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Tutor profile: Kenzie D.

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Kenzie D.
Master's of Art in Public Policy, concentration in International Affairs
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Questions

Subject: US Government and Politics

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Question:

1) What is the proper role of government according to John Locke? 2) What are the central responsibilities of the American government and how are these responsibilities determined? 3) What are the limits and who determines these limits of government? In the case of the United States, how did the Founders create a way to limit the powers of government?

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Kenzie D.
Answer:

1) The proper role of government is to create law, enforce contracts, resolve disputes, protect the lives, liberties, and property of individuals as laid out by John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government. In a paraphrase of Locke’s words: “legitimate government is to preserve, so far as possible, the rights to life, liberty, health and property of its citizens, and to prosecute and punish those of its citizens who violate the rights of others and to pursue the public good even where this may conflict with the rights of individuals” (Uzgalis 2018). So while the current role of government may be expanding, the proper role of government is in essence to ensure the life, liberty, and property of its citizens. 2) A government’s central responsibilities are determined by the proper role of government and the evolution of the government’s responsibilities to its citizens over time. At the center of these responsibilities is the core: the protection of life, liberty, and property. These three responsibilities are enshrined in the 1st Amendment, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (O’Brien 2017, 12), and the 4th Amendment in which the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated” (O’Brien 2017, 13). But while conservatives agree with the Constitutional boundaries of the responsibility of government, more flexible viewpoints argue that the Constitution should be an evolving document, flexible for any era, allowing there to be an infinite amount of responsibilities of government to meet the needs of citizens in any era. On this note, the current responsibilities of government is not just the enforcement of liberty, the protection of property, protection of lives, and the enforcement of contracts; it also now includes the welfare of its citizens, the protection of jobs, the regulation of industry and social/moral obligations. 3) The limits of government power are restricted only by the strength and limits placed upon it by it citizenry. In a Democracy, the government is limited by a constitution (or its equivalent) that is in essence enforced by the citizenry of its nation. However, in a dictatorship citizens can only limit the power of government by protesting or overthrowing and replacing the current government with a more responsive and democratic government. Referring back to John Locke’s writing, the natural rights of people, and their social contract between them and government, limited the strength of government. In the American governmental system, the government's power is limited by the separation of powers and the American people. As pointed out by Roger Pilon, “In drafting the Constitution, the Founders needed to establish a government at once strong enough to secure our rights, and do the few other things they thought it should do, yet not so strong as to violate rights in the process. Toward that end, they gave the national government limited powers, then limited the exercise of those powers through an intricate system of checks and balances. Thus, they divided power between the national and the state governments, leaving most power with the states and the people, then separated national powers among three independent yet interdependent branches of the national government.” (Pilon 1999, 25) Works Cited: Uzgalis, William. 2018. “John Locke.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. May 1. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2019/entries/locke/. Polin, Roger. “The Purpose and Limits of Government - Cato Institute.” Cato Institute. Accessed April 17. https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/cl-13.pdf. OBrien, David M. 2017. Constitutional Law and Politics. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Subject: Political Science

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Question:

What is the impact and relevance of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero's political philosophies? In what way do we see some of their influence in today's political governance?

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Kenzie D.
Answer:

