rest of the season. This eventually, and to my pleasure, lead to a 5 game suspension of both the players and Jim Tressel for the start of the 2011-2012 season. So, in essence, Tressel did act immorally for the good of his team, in the short run, which is a Machiavellian trait, but in the long run did he act in the good of his people, the players, program, student body, and school? And which this I lean towards Machiavelli not approving of his actions or other football coaches actions because in the long run it hurts the school more than it helps. I’m pretty split down the middle on this and it would be interesting if I could hear what any of you think. Would Machiavelli approve of the actions of these head football coaches?

Marxism in the NFL

April 17, 2011

With an impending NFL lockout, many people are beginning to worry.  A year in America without a football season?!  That’s like taking fire works away from the 4th of July!  For those that don’t know, there is currently a butting of heads occurring between the NFL team owners and the NFL Player’s Association that could lead to there being no 2011-12 NFL season.  Basically, the owners and the player’s association had a collective bargaining agreement that divided up the total revenue the NFL annually accrued and dispersed it based on an agreement that was made in 2006, with the owners receiving $1 billion out of the $9 billion total revenue.  That bargaining agreement expired and now the two sides have to reach a new agreement.  The problem?  The owners now want $2.4 billion instead of just the $1 billion due to the economic recession and the player’s association doesn’t want to give that up.  If they can’t agree, which they havent thus far after having been negotiating since just after the Super Bowl, then there probably won’t be an NFL season.

In viewing the dispute, I couldn’t help but notice how this relates to the Marxist ideals of the proletariats (the owners) and the bourgeoisie (the players).  Marx believes that the distinction between the ruling class (owners) and the working class (players) will eventually lead to either “…a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes” (Communist Manifesto, 1848).  This means that the working class is a much larger population that labors for the ruling class and that this disparity will eventually lead to a revolution of the working class to defunct the ruling class.  In relation to the NFL dispute, this quote holds true.  The owners are trying to secure more wealth for themselves through the labor of the players, but the players know that the owners need them as much as they need the owners, wherein the revolution lies.  The player’s association not agreeing to the terms of the owners will either, like Marx says, reconstitute the way in which the revenue is distributed or institute a lock out, which is “…ruining the contending class (owners)”.

From the outside, it just seems like the owners are being stuck-up, extremely wealthy businessmen that are attempting to make even MORE money.  These guys, for the most part, are all billionaires and the fact that they’re citing an economic recession as the reason why they need more money is blasphemous.  Yes, I understand that owning an NFL is very costly, but when you have a bank account that ends in over 9 zeros, a few hundred million should not be worth risking your company which makes 3x more than that yearly.  What do you guys think?  Are the owners justified in making this claim that they need more money or are the players overreacting and should just be happy they’re getting paid to play their sport?

Bob Knight Must Have Studied Machiavelli

April 17, 2011

Currently, Bob Knight sits a top of the leader board for all time wins by a college basketball coach.  He is also the only coach to win the NIT, NCAA March Madness Tournament, the Olympic Gold Metal, and the Pan American Games.  Knight also led Indiana to a perfect 32-0 season as well as winning the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year Award.  If I were to continue listing all of Knight’s achievements, this post would be incredibly long, so I’ll get to the point.  Overall, Knight is considered to be one of the best college basketball coaches of all time, and personally, I consider him to be the very best.

There are many different styles of basketball coaching, and Bobby Knight’s was unique to say the least.  However, if looked at closely, it is very to say that Knight approached the game with a very Machiavellian style.  Let me explain.  Machiavelli says that when a prince, or in this case coach, is deciding whether to be feared or loved, “it is safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both” (Machiavelli 72).  Knight took this approach to heart as he is arguably one of the most feared coaches in the history of any sport.  Even though this is example is quite extreme, there is footage of Knight choking one of his players during a practice in 1997.  Additionally he has been arrested for assault, is known for his excessive yelling, and I’m guessing most of you are familiar with his chair throwing incident.  However, despite all of these actions that might be considered a bad example, no player on any of Knight’s teams have ever gotten in trouble with the NCAA or their respective universities.  I believe this is because of the fear Knight instilled in them; something Machiavelli would be proud to see.

In chapter 10 of “The Prince,” Machiavelli discusses the importance of having a strong army to defend the nation (Machiavelli 46).  Machiavelli recommends that a prince “put together a sufficient army and fight a battle against anyone who comes to attack them” (Machiavelli 46).  It appears that Knight interpreted this in a basketball sense, as he prided his teams on superb defense.  It was known that whenever you played one of Knight’s teams, you were going to have trouble scoring the basketball no matter how good your offense was.  Knight valued defense of the basket, just like Machiavelli valued the defense of a nation.  People in the basketball world will tell you defense wins championships, and Bobby Knight’s dedication to defense is one of the main reasons he has so many.

