Social Justice or Libertarianism?

Social justice activists and libertarians are two of the most familiar social types in our polarized political climate. But how can such different perspectives speak to each other in a productive and respectful way? Is it possible for us to hear the truth in what our opponents say and face up to the weaknesses in our own political positions? The course asks students (and the instructor) to think through their own political identities by working through some of the most important texts in this debate in constant conversation with the best arguments on all sides. We will read well-known contemporary proponents of both points of view such as John Rawls and Robert Nozick as well as authors that speak to this issue from unexpected angles such as Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, and Kurt Vonnegut. Activities may include trips to Brookings Institution, the Cato Institute, or other think tanks, and a discussion of college education in prison with a local prison reform nonprofit.