PubPol 580 - Values, Ethics, and Public Policy

Picture of skywriting text "Vote No!" against clear blue sky

Image adapted from aaardvaark under a Creative Commons license: BY-NC.

Fall 2009
March 29, 2010
June 5, 2015

This course seeks to make students sensitive to and articulate about the ways in which moral and political values come into play in the American policy process, particularly as they affect non-elected public officials who work in a world shaped by politics. Topics covered include the tensions between ethics and politics, an introduction to various moral theories that figure in contemporary policy debates, a consideration of the principal values that animate American politics, and issues and dilemmas in professional ethics. The course addresses issues that affect international as well as U.S. policy and politics.

Instructor: John Chamberlin, PhD

dScribe: Kathleen Ludewig

Course Level: Graduate

Course Structure: Meets twice a week for 1.5 hours


Nature of the Course

The task of policy analysis is sometimes viewed as a technician’s task—a matter of using analytical tools to figure out the most effective way to achieve policy goals. That is certainly an essential part of policy analysis, but it is important to be aware of what it leaves out. It leaves out any attempt to say which goals public policy should try to serve in the first place. To care about public policy is to care about whether policies are good or bad. But good or bad in what sense, in what respects, according to what perspectives or values?

These questions are not answered once and for all when nations are founded. They are a constant part of public policymaking, and finding better ways to answer them is often the most important thing anyone can do to improve public policy. Sometimes, of course, we can trace the failures of public policy to failures of technology—to our inability to identify effective ways of pursuing policy goals that no one doubts are the right ones. But often the failures of public policy result from something more fundamental—from our inability to identify what the goals of public policy should be in the first place, or from the incomplete or inadequate ways in which we have understood them. These failures arise when we have paid too little attention to values like justice, rights, and equality, or when we have failed to understand them in appropriate ways.

Values, Ethics and Public Policy focuses on some of the many ways in which these political and moral values come into play in public policy. It is based on the belief that an understanding of the complex relationship between morality and politics is an important part of the foundation of successful public policies. The course seeks to develop students’ abilities to think reflectively and argue persuasively about the moral and ethical dimensions of politics, public policies and the careers in public affairs. It is a course about learning to make moral arguments by studying how others make moral arguments. This task is a challenging one, and we will rarely arrive at definitive answers to the difficult questions we raise. We will, however, learn how to ask these questions with greater clarity and insight, and we will become familiar with the answers that others have given to them.

Class Participation

Class time will usually be devoted to student presentations and class discussion. On most days the class will be divided into two groups and we will meet in different rooms. Regular attendance and participation in class discussions are expected of all students. Students will be expected to have completed and reflected upon the readings prior to class and to have given thought beforehand to handouts/emails containing topics for class discussion.

On the days when the class splits into two groups, students will make short presentations on topics under discussion that day. The format may vary, but in general a student will be responsible for giving a ten minute presentation and answering questions from the rest of the class for several minutes following the presentations. There will usually be two presentations per class and over the course of the term each student will make two presentations. The presentations provide opportunities for students to practice their presentation skills in front of an audience.

Productive class discussions are a key to a successful course and students will be expected to participate regularly. I recognize that some students find it difficult to speak publicly in large classes. This is a skill you should work on, since speaking publicly in large groups is important in most policymaking contexts. At the same time, participation can take many forms, including some that occur outside of class:

  • Emails to the instructor, GSI, or other students concerning topics discussed in class
  • Attendance at the instructor’s or GSI’s office hours to discuss issues raised in the course
  • Sending news articles or internet links about issues raised in the class to the instructor or GSI

Writing Assignments

The course requirements include the following writing assignments:

  • Thoughts on your own personal public philosophy, due September 22nd (this assignment will not be graded).
  • Policy Memo #1, due October 13th. Students will work in teams of two on this memo.
  • Op-ed essay, due November 24th.
  • Policy Memo #2, due December 15th.


Grades will be determined using the following weights:

  • Class Presentations - 15%
  • Class participation - 20%
  • First Policy Memo - 20%
  • Op-ed essay - 20%
  • Second Policy Memo - 25%


If you believe you need an accommodation for a disability, please let me know as soon as possible. As soon as you make me aware of your needs, we can work with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities to help us determine appropriate accommodations. I will treat any information you provide as private and confidential.