My last comparison between Machiavelli and Knight comes in chapter 19 of “The Prince.”  In this chapter, Machiavelli tells a prince he should be wary of two things, “one internal, on account of his subjects; the other external on account of foreign power” (Machiavelli 79).  The way a coach can keep the internal aspect of this problem in order is to make sure he is respected by his players.  Even though Knight was feared and a little bit crazy, all of his players respected him and played hard for him each and every day.  Knight’s teams almost always had winning records, and when a team is winning the coach will have the attention and respect of his players.  As for outside sources, Knight could not let critics of his coaching style change the way he ran his team.  After the chocking and chair throwing incident, Knight was placed on a zero tolerance policy with Indiana University, meaning one more mishap would get him fired.  However, this did not make Knight change his coaching style because that would be letting the foreign powers win the battle.  This led to Knight keeping the respect of his players and coaching for several more years despite his old age.  Knight always made sure he stayed true to himself and his players, not letting an internal or external problem arise.

Even though Bobby Knight may be looked at as a crazy old man now, nobody can contest his success as a head basketball coach.  Knight will always be viewed as one of the greatest minds in basketball, partially because he took some advice from one of the greatest minds in politics.  Maybe more coaches should sit down and read “The Prince” if their team isn’t doing so well.

Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 1998. Print.

Pictures came from these URLs:,r:1,s:0

Bobby Knight Facts came from a life time of watching sports, so it is tough to give credit to any one source.  Some facts were also taken from this website:

The State of Nature: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder?

April 16, 2011



How Rousseau, Hobbes and Locke were shaped by their experiences.

Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau were among the theorists whose work was assigned reading for Political Science 101 students this term.  All three are social contract theorists, but they differed on several important issues, among them, their conception of the State of Nature.  Hobbes famously imagined it as a state of war, a struggle of all against all.  Hobbes would probably be in agreement with Martin Luther on the subject of war: “War is the greatest plague … Any scourge is preferable to it.”   For Hobbes, one fled the State of Nature in order to preserve one’s life.  Locke took a less negative view towards the State of Nature.  While he did feel that it was best to establish a social contract, for him the problem with the State of Nature was its inconvenience.  It was a matter of efficiency, not of life or death.  For Rousseau, however, the State of Nature was in fact preferable to the civilized order.  What Hobbes saw as a blessed escape, Rousseau perceived as a fall from grace.

It is interesting that three intelligent men who focused their energies on the same topic came up with such divergent interpretations.  Why did each of them feel the way that he did?  An analysis of the context in which each of these three theorists lived may provide us with some clues.  The defining event of Hobbes’ life was the English Civil War, a struggle that saw massive suffering and the devastation of his homeland – and the defeat of the side with which Hobbes was aligned.  For Hobbes, the breakdown of order was a horrible thing, to be avoided at all costs.  The other major European event of his era, The Thirty Years War, would have reinforced that view.  If this was what life was like when the social contract lapsed, then establishing a social contract would be a top priority, worth almost any sacrifice.  For Locke, the defining event of his life was another upset of the established order, the Glorious Revolution.  But, the Glorious Revolution was a brief and (largely) non-violent affair; indeed it has also been called the Bloodless Revolution.  Moreover, while Hobbes was aligned with the losing side to such an extent that he was forced to flee the country when the king was overthrown, Locke had his money on the winning horse.  For Locke, this brief disruption might have been an inconvenience, but he was better off when it was over and it did not cause much devastation.  Rousseau did not experience any significant war at all.  Instead, this Genevan in France contended with the problem of too much order.  The French government was repressive, and Rousseau saw his books banned or even burned by Royal authority, while he himself faced unpleasant government scrutiny

Considering the events that shaped the lives of these three theorists, it is not surprising that they came to take the stances which they did.  Hobbes saw massive suffering when the established order broke down, and as a result he argued that anything was preferable to the chaos that emerged in the absence of a strong central authority.  Rousseau, who struggled with government interference and never experienced a war in his life, idealized a state of affairs free from the governmental harassment that he faced.  Locke, whose life experiences fell somewhere between those two extremes, had a conception of the state of nature that was more moderate than either of the other two options.

What, then, does this do for our understanding of political theory?  It does not necessarily change one’s understanding of any of the three author’s texts as texts (although a concept of the context of a work’s production can at times prove helpful in understanding the work).  However, it does seem to show how, since all three of these theorists were divorced from the state of nature, with no experience of it, they based their description of the state of nature on what that they did experience – be it war or persecution by Royal authority – and therefore their ideas related to the state of nature should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.  This should also serve as a reminder that we should be cautious about making any claim that one thing or another is natural; after all, we are just as far separated from a true state of nature as any of these three theorists.

A Class Conflict Immune to Marxist Ideology

April 16, 2011

In his book Ill Fares the Land famed historian and political activist Tony Judt portrays American Society in a manner that resembles Karl Marx’s interpretation of pre-communist Europe. Like Marx, Judt views society as a constant antagonism between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie. He argues that in America, unregulated globalization and a cultural obsession with consumption have created a growing fiscal disparity between the upper and lower classes. Since the United States imports much of its unskilled labor and consumes a great deal of cheaply made foreign products, domestic demand for working class employment is diminishing. Simultaneously, the American economy’s specialization in producing and exporting information technology has created a new necessity for educated professionals, enhancing the opportunities for skilled laborers at the expense of those for the working class. Like Russia in the early 20th Century, America is facing a social crisis. the working class is being undermined by the unregulated expansion of capitalism into the global sphere, and a culturally embedded obsession with material acquisition has made Americans apathetic to it. Judt argues that unlike the social condition of pre-communist Europe, however, America’s social problem could never be self-correcting. So long as capitalism goes unchecked by governmental regulation, he writes, the Proletariat will continue to be supplanted by foreign labor until it is displaced altogether – there cannot be a communist uprising without a domestic working class, and so the American Proletariat will not be rescued by Marxist Ideology; its continuance will fall victim to globalization. While it appears a cynical vision of our nation’s future, Judt’s conclusion does not seem unreasonable when one considers the fragility of society.

