Social issues in America

Lecture slides for my “Social Issues in America” course this fall are posted here. The topics:

  1. Should we legalize marijuana?
  2. Are humans causing dangerous climate change?
  3. Should same-sex marriage be legal?
  4. Is rising income inequality a serious problem?
  5. Are Americans overtaxed?
  6. Should we promote gender equality?
  7. Why are some of us red and others blue?
  8. Is party polarization bad?
  9. What drives government policy?
  10. Is big business ruining America?
  11. What should we eat?
  12. Are American universities failing?
  13. Free trade or fair trade?
  14. What should we do about immigration?
  15. When should we intervene abroad?

3 thoughts on “Social issues in America

  1. Thanks Lane,
    on your same-sex marriage slide, you might wish to look at Doug Allen’s http://www.sfu.ca/~allen/samesex.pdf

    Allen says that marriage is an economically efficient
    institution, designed and evolved to regulate incentive problems that arise between a man and a woman over the life cycle of procreation.

    The real problem with same-sex marriage is same-sex divorce.

    Marriage includes a set of exit provisions in terms of the possible grounds for divorce, rules for splitting property, alimony and child support rules, and custody rules.

    1. Many institutional rules within marriage are designed to restrict males from exploiting the specific investments women must make upfront in child bearing.

    2. Since same-sex marriages are not based as often on procreation, these restrictions are likely to be objected to and challenged in courts and legislatures. To the extent divorce laws are changed, they may hurt heterosexual marriages, and women in particular.

    3. Given that same-sex relationships are often made up of two financially independent individuals, there will be litigation and political pressures for even easier divorce laws since the problem of financial dependency will be reduced.

    Alterations in divorce laws to deal with issues of same-sex divorce necessarily apply to heterosexuals, and these new laws may not be optimal for heterosexuals, making marriage a more fragile institution for them.

    The actual outcomes of no-fault divorce laws, as an example, could hardly have been more different than what was expected and intended. The most obvious outcome was the immediate large increases in divorce rates.

    No fault divorce laws influenced the rate at which women entered the workforce, the amount of hours worked in a week, the incidence of spousal abuse, the feminisation of poverty, and the age at which people married.

    no-fault divorce influenced a series of other laws related to spousal and child support, child custody, joint parenting, and the definition of marital property.

    Many of these changes had subsequent impacts on the stability of marriages. The actual outcomes of no-fault divorce were completely unanticipated and unintended.

    the social and legal characteristics of marriage may provide a poor match for the incentive problems that arise in the relationships of gay and lesbian couples. Forcing all three relationships under the same law could lead to a sub-optimal law for all three types of marriage

    I found Allen’s paper to be food for thought.

    The first paper I have seen to discuss the unintened legal and social consequences of same-sex divorce..do your slides do this?

  2. Lane,

    I forgot to mention second wives clubs such as http://massalimonyreform.org/sec_wives_club.html which lobby for laws to limit the length of time of alimony to the first wife.

    This lobbying for reduced alimony is an unintended but real consequence of easier divorces.

    Will same-sex divorces weaking this second wives political lobby group or will provide it with new allies?

    This may be a good thing, or may be a bad thing, but is is a predictable social change that must be noted.

  3. i have to put my opioin on the issue of leagelizaton of the drug cannabis just think how many people die from ciggs alone there point made

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