The thinking of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, although ancient, remains highly relevant towards today's thinking of both politics and public policy. Plato’s political philosophy is specifically impactful due to its nature as one of the first philosophical writings of politics. Plato discusses in The Republic that the ideal form of government, out of the various government types he discusses, is one in which philosophers rule for the benefit of all, with all individuals being trained to the fullest attainment of knowledge possible to them of which he calls an aristocracy. As pointed out by Benjamin Jowett in his translation of The Republic, “The first care of the rulers is to be education,” (Jowett 2016) which then went on to outline a government/rulership drawn after the old Hellenic Model for a Polis, with a concentration upon the need for a ruler to be philosophical, appetite, and spirit are working together in harmony. From Plato, we can find that current education policies are based on his idea of an educated citizenry, which he had specified as the main interest/goal of a ruler. Aristotle, on the other hand, argued that there were three different forms of politics: monarchy, aristocracy, and polity. His views were of one in which a pure monarchy was one in which a sole king ruled, a pure aristocracy in which a polis was ruled by only the most virtuous, and a pure polity in which, much like a democracy, there is a constitutional rule resting between an oligarchy and democracy, in which wealthy oligarchs form the majority of the office holders while the poor, common man is given institutional means to influence the behavior of the oligarchs, such as voting. Aristotle, in his writings within Politics and Nicomachean Ethics, in essence, opined that men have a desire and willingness to become involved in public affairs and politics, which should be more important than his personal life. This idea of political participation can be understood as the founder of local political campaigning and participation, which forms the first phase of the public policy and political arena within the United States. Cicero was an avid Roman politician, orator, and philosopher, whose work in Roman politics, public speaking and political philosophy has made him a giant in early political philosophy. For Cicero, justice binds all of human society together, with Fernando Alonso describing Cicero’s view of just as Natural Reason in which “no harm be done to anyone; and second, that the common interests be conserved.” (Alonso 2012) This meant that Cicero believed that all persons understand the inherent right and dignity of the individual and how this could be created into a political reality. Through this, political associations adapt to the pressures and situations in which they exist, producing different and unique positive laws based on the needs at hand. Since Natural Reasoning is universal, Natural Law “is neither alien to man, nor constituted by laws foreign to one’s autonomy (as is Positive Law), but rather its commands are firmly imprinted in the human mind.” (Alonso 2012) Cicero’s influence can be seen in the writing of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, with their support of Natural Law and Reasoning given prominent attention, and has affected all public policy in the United States since its creation. All of these philosopher’s worldviews can be characterized as conservative in the modern sense, with Cicero taking the most democratic and liberal approach to his political philosophy. Works Cited: “THE REPUBLIC.” 2016. The Republic, by Plato. Gutenburg Organization. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1497/1497-h/1497-h.htm. Llano Alonso, Fernando H. 2012. “Cicero and Natural Law.” Translated by Rosa Lineros. ARSP: Archiv Für Rechts- Und Sozialphilosophie / Archives for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy 98 (2): 157–68. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24769084.

Subject: International Relations

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Question:

Based on the history of various war crimes and other atrocities, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of an international court that prosecutes crimes on an international scale. Should crimes rising to the level of a war crime be prosecuted by courts in the nation-state most impacted by the crime?

Inactive
Kenzie D.
Answer:

History has seen countless atrocities, and recently international law has focused much more consistently on the outlining and prosecutions of what is deemed as constituting a war crime. It is an inescapable fact that atrocities often happen in war and that those who commit these atrocities should be tried and convicted for their crimes. But who should prosecute these crimes? Should it be courts conducted and run by an international organization that is specifically set-up to prosecute these crimes? Or should it be courts within the nation-state that is most impacted by these crimes? In many cases, such as the Nuremberg Trials, Tokyo Trials, and the Yugoslavian Wars, an international ad-hoc court had been set-up to prosecute the crimes conducted during the conflict. There are issues with relying on other nations when trying persons accused or suspected of war crimes, as was shown when the British had relied on Turkey for the trials of suspected war-criminals accused of both genocide and mistreatment of prisoners. While two suspects stood trial, it was only done under close British supervision, and when the British left, no more of those accused of participating in the Armenian Genocide were ever put on trial due to Turkish nationalist sentiments and genocidal denials. The issues with trying and punishing war criminals took another hit with the Genocide Convention of 1948, which had codified Genocide as a war crime into international law, but stated that the country in which a suspected criminal or author of genocide was residing in either had to extradite said criminal or try him within their own courts (Henderson, 2010) This creates a problem for countries who wish to try war criminals as often the countries they live in or reside in do not extradite him nor do they try him for his crimes. It is most often, therefore, that in many of the most recent cases of genocide, that international tribunals have been more effective, particularly this was the case in the Nuremberg Trials and the Yugoslavian Wars. The benefit of these international trials is in some cases reliant on the standards they set for international law. International tribunals ensure that no one is above the law, both domestic and internationally. These courts also provide a broader range of justice, often being able to enforce laws that regular nation-states cannot and providing a standard-bearer for criminal justice on an international stage. International tribunals are often fairer in their justice than courts that are located in the nations where the war crimes occurred, though they do allow the participation of the bereaved country in form of prosecution team selection and witnesses. But these courts also have weaknesses, such as not being fully recognized by some nations. Other issues are also symptomatic of national courts as well, such as the need to extradite suspects to the international tribunals and the lack of effective punishments via international courts, primarily relying on a third party for punishment/imprisonment or good faith of the nation in which the suspect resided. This brings about the question of whether war criminals should be tried by courts within the nation-state that their crimes occurred. I would say yes, but only if the nation-state that is running the trial of the suspected war criminal allows for due process under the law. That being said, trials within the bereaved nation-states allows for a nation to feel more often than not that justice had been done and would enable the taking away of ad-hoc international tribunals unless all sides commit offenses. But I would like to express dismay with the limited powers nations and international courts have in regard to the pursuit of wanted war criminals. Often, these men do not face justice due to lax extradition laws under international law, which is extremely worrying and disappointing. Works Cited: Henderson, Conway W. 2010. Understanding International Law. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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