The working class is indeed a mainstay for the success of the American commonwealth, and it is certainly diminishing. If it were to disappear, it would undoubtedly be supplanted by an impoverished and largely unemployed lower class. While the creation of a predominantly destitute citizenry would jeopardize the validity of the social contract (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would only be guaranteed to those wealthy enough to purchase them), even those citizens fortunate enough to ensure their own well-being would eventually subside; the Bourgeoisie may be able to temporarily survive off the fruits of imported labor, but the fertility of the global market is never a guarantee. If the foreign labor supply were to significantly shrink (for reasons most likely out of our government’s control), American industry would be without a sufficiently trained domestic labor force to draw from, and in time, our nation’s economy would collapse.  Thus, in encouraging American businesses to outsource their production to countries like China and India and endorsing its citizens’ immense consumption of products manufactured abroad, the United States Government is agitating an already profound class conflict and ensuring the irrecoverable degeneration of American Society.

While Judt draws similar conclusions to Marx in his analysis of American Society, he suggests that the evolution of capitalism has created a unique social circumstance in the United States that cannot be simply corrected by communist revolution. If one considers the implications of an unregulated global economy sustained by a materially obsessed American people, he must concede that the government should take action to ensure our nation’s commonwealth is preserved. Specifically, the United States Government should intervene in its nation’s economy in order to reduce domestic reliance on foreign labor. Unlike the exploitation of workers in early 20th Century Russia, the salvation of the American working class cannot be left up to revolution because the proletariat is not being oppressed – It is being extinguished.

Today’s Proletariat of big corporations still getting the raw end of deal.

April 16, 2011

Like most red-blooded Americans, I support capitalism.  It gives citizens the

freedom to endless careers and the competition drives companies to quality in products.  So I first must emphasize that I find Marx and his communistic views as flawed and detrimental to a nation’s effort to become successful.  However, even in today’s economy, there still lingers a problem in the system that is accurate in what Karl Marx called a flaw in the capitalistic economy.

Marx thought capitalism created a discrepancy between owner and proletariat.  He believed the system drove owners to get as much labor for as little pay possible in order to make a profit.  Unfortunately, I still see this issue in some of the big corporations such as Starbucks, ConAgra Foods, or Nike.  Yes, these are only a few examples, but observe how many other companies a giant like ConAgra actually owns (  Each of these two corporations as well others have multi-billion dollar empires that have spread nationwide.  However, behind these staggering profits lie injustice and the use of exploited workers all over the world.

While Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz has a net worth of $1.1 billion, he refuses to use Fair Trade Coffee in his global franchise.  To those who don’t know what this is, it is coffee sold from plantations where working conditions are suitable and wages are fairly set based on how well the coffee market is doing.  But Schultz rejects the idea as he and his company continue to use exploited workers across Central and South America who work for little or no wages in slavery-like plantations.  ConAgra has also been infamous in the mistreatment of its workers.  In Fast Food Nation, a book by Richard Linklater, I read how their workers in slaughterhouses endured the grotesquely septic work environments that resulted in horrifying injuries and death.  All the while, they worked for salaries that were easily minimum wage and were fired if injured.

An extreme but important example of this disparity is sports good giant, Nike, and their exploitation of child labor.  Despite this being not as common, it still is a grave issue that Marx could not have been more right on since Nike is still prospering worldwide.   Again, I am not condemning capitalism nor do I foresee these victims overthrowing the CEO’s and bringing the rise of communism.   I just want to make clear that Marx made fairly accurate speculations in the hazards of a capitalists’ economy – that to become top dog, these big businesses must obtain cheap labor that requires little or no payment to produce the largest yield of goods possible.  It is a disturbing issue I hope reforms itself to give this country and capitalism in general, a cleaner image.

Bringing it Back to Machiavelli

April 16, 2011

As we draw near the end of the semester, and thus the end of Political Science 101, I have begun to think back to all of the readings and all of the philosophers we have read. I continue to come back to Machiavelli and all of his views presented in “The Prince.” As I wasn’t blogging at the time of our reading of Machiavelli, and I have continued interest in his work, I decided to come back and write about his views and why they most interest me.

Last night I watched the movie “Miracle.” For those who don’t know, it is a movie based on the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team that shocked the world by winning the gold medal, and beating the unbeatable Soviets along the way. In this movie, the coach, Herb Brooks, make a clear statement to his team that he is not there to be liked by the players, or to be their friend. Instead, he is there to lead them. I could not find the exact scene where he says this, but the below scene is a good replacement, as it highlights this mentality.