Influenza Preparedness at the University of Michigan

As you are aware, there are good reasons to worry about an H1N1 flu pandemic this fall. The University has established a website that will provide up-to-date information on policies and good practices should the flu strike campus. Please check it if the need arises:

Class Schedule & Readings


Class 1: September 8: Introduction and Overview of the Course

Benjamin Cardozo, “An underlying philosophy of life,” from The Nature of the Judicial Process

David Thacher, “Value Rationality in Policy Analysis” (Feb 2004, unpublished)



Class 2: September 10:  Domestic Politics and Morality

Dennis Thompson, Political Ethics and Public Office, Chapter 1 (Democratic Dirty Hands)

William Galston, “An Old Debate Renewed: The Politics of the Public Interest,” Daedalus,

Fall 2007

William Galston, “The Obligation to Play Political Hardball,” in Claudia Mills (Ed.), Values

and Public Policy, 1991

Class 3: September 15: International Politics and Morality

Stephen A. Garrett, “Political Leadership and the Problem of ‘Dirty Hands”,” Ethics and

International Affairs, 1994

Michael Walzer, “Can There Be a Moral Foreign Policy?” in J. Herir, et. al. (Eds.), Liberty

and Power (2004)

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “Toward a Liberal Realist Foreign Policy,” Harvard Magazine, Mar/Apr


Mervyn Frost, “Ethical Competence in International Relations,” Ethics & International

Affairs, Summer 2009

“Unleashing the Laws of War,” The Economist, Aug 13, 2009



Class 4: September 17: Approaches to Moral Reasoning: “Messing with Mother Nature”

Stephen Darwall, “Theories of Ethics,” in Frey and Wellman, A Companion to Applied


John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Sections 1-5

Mark S. Frankel and Cristina J. Kapustij, “Enhancing Humans,” Hasting Center Briefing

Book, 2008

Henry Greeley, et. al., “Toward Responsible Use of Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs by the

Healthy,” Nature, Dec 2008

Margaret Talbot, “Brain Gain: The Underground World of ‘Neuroenhancing’ Drugs,” The

New Yorker, Apr 27, 2009

Class 5: September 22: Approaches to Moral Reasoning:  International Clinical Drug Trials

David Thacher.  “The Casuistical Turn in Planning Ethics”, The Journal of Planning Education and Research, Spring 2004

Christine Grady, “Clinical Trials,” Hastings Center Briefing Book, 2008

Marcia Angell, “The Ethics of Clinical Research in the Third World,” New England Journal

of Medicine, Sep 18, 1997

Harold Varmus and David Satcher, “Ethical Complexities of Conducting Research in

Developing Countries,” New England Journal of Medicine, Oct 2, 1997

Solomon R. Benatar and Peter A. Singer, “A New Look at International Research Ethics,”

British Medical Journal (BMJ), Sep 30, 2000

Harold T. Shapiro and Eric M. Meslin, “Ethical Issues in the Design and Conduct of Clinical

Trials in Developing Countries,” New England Journal of Medicine, Jul 12, 2001

(optional) The Belmont Report

(optional) World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki

Class 6: September 24: Utilitarianism

Dan Brock, “Utilitarianism,” in Tom Regan and Donald VanDeVeer, And Justice for All

Peter Singer, “The Singer Solution to World Poverty,” New York Times Magazine, Sep 5,


Peter Singer, “Why We Must Ration Health Care,” New York Times Magazine, Jul 19, 2009


Classes 7 & 8: September 29 and October 1: Utilitarianism and Benefit Cost Analysis

Jocelyn Kaiser, "How Much Are Human Lives and Health Worth?" Science, Mar 21, 2003

Bill Marsh, “Putting a Price on the Priceless: One Life,” New York Times, Sep 9, 2007

Office of Management and Budget, "Circular A-4," Sep 17, 2003

Peter Railton, “Benefit-Cost Analysis as a Source of Information about Welfare,” in

Douglas MacLean (Ed.), Values at Risk

(optional) Michael Gerber and Jonathan Schwarz, “From the Desk of Larry Summers,” The

New Yorker, Jul 12, 1999

(optional) The Colbert Report: “Priceless”

(optional) Dilbert on Discounting the Future, Jul 11, 2006


Class 9: October 6: Justice

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice

Sections 1-6 (Sections 1-5 assigned earlier)

Sections 10-11

Section 48

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, Chapter 7 (Section I)

Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice, Chapter 1

“Communitarianism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,


Class 10: October 8: Rights

Lawrence C. Becker, “Individual Rights,” in Tom Regan and Donald VanDeVeer, And

Justice for All


Class 11: October 13: Equality and Education

Christopher Jencks, “Whom Must We Treat Equally for Educational Opportunity to be Equal?” Ethics, Apr 1988


Class 12: October 15: Global Climate Change

Robert Hood, “Global Warming,” in Frey and Wellman (eds.), A Companion to Applied Ethics

Peter Singer, “A Fair Deal on Climate Change,” Policy Innovations, Jun 26, 2007

John Broome, “Ethics of Climate Change,” Scientific American, Jun 2008

Kenneth Arrow, “Global Climate Change: A Challenge to Policy,” Economists’ Voice, Jun 2007

“Minimum Ethical Criteria for All Post-Kyoto Regime Proposals: What Does Ethics Require

of a Copenhagen Outcome?”, Dec 2008


Class 13: October 22: International Trade and Justice

Ethan Kapstein, “Models of International Economic Justice,” Ethics and International

Affairs, 2004

Darrel Moellendorf, “The World Trade Organization and Egalitarian Justice,” Metaphilosophy, Jan 2005

“International Trade and Justice,” Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, Apr 5, 2006


Class 14: October 27: Rationing During a Pandemic

Ezekiel Emanuel and Alan Wertheimer, “Who Should Get Influenza Vaccine When Not All

Can?” Science, May 12, 2006

Lawrence O. Gostin, “Medical Countermeasures for Pandemic Influenza: Ethics and the

Law,” JAMA, Feb 1, 2006

Françoise Baylis, “How Much Vaccine to Order and Who Gets It?” Globe and Mail, Aug 5,


Lawrence K. Altman, “Seeking Lessons in Swine Flu Fight,” New York Times, Aug 11,


U.S. Government Flu Website:


Class 15: October 29: Biobanking

Karen J. Maschke, “Biobanks: DNA and Research,” Hastings Center Briefing Book, 2008

Claudia Mund, “Biobanks—Data Sources without Limits?” Jusletter, Oct 2005

M.G. Hansson, “Ethics and Biobanks,” British Journal of Cancer, Nov 2008


Class 16: November 3: Sex Offender Registries and Geographic Restrictions

Monica Davey, “Iowa’s Residency Rules Drive Sex Offenders Underground, New York Times,

Mar 15, 2006

“Unjust and Ineffective,” The Economist, Aug 8, 2009


Class 17 & 18: November 5 and November 10: Liberty and Paternalism

Gerald Dworkin, “Paternalism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Dec 20, 2005

Jim Holt, “The New, Soft Paternalism,” The New York Times Magazine, Dec 3, 2006

“House Approves Workplace Smoking Ban,” Gongwer News Service, Dec 5, 2007

“A Necessary Vaccine (Editorial), New York Times, Feb 26, 2007

“Selling New York’s Proposed ‘Obesity Tax’,” New York Times, Dec 30, 2008

Robert Pear, “Congress Plans Incentives for Healthy Habits,” New York Times May 9, 2009

“Does a Tax on Junk Food Make Sense?" The Economist, Aug 4, 2009


Class 19: November 12: Increasing the Supply of Organs for Transplantation

"Your part or mine? Organ Transplants," The Economist, Nov. 18, 2006

“Organ Procurement: What Are the Questions?” President’s Bioethics Council

Kevin B. O’Reilly, “Other Nations, Other Answers: In Search of a Solution to the Organ

Shortage,”, Oct 13, 2008

Sheldon Zink and Stacey Wertlieh, “Presumptive Donation,” Critical Care Nurse, Apr 2006

(optional) Sally Satel, “Desperately Seeking a Kidney,” New York Times Magazine, Dec 16,



Class 20: November 17: Exploitation

“Exploitation,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy



Class 21: November 19: Professional Ethics in Public Affairs

David Luban, “Professional Ethics,” in Frey and Wellman (eds.), A Companion to Applied Ethics

Michael Pritchard, Professional Integrity, Chapter 5

(optional) Paul Wolpe, “Reasons Scientists Avoid Thinking about Ethics,” Cell, Jun 16, 2006


Class 22: November 24: Codes of Ethics

American Society for Public Administration Code of Ethics

Los Angeles Ethics Handbook for City Officials

ICMA Code of Ethics With Guidelines


Class 23: December 1: The Ethics of Program Evaluation

Dennis Thompson, Political Ethics and Public Office, Chapter 7

Jan Blustein (and others), “Toward a More Public Discussion of the Ethics of Federal Social Program Evaluation,”Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Fall 2005

