5. The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued that because courts are not elected representative bodies, they have no business determining certain critical social issues. He wrote:
Judges are selected precisely for their skill as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular constituency is not (or should not be) relevant. Not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single South westerner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination. To allow [an important social issue] to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.
Do you agree?
7. What percentage of your income should you donate to charities? Which charities are most worthwhile? Peter Singer, a Princeton professor, argues that people should give away one-third of their income to worthy charities. But, when entertainment mogul David Geffen donated $100 million to renovate a New York concert hall, Singer said that he could not understand “how anyone could think that giving to the renovation of a concert hall that could impact the lives of generally well-off people living in Manhattan and well-off tourists that come to New York could be the best thing that you could do with $100 million.” He added that a donation of less than $100 could restore sight to someone who is blind. To what theory of ethics is Professor Singer subscribing? Do you agree with him? What obligation do you have to help others? What is the best way to help others?
8. I was working on a trading desk. One year, my team did not make its number, which meant no bonuses and maybe even some of us would be fired. My boss was a good friend of the head of our division so the head agreed to “reallocate” some of the profit from other teams to ours. So my team got a bonus. When I asked my boss about the ethics of this action, she was annoyed that I was not just grateful. What ethics traps did I face? What should I have done? What is the best way to implement my decision?
9. I was a plant manager at a factory that used a lot of steel equipment. When a piece of equipment failed and was not worth repairing, it was sold for scrap. Plant managers usually kept the scrap money for themselves without telling headquarters. That money was considered an unofficial bonus. (After all, the equipment was no longer functional, and plant managers are underpaid.) I felt a little uncomfortable taking the money, but my boss warned me that, if I didn’t, I would make the other plant managers look bad. I could have paid off my credit card debt with that money but, instead, I hosted an employee BBQ and bought work boots for the low-wage workers. Did I do the right thing? What traps did I face?
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