Machiavelli states that it is better to be feared than loved. Coach Brooks also realizes this, and has total control over the team, and the respect of every single player, because he leads them with a strong (but fair) hand. Also, Machiavelli believes that it is important for a prince (or leader) to surround himself with advisers that will be truthful and constructive, as opposed to yes-men. The assistant coaches for this team question Brooks’ decisions, and give their opinions.

So far the two views of Machiavelli have been at least somewhat positive. How about Machiavelli’s opinion that it is better to spend your time appearing virtuous, instead of being virtuous? This seems like bad quality in a leader, as we clearly want our leader to live a virtuous life…right? On second thought, maybe Machiavelli’s philosophy, ignorance is bliss, isn’t as absurd as first thought. Why is it important for the President of the United States to be virtuous? Is it because this means that we can trust him to make morally responsible decisions? Let’s go back to the clip we viewed in lecture about the WWII bombings on Tokyo. As McNamara said, if they had not won the war, they would have been tried for war crimes. Leaders are forced to make decisions daily that are lose-lose, or at least seem that way. The normal person would struggle to make these decisions. Being virtuous is to have or show high moral standards. Is it morally correct to bomb Libya to stop Qaddafi’s dictatorial actions? This is obviously a tough question that we will struggle to agree on. So it seems difficult for a leader to always be virtuous in the eyes of everyone. This shows that even if they wished to be truly virtuous, it isn’t that simple. So more easily a leader should support whatever decision he makes with reasons why that decision was the virtuous one. This then creates a leader who seems virtuous to the people, while maybe actually acting less than virtuous.

Is it important that Bush’s intentions were pure in his invasion of Iraq years ago? People will say yes as a knee-jerk reaction, but in the end, does it make a difference? There were definitely problems in the middle east that could easily have warrented intervention. This intervention occured, and Hussain was replaced. Does it matter that he did it for the right reason as much as it matters that the world believes he did it for the right reason?

To be clear, I am of the majority that desires a truly virtuous leader. I am also not here to argue for or against the invasions of either Libya or Iraq. However, I do believe that Machiavelli’s statements carry more truth and justifaction than people want to believe. Maybe it is better for the populace to believe that their leader is virtuous. These questions are provocative and stimulating. Machiavelli’s prince (or leader) seems to be one based on efficiency and power. As we can see, his desired leader has been present throughout our society in many ways. From coaches to presidents, and everything in between, Machiavelli’s philosophy has influenced many people, for better or worse.

What on earth is the Communism?

April 16, 2011

Karl Marx, influenced by the Hegelian Dialectics and Feuerbach’s Materialism, predicts that the social institution will evolve from the Primitive Communism, with a series of upheavals, to Slavery, Feudalism, Capitalism and eventually the Advanced Communism, where all property and government institutions disappear. Since there are many intermediate and seemingly unstable stages that exist in order to realize the Advanced Communism, is the Advanced Communism eventually the final stage as what Marx has claimed, or just another intermediate stage, or a recursive stage back to the Capitalism?

If the Communism is the final stage of the evolvement of social institutions,  then Marx has the accountability to explain why this stage is more stable than the previous stages and why it could not be another intermediate stage towards future evolvement. However, he only offers a panorama of what the Advanced Communism would be, but was not able to provide convincing reasoning or empirical evidence to support his conjecture. He imagines that after the achievement of the Advanced Communism, the idea of class vanishes, and so does the struggle between different classes. Therefore, the group of people who were previously in the higher class of the social hierarchy cannot use those previously in the lower class as “exploited machines,” and the complexity of industrial processes fades away, and under this condition, the division of labor disappears. Without the division of labor, people can engage in the professions that they are most interested in. As far as Marx has concerned, with the interest in what they are working on, people will probably enhance the working efficiency and gain more leisure time and thus more happiness.

But, what are the incentives of those in the higher hierarchy to share profits or privileges with those in the lower class? Or, if capitalists in terms of those in the higher class have left more than the least means of production for those in the lower class to survive and even to entertain themselves, what are the incentives of those in the lower hierarchy to initiate the revolution? I could hardly solicit  any support from reliable sources to answer the two questions above. Therefore, from my perspective, if the Advanced Communism has ever existed,  then it is just a recursive stage back to the Capitalism, although the appearance of which may have been altered to some extent by the eradication of some major flaws.

What is Excellence

April 16, 2011


      Apparently Ricky Bobby pisses it, but what is excellence?  About a week ago, I read an excerpt from professor La Vaque-Manty’s book The Playing fields of Eton.  In this excerpt the professor was trying to define what excellence is.  First, he considers a relatively straight forward analysis of excellence: those who do the best are the most excellent, and people diminish in terms of excellence from there.  Next, he considers meaningful competition.  The word “excellence” by itself is arbitrary.  When competitors that all seek the same goal line up against one another, and one obtains that goal, excellence is defined.  The professor contends that this is one way to look at meaningful competition.  He then defines meaningful competition in another, perhaps better, way: as something “determined by social conventions, which, in turn, reflect social values” (La Vaque-Manty p. 150)

       After reading this text, I agreed with the notion that meaningful competition can at least be one way to define excellence.  I realized that this had some huge implications.  This meant that social values define excellence.  After thinking about this idea for a while, I realized that I agreed.  Something only becomes excellence when social values say it is.  For example, there are many YouTube videos that showcase people with strange talents; however, many people would not consider this excellence.  One reason for this is the people with these talents do not have any meaningful competition.  Since these people are not considered to be “excellent,” it is unlikely they will get meaningful competition.  People would rather go into endeavors where they have a chance at excellence.  The only way for these people to achieve excellence is for social values to change.  If this happens more people would participate and meaningful completion could be possible.