Matthew Davis and John Lantos, “Ethical Considerations in the Public Policy Laboratory,” JAMA, Jul 5, 2000

Atul Gawande, “A Life Saving Checklist,” New York Times, Dec 30, 2007

(optional) American Evaluation Association Guiding Principles for Evaluators


Class 24: December 3: Professional Ethics and Bureaucratic Politics

Lloyd Etheredge, “The Moral Code of the Washington Game-Player,” (unpublished) Mar 1979

Mark Moore, Creating Public Value, Chapter 1

Rosemary O’Leary, The Ethics of Dissent: Managing Guerilla Government

Introduction (pp. 4-14)

Chapter 2 & First Interlude (pp. 26-46)

Second Interlude (pp. 64-69)

Juliet Eilperin and Carol D. Leonnig, “Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees,”

Washington Post, Nov 18, 2008


Class 25: December 8: Professional Ethics and Bureaucatic Politics

Martin Wachs, “Ethical Dilemmas in Forecasting for Public Policy,” in Willa Bruce (ed.), Classics of Administrative Ethics

Robert Pear, “Medicare Official Testifies on Cost Figures,” New York Times, Mar 25, 2004

Frank Davidoff, “Sex, Politics and Morality at the FDA,” Hastings Center Report, Mar-Apr


“Ethical Problems in Public Careers: Lying,” cases #1 & 5

Arthur Applbaum, Ethics for Adversaries, cases "Legal Aid in Rural California" and "Covert Military Aid for the Nicaraguan Contras"


Class 26: December 10: Conclusion

About the Creators

Portrait of John Chamberlin

John Chamberlin

John Chamberlin is Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy; Professor of Political Science, College of LSA; and Director, Office Provost and Executive Vice President Academic Affairs. Professor Chamberlin's primary research interests are in social choice theory (representation, voting systems for multi-candidate elections) and ethics and public policy. His current projects include an examination of proposals for reforming political redistricting and an investigation of the effects of including non-issue preferences in spatial models of elections.

  • PhD, Stanford University
Picture of skywriting text "Vote No!" against clear blue sky

Image adapted from aaardvaark under a Creative Commons license: BY-NC.

Fall 2009
March 29, 2010
June 5, 2015


Document Title Creator Downloads License


John Chamberlin


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Class 05: Personal Philosophy

John Chamberlin

Class 11: Memo 1

John Chamberlin

Class 22: Op Ed

John Chamberlin

Class 26: Memo 2

John Chamberlin


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Class 02 Reading Notes: Politics and Morality

John Chamberlin

Class 03 Reading Notes: International Politics and Morality

John Chamberlin

Class 04 and 05 Reading Notes: Approaches to Moral Reasoning: “Messing with Mother Nature” and International Clinical Drug Trials

John Chamberlin

Class 06 Reading Notes: Utilitarianism

John Chamberlin

Class 07 and 08 Reading Notes: Utilitarianism and Benefit Cost Analysis

John Chamberlin

Class 09 and 10 Reading Notes: Justice and Rights

John Chamberlin

Class 11 Reading Notes: Equality and Education

John Chamberlin

Class 12 Reading Notes: Global Climate Change

John Chamberlin

Class 13 Reading Notes: International Trade and Justice

John Chamberlin

Class 14 Reading Notes: Rationing During a Pandemic

John Chamberlin

Class 15 Reading Notes: Biobanking

John Chamberlin

Class 16 Reading Notes: Sex Offender Registries and Geographic Restrictions

John Chamberlin

Class 17 and 18 Reading Notes: Liberty and Paternalism

John Chamberlin

Class 19 Reading Notes: Increasing the Supply of Organs for Transplantation

John Chamberlin

Class 20 Reading Notes: Exploitation

John Chamberlin

Class 21 Reading Notes: Professional Ethics in Public Affairs

John Chamberlin

Class 23-25 Reading Notes: The Ethics of Program Evaluation, Professional Ethics and Bureaucratic Politics

John Chamberlin


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Course/Resource Archive in Institutional Repository (October 2010)

John Chamberlin

Student Papers

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Class 26: Proposed Distribution Model for Health Insurance Coverage Stimulus

Anonymous MPP Student

Student Presentations

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Class 15: Biobanking - Homoring Donors' Rights

Anonymous MPP Student

Class 22: Code of Ethics in Practice: A Look at the World Bank Group

Anonymous MPP Student