Consumerism and Inequality

Our final exam, hereafter referred to as the Final Paper, consists of one essay written as a thoughtful response to one of the five prompts provided below. Your essay should draw from the materials provided on our class Canvass page (i.e., power points, videos, linked content), our lectures, and any other citable source.The following prompts are structured as statements that provide the substance and framework for your thoughtful investigation and exposition. Read and reflect carefully on the prompt you select. Each prompt makes a profound assertion about the current and evolving state of society and the role of business, capitalism, and Western economic, religious and philosophical thought.Your paper will be assessed on the basis of the following:1) Your understanding of the selected content, demonstrated by an analysis of the issues presented by the prompt and your ability to incorporate specific concepts, theories, thinkers and historical developments we have covered this semester, an2) Your thoughtful analysis of the implications of the issues presented for your own personal and professional future.Your essay must be no less than six (6) double-spaced pages. Please use the Modern Language Association (MLA) format.As a reminder, your Final Paper amounts to 40% of your overall grade.The essay is due to me via Turnitin on Canvas by 10:00 p.m. Thursday, May 20, 2021.Essay Prompt #1: InequalityWhat is happening with respect to the distribution of wealth and income in the United States since the 1970’s? What accounts for these changes? What are some of the implications and ramifications of these trends? What social, ethical, economic and/or philosophical issues are raised by this phenomenon? How will you choose to use this information as you move forward with your life?Essay Prompt #2: InequalityFrom Nick Hanauer’s TEDTalk “Beware Fellow Plutocrats, the Pitchforks are Coming”“Capitalism is the greatest social technology ever invented for creating prosperity in human societies, if it is well managed, but capitalism, because of the fundamental multiplicative dynamics of complex systems, tends towards, inexorably, inequality, concentration and collapse. The work of democracies is to maximize the inclusion of the many in order to create prosperity, not to enable the few to accumulate money.Government does create prosperity and growth, by creating the conditions that allow both entrepreneurs and their customers to thrive. Balancing the power of capitalists like me and workers isn’t bad for capitalism. It’s essential to it. Programs like a reasonable minimum wage, affordable healthcare, paid sick leave, and the progressive taxation necessary to pay for the important infrastructure necessary for the middle class like education, R and D, these are indispensable tools shrewd capitalists should embrace to drive growth, because no one benefits from it like us.….“Many economists would have you believe that their field is an objective science. I disagree, and I think that it is equally a tool that humans use to enforce and encode our social and moral preferences and prejudices about status and power, which is why plutocrats like me have always needed to find persuasive stories to tell everyone else about why our relative positions are morally righteous and good for everyone: like, we are indispensable, the job creators, and you are not; like, tax cuts for us create growth, but investments in you will balloon our debt and bankrupt our great country; that we matter; that you don’t. For thousands of years, these stories were called divine right.Today, we have trickle-down economics. How obviously, transparently self-serving all of this is. We plutocrats need to see that the United States of America made us, not the other way around; that a thriving middle class is the source of prosperity in capitalist economies, not a consequence of it. And we should never forget that even the best of us in the worst of circumstances are barefoot by the side of a dirt road sellingfruit.”What social, ethical, economic and/or philosophical issues are raised by the statements in this prompt? With which of these statements or assertions do you agree or disagree, and why? How will you choose to use this information as you move forward with your life?Essay Prompt #3: Future WorkFrom the Washington Post article: Coming Technology Will Likely Destroy Millions of Jobs“American manufacturing job losses to China and Mexico were a major theme of the presidential campaign, and President Trump has followed up on his promise to pressure manufacturers to keep jobs here rather than send them abroad. Already, he has jawboned automakers Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler and heating and cooling manufacturer Carrier into keeping and creating jobs in the United States.What he hasn’t yet addressed — but should — is the looming technology tsunami that will hit the U.S. job market over the next five to 15 years and likely destroy tens of millions of jobs due to automation by artificial intelligence, 3D manufacturing, advanced robotics and driverless vehicles — among other emerging technologies. The best research to date indicates that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are likely to be replaced by technology over the next 10 to 15 years, more than 80 million in all, according to the Bank of England.Think back to the human misery in this country during the financial recession when unemployment hit 10 percent. Triple that. Or even quintuple it. We as a society and as individuals are not ready for anything like that. This upheaval has the potential of being as disruptive for us now as the Industrial Revolution was for our ancestors.

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