       Defining “excellence” then, is only possible if you are defining it at a certain time for a certain place.  Social conventions change over time and so does the concept of excellence.  Women at one point were incapable of holding excellence; this is no longer the case.  It is a constantly changing term that is defined by the people.  One reason why women’s sports get so frustrated at low attendance is much more difficult to hold excellence, if there are few people watching.  Social values are much harder to change if people are not watching you compete.

       Excellence then, will remain a vague term.  One that is constantly changing due to time and place.  A good example of this is curling in the Olympics.  I certainly don’t think this is an example of excellence and I bet many of you do not either.  At some point or place though, someone must have thought that this sport was a good demonstration of excellence as it is in the Olympics.  The bottom line is defining excellence is very hard by nature.  The best way to define the term may be as something done by a person in such a way as the public noticed and was awed by it.

La Vaque-Manty, Mika. The Playing Fields of Eton: Equality and Excellence in Modern Meritocracy. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.      



I Love Socialism

April 16, 2011

I don’t see the problem with a more socialist America. To me, socialism means equality and isn’t that what this country is based on anyway? The words socialism and communism have obtained a negative connotation. Some people believe that Hitler’s regime was socialist/communist or that Mussolini was a communist. The fact is, these leaders were the direct opposite of socialism and communism. They were fascist, and anti-communist. Their policies were aimed to form an elite, hierarchal ruling class that used violence as a method to suppress state opposition. Socialism and communism seek to do just the opposite. They are systems which reduce the hierarchal class structures in society, and make every citizen equal to the next. Socialism suggests that the means of production are not owned by private individuals, but by the state and therefore people as a whole. This means that society is run with equal power, cooperation in terms of the means of production, and shared decision making. It’s a system the promotes the good of all.

Marx advocated for socialism in his Communist Manifesto. He said that socialism was the first building block to communism. I agree with Marx in his assessment against capitalism. He said that capitalism was a system that alienated workers, essentially creating an impoverished class. In a capitalist society, prices of goods are no longer a function of use value, but of profit. Capitalists manage to take something from the worker and sell it for more. This is a form of exploitation and theft, because the worker is still making the same wage, while the capitalist is rolling in dough. Although it’s the worker’s labor that produced the good, the worker is in poverty while the capitalist is rich from profit.

This system of exploitation can be seen in today’s society, with roughly 15% (44 million) of Americans living below the poverty line. A single mother can work three jobs to stay afloat. The son of a wealthy business owner, whose father just retired and gave the company to him, can sit at his desk and boss people around and do none of the work but get all of the pay. That son can go to a prestigious private school and weasel his way into an ivy league university just because of the money attached to his name. The single mother can’t go to college because she doesn’t have enough money. She can’t get good healthcare or dental care for her family. She is forced to live in a small house in a bad part of town and send her kids to a school which is poorly staffed and poorly funded.

Socialism would get rid of monopolies by big companies and would end unfair wages for more strenuous jobs. Each worker would get a fair wage for his or her work. Health care and education would be equally available for each person. A more socialist economy would lessen the amount of poverty in America. There would be no one living on the streets. There would be no starvation or lack of shelter. People would be able to get an equal education and live with the same comforts as any other citizen. And socialism is bad?

  “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporality embarrassed millionaires.”
— John Steinbeck

What do you think?

Gas prices setting new classes.

April 16, 2011

I don’t know if this is the BIGGEST stretch in the world but when I was reading the communist manifest early this week I was thinking about Oil and the U.S. Marx states that there will always be, “new forms of struggle in place of old ones” (Chapter 1). New innovations catalyze even newer class distinctions. At first, man probably had class distinctions based off of survival the fittest, but times have changed. Nowadays, society is based off of money and to be more select, oil. America has developed a large dependency on oil producing countries, which in return has catalyzed class distinctions in regards to countries. In modern society, oil can be categorized as a driving force that has developed distinctions between the U.S. and the oil rich countries. One can even go the distance and say that the U.S. can be categorized as the proletariats and oil rich countries the bourgeousie. Marx makes clear that, “the need for a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, and establish connections everywhere” (Chapter 1). So it makes sense that the rich oil countries would sell their high demand good to the whole world. The way that they hold oil from certain countries “compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image” (Chapter 1) We Americans work hard to pay for oil which generates power to our cars and other necessities in society. We are very vulnerable if the gas prices go up or down depending how the oil countries sell the product to us. We are slaves to these countries because we are obsessed with working and obtaining the good. But Marx states that, these oil rich countries “bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property” (chapter 1). However, I don’t necessarily agree with him on that. I think it would be very hard for the proletariat to overcome such a bourgeousie with so much power over them. Oil is such a scarce and in demand product in the world right now. Therefore it would be very hard to overcome the higher class when they have what the proletariats want.

