‘Ethics & Public Policy’ course in Fall ’18

For the Fall semester of 2018, I’m planning an upper level course here at the University of Kentucky in ‘Ethics and Public Policy,’ PHI 531, Section 1, which will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 – 4:45 pm. The course will begin with an examination of major moral traditions as well as ethical problems that are special challenges for leadership in the policy sphere. We will then survey a variety of policy areas and documents in which moral consideration is deeply important and needed.

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

A stack of newspapers.Areas of interest and application for the course will include:

  • Educational Aims & Policies
  • Mass lncarceration
  • Healthcare Ethics
  • Economic Development Policies
  • Climate Change
  • Human Rights
  • Research Ethics
  • Animal Rights
Image of a flyer for the course, featuring the information described on the present page.

Flyer for the course.

My former students who have studied ethics and public policy with me have gone on to work in the White House, under both the present and previous administrations, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the State Department, the F.B.I., the Heritage Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and numerous think-tanks, as well as a variety of offices in state government. There is need for study of the kind addressed in this course also for countless advocacy groups and organizations, as well as in current events journalism.

For those interested, here is the University of Kentucky’s page with information about how to register for courses for the Fall of 2018.

For those interested in more information now, you can check out my books on ethics and public policy, including:

Cover for 'Morality, Leadership, and Public Policy.'

 

Morality, Leadership, & Public Policy (London: Bloomsbury, 2010)

 

Photo of the paperback and hardback editions of 'Democracy and Leadership.'Democracy and Leadership: On Pragmatism and Virtue (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013)

and

Paperback editions featuring the cover of 'Uniting Mississippi.'Uniting Mississippi: Democracy and Leadership in the South (Jackson, MS: The University Press of Mississippi, 2015)

 

The logo for Philosophy Bakes Bread, which involves to slices of bread with tails, making them look like dialogue bubbles.In addition, for those who are unfamiliar, I co-host the Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show & podcast that airs on WRFL Lexington, 88.1 FM and in the show we cover a number of public policy topics. Give it a listen!

6/7s Abolition

It’s France’s fête nationale–Bastille Day–marking the storming of the Bastille Saint-Antoine. The crowd of revolutionaries were mostly looking for guns and ammunition held by the garrison of soldiers stationed there, but they also suspected that the prisoners were being tortured. (They weren’t.) Seven prisoners were freed that day: four forgers, two mentally-ill people, and one aristocrat.

In the US we should celebrate today as Prison Abolition Day.

I consider myself a prison abolitionist in the same way that Angela Davis is: I think the United States massively over-incarcerates its citizens, especially its Black citizens. I think that prisons ought to be spaces of education and care rather than domination. And I think that our communities must be redesigned to prevent the crimes for which we send people to prison.

In thinking specifically about the abolition of prisons using the approach of abolition democracy, we would propose the creation of using an array of social institutions that would begin to solve the social problems that set people on the track to prison, thereby helping to render the prison obsolete. There is a direct connection with slavery: when slavery was abolished black people were set free, but they lacked access to the material resources that would enable them to fashion new, free lives. Prisons have thrived over the last century precisely because of the absence of those resources and the persistence of some of the deep structures of slavery. They cannot, therefore, be eliminated unless new institutions and resources are made available to those communities that provide, in large part, the human beings that make up the prison population. (Abolition Democracy, pg. 96)

But what this means in practice is that I wish the US were a bit more like normal, rather than such an absurd outlier. Rather than incarcerating “more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 76 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories,” I’d like to see us free about 2 million prisoners, so that the number is closer to about 300,000.

That’s still a lot of people, of course, but we currently incarcerate roughly seven times the global average of our population, without having seven times the crime. Our violent crime rate is on par with or even much lower than countries like the UK–though it’s true that our gun ownership rates make our assaults more often fatal murders–but we incarcerate many, many more people. So I propose we should start by aiming to shrink our prison population by 6/7s. This is an odd fraction, but it just represents the over-incarceration rate in the US compared to the rest of the world. It’s also deliberately a bit inexact: many countries have fewer than 100 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants. Perhaps the US could achieve the lower, more civilized rates of incarceration found in Finland and Norway, over time, but in any case, 6/7s abolition strikes me as a good place to start.

Sometimes I hear from other prison abolitionists that this is still 1/7 too many. But I don’t really know what to make of this. The majority of American prisoners are incarcerated for violent crimes, and I don’t know what it means to wish for impunity or restorative justice in every such case. Surely some people deserve some punishment; all I ask is that we radically remake the entire carceral character of American life.

This means drastically lower sentences: closer to the sentences prisoners served in the 1970s than the ones they serve today. It means prosecuting fewer crimes, too. But it doesn’t mean sacrificing our safety: it means focusing policing and imprisonment on the kinds of wonkish policies that we know work, while reinvesting the savings from incarceration in social supports.

Of the seven prisoners at the Bastille, I propose that one–perhaps the stray aristocrat, the Comte de Solages, who some records suggest was a rapist and attempted murderer and whose noble birth very nearly granted him impunity–deserved to be there. For the sake of the other six, however, we must still storm the carceral state!

“Trump’s slogans not enough to win”

Interview with Javad Heiran-Nia in Tehran Times, November 1, 2015, 1 & 11.

Front page of the Tehran Times, November 1, 2015. I have again had the great opportunity to give an interview for reporter Javad Hieran-Nia of The Tehran Times, Iran’s major English-language newspaper. I feel honored to have my interview again land the first page of the paper. The image on right is of the front page, but is also a link to a printable Adobe PDF version of the piece, which I edited onto one page. You can alternatively click here or on the title of the piece below for the same linked file.

The piece is titled “Trump’s popular slogans will not be
enough to win him the primary election: Weber,” The Tehran Times, November 1, 2015, pages 1 & 11.

The interview is available on paper’s site here.