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Research Paper
Government 2305 – 2306

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You will either write over the issue of reparations raised by many of the Democratic presidential candidate; or the issue of personal rights and liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, as compared to government responsibility to protect everyone, even if doing so means denying some rights to some people. Obviously, I understand that these issues will be highly personal to some, but both issues have been thrust to the forefront of American consciousness as a result of the upcoming presidential election and bears our consideration. As with anything in politics, there is rarely a “right” or “wrong” answer as most issues are shades of grey and this issue is no different. I do not want anyone attempting to write a paper or take a position because they believe it is what I will most agree with. I do not give grades out based upon agreement with my own political philosophy (no professor should force students to accept their opinions as gospel truth, though this too often happens in higher education), I simply expect you to know what it is you believe in and why, and most importantly to be able to support your position with solid research and writing rather than based on pure emotion. By bringing the facts to bear, especially on an emotionally charged issue such as this, it gives credence to your position while disarming the opposition. This is not to say that you cannot speak from an emotional place either, only that you should try to minimize it as much as possible. As always, I look forward to reading your thoughts on these issues and ask you take them both seriously and with reverence to the topics.

TOPIC I: Rights and Liberties During a Time of COVID-19

The subject of the role of government authority vs. individual liberty is often contentious, especially in a nation which is founded upon the ideal of individual liberty and often holds it above all other rights. The intersection where these two concepts meet has formed the cornerstone of a tremendous number of debates, court cases, etc. throughout the nation’s history, whether the debate be over healthcare, gun rights, or vaccinations to name but a few. We have now seen this debate shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and the global response to the virus which have been unlike anything we have witnessed in modern human history. In a matter of a few months we have seen life as we know it grind to a halt. Entire nations have literally shut down, economies have been utterly decimated as industries were forced to close, leading to untold economic suffering the likes of which the United States has not seen since the Great Depression with at least 15% (the true number is likely far higher though as official unemployment numbers do not count all people without jobs) of American workers out of jobs. Millions have been infected worldwide with the U.S. alone accounting for nearly 2 million of the known cases globally and more than 100,000 Americans having died from the disease. To put this into perspective, more people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 over the past 5 months than did U.S. soldiers during the entire course of the Vietnam War.

Nations around the world reacted with varying degrees of urgency with the U.S. being particularly slow to do so though over time an ad hoc response by both the federal and state governments began to form with recommendations on how to combat the virus seemingly changing by the hour. Eventually the decision to bring the nation to a stop through the issuance of stay-at-home orders which led to businesses and schools being shut down while only essential errands were allowed. In the process, various government leaders made determinations about which businesses could be allowed to remain open by designating some as “essential” with all others being forced to close. Compliance was generally accepted in the beginning, but as the economic fallout began to become clear and stay-at-home orders being extended over and over with no end in sight, people began to lose patience with and faith in the government. As the government deems some as “essential” while others are not, many of those who lost their livelihoods would argue that all their jobs are essential to their families and the bills do not simply stop because of a virus. Pres. Trump spoke about the cure being worse than the disease, and that it certainly something to consider while writing your paper.

This is not a paper about what a person should or should not do morally speaking, rather this is a question of constitutionality. Can a government determine which business are or are not “essential”, even to the economic detriment and ruin of people’s livelihoods upon which their families depend? These people would certainly argue that their jobs are essential to them. Will the government support them after their jobs are gone or their businesses collapse, and if so, is it the responsibility of other taxpayers to support this with their own money? Should the government be fining or imprisoning people who willingly defy political orders which force them to sacrifice their own economic well-being? At the same time, government has one true function – to provide security to all people of the nation. That security could be against physical threats both foreign or domestic, but it has also extended to protection via social safety nets and entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare. So, if there was a portion of the population acting out in a manner that possibly threatens the ability of another to pursue their life, liberty, and happiness (such as opening businesses prematurely or refusing to wear masks in public), then isn’t it the responsibility of the government to intervene, forcefully if necessary? Shouldn’t every person be able to feel they can move about throughout their lives without fear of someone else’s actions having potentially deadly consequences? What, if anything, can be said to citizens who fear that the government will use this pandemic as an excuse to expand its scope and power unchecked and to violate core rights and liberties in the name of security? Please consider this topic of individual constitutional rights vs. the role of government carefully and write thoughtfully over it as I very much look forward to reading your thoughts on and analysis of this issue.