The Kibbutz…a Communist establishment?

April 16, 2011

After reading The Communist Manifesto and Marx and Engel’s shared desire to end capitalism – the system they believed was responsible for the exploitation of workers, I was immediately prompted to think about the kibbutzim in Israel. (Before I begin to describe and analyze the kibbutzim, I want to preface my post by saying that I am analyzing the traditional kibbutzim, not the kibbutzim that still exist today. As I will later discuss, the kibbutzim underwent a major transformation from communal, socialist-based establishments to privatized, capitalist-based establishments in the recent decades.)

A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel. These communities were established throughout the country after thousands of Jews emigrated to Palestine after the Russian Pogroms of the late 19th century/early 20th century. These Jews are referred to as “the pioneers” because they were the people who transformed the uncivilized land of Palestine into the flourishing country of Israel we know today. The kibbutzim all began with agriculture, as the land of Palestine was completely marshy, barren, and infertile. “Ideologically, the kibbutz [was] based on a utopian-communist notion that [sought] to create ‘a new man’ and ‘reformed society,’ which would realize the values of cooperation and equality, in the spirit of socialism” (Halfin, pg.3). This statement immediately brought the declarations in The Communist Manifesto to mind. Like Marx and Engels, the first kibbutzniks (members of the kibbutz) sought to create a new type of society where all would be equal and free from exploitation.

Jews working at one of the first kibbutzim

Life at the kibbutzim was based on community. Additionally, one of the most important aspects of the kibbutzim was the limitation placed on private property. “In the first years of the kibbutz all private property was banned — clothes, linens, furniture and utensils — were all part of the communal property and were allotted to members according to their needs” (Halfin, pg. 4). In The Communist Manifesto, it is written, “The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property” (Wootton, pg. 805). The members of the kibbutz would rotate jobs including working the fields, working in the dining halls, working with the farm animals, working with the children, and much more. Every kibbutznik would participate in the daily functions that made the kibbutz run smoothly. “The kibbutz function[ed] as a direct democracy. Th general assembly of all its members formulate[d] policy, elect[ed] officers, authorize[d] the kibbutz budget and approve[d] new members. It serve[d] not only as a decision-making body but also as a forum where members [would] express their opinions and views” (Jewish Virtual Library). Marx would have most likely approved of this democratic system in the kibbutz because he believed democracy was the road to Socialism, which would eventually lead to Communism.

One statement in The Communist Manifesto that I found extremely interesting was the statement, “The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour” (Wootton, pg. 807). Here, Marx and Engels are declaring that industrialization was responsible for destroying family ties of the proletarians. This is interesting when analyzing the transformation the kibbutzim in Israel underwent beginning in the 1970s. Although the kibbutzim were based on agriculture when first established, in recent decades they began to branch out into manufacturing. The kibbutz industry is now comprised of manufacturing clothing, irrigation systems, metal work, plastics, and processed foods (Jewish Virtual Library). Today, many kibbutzim are primarily concerned with tourism — housing people from all over the world and hosting a wide array of educational programs for youth and volunteers.

Housing in modern-day kibbutz

During my sophomore year in high school, I lived in Israel for four months. When my parents came for a week to visit me, we went to a kibbutz in the north of Israel and stayed there for two days. During our stay, we were toured around the entire kibbutz and taken to the vineyards because this kibbutz was one of the major wine producers in the country. Although this kibbutz still had members rotating jobs and cooperating as a community, the kibbutzniks had private property and made their own income, which went against the traditional philosophy of the kibbutz. The site of the kibbutz resembled more of a “touristy” hotel than a socialist settlement. This reflects the current state of the majority of kibbutzim in Israel.

After closely analyzing the kibbutz establishment, I believe that although the Communist ideologies Marx and Engels advocated for are inherently part of the traditional ideologies of the kibbutz, it is not entirely reflexive of a Communist institution. One major reason for this conclusion is because Marx and Engels rejected conventional formulations of the nation-state, and the kibbutz was a major part of Israeli society. “Before the establishment of the State of Israel and in the first years of statehood, the kibbutz assumed central functions in settlement, immigration, defense, and agricultural development” (Jewish Virtual Library). Thus, the kibbutzim were integral to the establishing of the State of Israel since their inception. I believe the first kibbutzim were built upon Socialist and Zionist principles that called for a system based on communal ownership of property and equality among all members.


Click to access Halfin_Moral+Economies+.pdf

Modern Political Thought, David Wootton.

Kibbutzim and Communism

April 16, 2011

While reading Marx and Engels’s Communest Manifesto, it brought me back to a few summers ago when I visited a Kibbutz in Israel. A Kibbutz, for those of you who don’t know, is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. This is a recent picture of a Kibbutz in the Golan Heights. Kibbutzim started up in the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century when the Russian and European jews began to immigrate to Palestine. This was called the first aliyah.

