PUAF 650: Moral Dimensions of Public Policy

Publication Date: 
September 2012


Document Type: 

Moral Dimensions of Public Policy is intended to give you a broad general understanding of moral/ethical theory, and how it applies to the kinds of decisions that policy-makers face.

At the end of this course, you should be able to:
● Carefully analyze the moral and ethical considerations relevant to a policy decision
● Think creatively and critically about how to make decisions that are responsible to legitimate moral claims
● Identify moral issues arising from a case, and use thinking about particular cases to inform your moral thinking more generally
● Engage constructively with others who have different moral views; this includes both being able to articulate and defend your own moral views, and remain open to revising your moral views in light of arguments made by others
● Understand the basic concepts of moral/ethical theory
● Understand the moral debates that have arisen around a number of important policy issues, such as war, global poverty, and gender.
We will approach these objectives through a mix of lecture, online materials, class discussion, case studies, and other classroom activities. One conviction of this course is that there are moral dimensions to almost every policy decision. Whenever a policy-maker decides on how to spend societal resources, or use the coercive power of the state, or put some information into the educational system and keep other information secret, there are moral implications. The choice is not between thinking about “morality” and thinking about “policy” - it is between thinking explicitly (and hopefully clearly) about the moral ideas that influence policy decisions or leaving the moral dimensions of public policy implicit and unexamined.