TOPIC II: Reparations – Payment for America’s Original Sin?

The nation now faces a reckoning which has largely avoided having for years as a result of the high-profile and very public deaths of African-Americans, with the recent killing of George Floyd having been the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back, thereby setting off massive protests and riots across the country. The demands are familiar, with equity and justice being among them, though how these demands are to be achieved and to what degree will no doubt be debated by people from every walk of life. Most certainly the political leaders across the nation will be discussing this and undoubtedly some of them will seek to include reparations as at least a part of the answer. Reparations for slavery is an idea that has been posited and debated since slavery was officially ended in America, though it has tended to be a political non-starter and generally inflammatory when brought up, but it has been floated by many of the potential Democratic candidates for president who have thrown their support behind it. For the first time it seemed that reparations were a legitimate political issue, though one which was highly risky to support as doing so would risk potential votes necessary for an electoral victory. It is highly possible that George Floyd could be the catalyst necessary to push this concept into the mainstream with the potential for enough political support across all spectrums to ensure both political victory and action. So, what exactly is reparations, how should it be implemented, and for whom?
The modern progressive thought on reparations has been largely credited to a paper written by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic in 2014 and was most recently invited to testify before a Congress on this very issue. Mr. Coates’s article is long but well-written and it gives a full accounting of his thoughts on why reparations should be paid. Given that it is often cited as the cornerstone for those in favor of instituting reparations in some form I have included a link for you to review the paper, as well as another link for a counterargument written as to why some believe reparations should not be paid out. I feel both articles provide solid arguments for both sides on the issue and it is your assignment to conduct an article review of both by reading them and providing your thoughts on this highly contentious issue. The expectation for the research paper is to utilize a minimum of four sources and the two I have provided for you here do count towards that requirement. You are to read both articles, as well as conduct your own research and find two more articles/papers on this topic to help guide you in your understanding and support/opposition of this potential policy. If you support the policy of reparations, then explain who pays who and how – something that the presidential candidates have failed to do thus far, and if you are against them then explain why you feel a debt is not owed for America’s original sin.

Paper Criteria

• Title Page: Please include a title page for your research paper. Include:
o Your name
o The title of your paper
o The course you are in (ex. GOVT 2306)

• Content: Using at least 4 sources (Internet, and/or library resources), with a minimum of 1 source being an academic journal/article relating to the topic, address the various sides (or positions) of your issue, come up with your own personal conclusions based on your analysis of the issue, and demonstrate an understanding of its complexities. Wikipedia and other online encyclopedias are NOT valid sources!! Sources must be verifiable and journalistically/academically sound. Excellent databases where you can find a wealth of information on the subject matter include and Both websites are clearinghouses containing keyword searchable databases and should be able to provide you with all of the scholarly articles you will need to craft an excellent paper.

o Include a brief history of your issue.
o Compare and contrast at least (2) different political perspectives (viewpoints)
o Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each position you include
o Present an informed evaluation of the evidence and different viewpoint surrounding the topic
o What do you conclude? Which position do you agree with most and why?

• Paper length: In a Word document, write a research paper with a minimum (no maximum) of 1,500 words on the topic of choice, (not counting headings), double-spaced with 12-point font. The paper should be created in Word, typewritten and double-spaced, and based on information from a minimum of five (4) primary sources (no maximum). Your title and works cited pages DO NOT count towards the 1,500-word minimum.

The 1500 word minimum is non-negotiable and is a basic expectation/requirement, not merely a suggestion. When a minimum word limit is set, it MUST be met fully and completely. Failure to meet the minimum requirements for word count will result in 10 points being deducted automatically for each 100 words that the paper is short of the minimum requirement by.

• Writing Style: APA format. DO NOT include an abstract in your paper. You may include one if you wish, but it will not count towards your requirements. Proofread your paper to eliminate spelling and grammatical errors. Please use spell check and grammar check. Use proper paragraphing and improve your writing style by revising the paper as many times as necessary. You may also take your paper to the writing center for additional assistance!

• Citations: Any time you borrow someone’s ideas, paraphrase or quote them, (see plagiarism section in syllabus) cite all sources using the APA citation style. Be sure to cite specific information you found in your research to support your claims. Use the same citation format throughout your paper. Analyze and question your sources assumptions. Remember to use at least 4 sources and that Wikipedia and other online encyclopedias are not valid sources!

• A bibliography or “work cited” page also using your above citation style.

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