Although Marx and Engels promoted a revolt of the P to the B, this did not occur in Israel to start the Kibbutzim. The jews who fled to Palestine did however come from Russia and the other European societies and knew of the capitalist structure. In a way, they had a mini revolt form capitalist society and developed an initial communist society. Kibbutzim were an easy way to have a relatively large amount of people live in Israel and expand their new economy and production.

Even without the Marx and Engels revolutionary beginning, Kibbutzim are mainly based on Marx and Engels’s principles from the Communist Manifesto. The measures that should be taken in for a communist society to arise are basically all applicable to Kibbutzim.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the brining into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c. &c.

Kibbutzim in Israel follow these rules or measures almost completely. There is no private land ownership, somewhat heavy taxes, no inheritance, all money is centralized in one bank on the kibbutz, and basically all the other measures are followed. I’m not sure about measure 4, since I personally did not witness an emigration taking place or a rebel.

Kibbutzim were the beginning of Israel’s society and economy. Israel had grown into a thriving industrialized economy with some kibbutzim still surviving. Maybe Marx and Engels were right when they talked about communism, but only in the correct circumstances.

Equal Prize Money: Mill’s Idea?

April 16, 2011

Over the past four decades, the men’s and women’s tennis game has been transforming regarding prize money. Past tennis player Billie Jean King pioneered a movement about forty years ago that worked toward equal prize money for both the men’s and women’s tour when she successfully convinced the US Open to award equal prize money for both men and women after her historic “Battle of the Sexes” match. This idea was not immediately accepted by other tournaments (for reasons I will go into later), but it soon took hold when Venus Williams zealously supported this movement, too. By 2006 and after an over thirty-year battle, all of the Grand Slam tournaments–Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open–adopted the policy that women would be awarded the same amount of prize money as men. For example, currently, the winners of the US Open, regardless of gender, both make 1.7 million dollars, a number that is fast rising. This movement toward equality has received much criticism but also strong support from spectators and players.

The pressing question is whether or not equal prize money can really be justified? That idea is one that players like Venus Williams easily agree with. Prior to Wimbledon 2006, Williams published her argument in the Times as to why women deserve equal prize money:

I believe that athletes — especially female athletes in the world’s leading sport for women — should serve as role models. The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling. My fear is that Wimbledon is loudly and clearly sending the opposite message….Wimbledon has argued that women’s tennis is worth less for a variety of reasons; it says, for example, that because men play a best of five sets game they work harder for their prize money. This argument just doesn’t make sense; first of all, women players would be happy to play five sets matches in grand slam tournaments…Secondly, tennis is unique in the world of professional sports. No other sport has men and women competing for a grand slam championship on the same stage, at the same time. So in the eyes of the general public the men’s and women’s games have the same value. Third, … we enjoy huge and equal celebrity and are paid for the value we deliver to broadcasters and spectators, not the amount of time we spend on the stage. And, for the record, the ladies’ final at Wimbledon in 2005 lasted 45 minutes longer than the men’s….Wimbledon has justified treating women as second class because we do more for the tournament. The argument goes that the top women — who are more likely also to play doubles matches than their male peers — earn more than the top men if you count singles, doubles and mixed doubles prize money. So the more we support the tournament, the more unequally we should be treated!

Her argument ultimately led to Wimbledon enacting equal prize money for both men and women; however, her argument has been contradicted by many people. I found this odd but informative video on youtube that easily sums up some of the reasons and arguments as to why women should not be awarded the same amount of prize money:

Likewise, there seems to be many major differences between the men’s and women’s tour such as the idea that women as are not working as hard or bringing in as many viewers that would support the argument that women are not deserving of equal prize money.

After presenting both sides to the argument, I wanted to relate this controversial argument back to political theory: Would Mill be in favor of equal prize money? At first glance, any equality among men and women would seem to be supported by Mill. The idea that women are treated equally would be supported by Mill; however, in this case, would he believe that women are deserving of this treatment? Firstly, the nature of women is truly unknown; therefore, according to Mill, we are not able to determine if women are even able to compete in 3 out of 5 sets like the men’s game. “What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing–the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others” (Mill 662). As of right now, they do not compete in the same amount of sets as men, so can their equal prize money really be justified? Nature dictates what women can become, and since women are currently not seeking to equalize themselves in regards to their amount of time of the tennis court, how can they desire equal prize money? Moreover, Mill is in favor of a utilitarian system that would empower women in order to enhance individual development and society as a whole, but equal prize money does not do this. Aren’t women getting the easy way out? If women were playing under the same conditions on the court regarding the amount of sets played then they would rightfully deserve equal prize money or even if they were competing against men they would also deserve equal prize money; however, women’s matches, which can easily last under an hour, are not the same length or intensity as men’s matches. In a Grand Slam tournament now, women can be on the court for under 10 hours total and receive the same amount of winner’s prize money as a man who is on the court for over 21 total hours. In the case, I believe that Mill would want women to be playing the same amount of sets and under more similar conditions in order for women to deserve equal prize money. What do you guys think, would Mill support equal prize money in the sport of tennis, moreover, would Mill think that the sport of tennis is even ready to enact equal prize money?

Works Cited

Mill, John. “The Subjection of Women.” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzshe. Ed. David Wooton. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2008. Print.

Impartial Judging and Locke’s Thoughts

April 16, 2011

This picture is from

This summer I will be interning at the Washtenaw County Courthouse under Judge Melinda Morris, who deals with both criminal and civil cases. Earlier in the term, when we read Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, we focused on Locke’s idea of the impartial judge, and how impartial judging is vastly important to the foundation of government; the government formed through the consent of the people. If you remember, Locke states that, “And so whoever has the legislative or supreme power of any common-wealth, is bound to govern by established standing laws, promulgated and known to the people, and not by extemporary decrees; by indifferent and upright judges, who are to decide controversies by those laws” (Locke, sec 131). In this blog, I would like to apply the idea of impartial judging to our current judicial system, namely how the Washtenaw County Courthouse utilizes juries in order to make decisions in terms of convictions. Furthermore, I would like to pose the question: Can we consider convictions based on a unanimous jury decision to be a form of “impartial judging”? 

            So from how I understand it, once both sides of the case are heard and testimony is exhausted, the jury members are sent to deliberate on what they have heard, and in turn determine whether or not the defendant is guilty or not guilty. I am also aware of the fact that all possible jurors go through a jury selection process prior to this, in order to eliminate all conflicts of interest and bias that may arise due the potential jury members’ experiential relation to a similar issue.

            However, with all this being said, I personally still don’t feel that the conviction process in our judicial system is “impartial”. What is to say that someone in the jury had withheld information in regards to having experienced a similar issue in their own lives, such as an instance of domestic violence, which will hold some sort of influence on their decision as to convict the defendant or not? Let me provide an example of such an instance. Let’s say that John Smith was currently being tried for committing three counts of domestic violence against his wife. After hearing the testimony of both the defendant and the plaintiff, they are sent back to the room to deliberate. Unluckily for the defendant however, two of the folks on the jury had been victims of domestic violence in the past, yet had withheld this information during the jury selection procedure. Furthermore, it seems quite clear from the evidence that the client is not guilty. However, lets say that these two individuals are able to persuade the rest of the group to concur with their guilty verdict. Finally, deliberation has concluded, and they have convicted the defendant on all three counts. The problem, however, is that in reality he was innocent.

            Can we really consider this to be impartial judging? In my personal opinion, we can’t. Though the judge in end gets to determine what the exact sentence will be for the defendant, the man was still convicted on three counts of a crime that he didn’t even commit, based on the bias of the two jury members, who decided to go against the law and withhold information during the selection process. Obviously in this case, it is not impartial judging. Furthermore, I can only imagine how often this actually happens in courtrooms throughout our country, both this instance and the opposite; where folks are considered innocent because of a few deviating folks who have committed similar crimes and expressed a sense of sympathy for the defendant. Therefore, in my opinion, though I don’t have a better alternative to the idea of a jury trial, I feel as though it is still not impartial, and therefore something should be done.

Who Would Be On Your Mount Rushmore Of Polsci 101?

April 16, 2011

The presidents that we see on Mount Rushmore are there because they have proven to be influential in the founding and ideas of our nation. I want to ask you, however, who would be on your Mount Rushmore of Political Science 101? Which political theorists have caught your attention and influenced the way you think after studying about them and why?

My Mount ‘PolsciMore” would include, first and foremost, Socrates. Of course Socrates would be my number one because of the way in which he made me consider what I value. Socrates died for what he believed in and proved that he really thought that the only life worth living was the examined one. I think if more people today did not allow outside influence to sway their decisions, the world would be a much better place. Socrates showed us that keeping to your values at any cost is the only way to live your life.

Seated next to Socrates would be Martin Luther King Jr. MLK affected many people that did not even realize it. You don’t have to be African American to appreciate MLK’s use of the tools the constitution gave people to peacefully and assertively fight against injustice. MLK showed that violence was not necessary to get a point across and I have the utmost respect for him for keeping cool while fighting for rights that should not have been excluded to minorities.


Next would appear the face of John Locke. The reason I would make a place for Locke is because of his thoughts that the purpose of the government is to allow people to pursue their own goals. I find this important because it has some foundation to the “American Dream” in the sense that it protects what we work for and assures us that the government will be there to protect what we have earned. I also liked Locke’s idea of the social contract in which both the government and the people are accountable and can violate it. As opposed to Hobbes’s contract, I feel that Locke’s keeps the government’s actions closer to the people’s needs.

Rounding off the list would be John Stuart Mill. Mill helped me see the importance in listening to everybody, even if they are wrong. By listening to other opinions, we can better define ourselves and understand why we believe the way we do. Also, Mill’s desire for policies that were for the greatest benefit for the greatest number while still ensuring the freedoms of the individual appear to be fair. Here we see some balance between the good for all and the good for the individual, where some other political theorists only favored one.

So who would be on your Mount Rushmore of Polsci 101?







Picture Sources:

J.S. Mill

John Locke



Mount Rushmore