Soc 150C2: The Good Society

University of Arizona
Spring 2014
MWF 10:00–10:50, Modern Languages 350

What institutions and policies are conducive to liberty, economic security, opportunity, a vibrant economy, shared prosperity, social cohesion, health, happiness, and other desirable features of a modern society? To what extent are there tradeoffs? This course examines the history and performance of key policies and institutions in the United States and other affluent nations. We’ll consider the ways in which scientists, journalists, opinion writers, and policy makers approach these questions. The course aims to improve your understanding of society, the economy, and politics and to aid in your development of critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication skills.


  • Lane Kenworthy:, Social Sciences 440, office hours Wednesdays 8:45–9:45, 12:00–1:00

Teaching assistants

  • Krista Frederico:, Social Sciences 426, office hours Mondays 1:00–2:00 and Wednesdays 1:00–2:00
  • Jess Pfaffendorf:, Social Sciences 416, office hours Tuesdays 2:00–3:00 and Thursdays 2:00–3:00
  • Hannah Andrews:, Social Sciences 412, office hours Tuesdays 2:00–3:00
  • Beksahn Jang:, Social Sciences 412, office hours Fridays 11:00–12:00
  • Justin Knoll:, Social Sciences 412, office hours Thursdays 2:00–3:00


We’ll spend two weeks on each topic. During the first week, you will use the course materials to familiarize yourself with the evidence and opinion on the issue, and you will write a short comment expressing your thoughts, questions, or recommendations. During the second week, we will meet in class to discuss and debate the topic, and you will take a set of short quizzes.

There are two required books: (1) Lane Kenworthy, Social Democratic America, Oxford University Press, 2014; (2) Charles Murray, Coming Apart, Crown Forum, 2012. You can get them from the UA Bookstore and most online booksellers, and each is available in kindle version. All other required readings and all videos are available online; see below for links.

You’ll also need a TurningPoint clicker or a TurningPoint smartphone contract. If you don’t already have one, you can purchase this at the UA Bookstore.

1. What is a good society?

  • Question: What ends should we seek? Are some more important than others?

  • Jan 15, 17 (WF): in class, lecture
  • Jan 20 (M): no class, MLK Day
  • Jan 22 (W): in class, discussion, quiz 1
  • Jan 24 (F): no class

  • Reading: Lane Kenworthy, Social Democratic America, 2014, chapters 1 and 6
  • Reading: Charles Murray, Coming Apart, 2012, prologue and chapter 6

2. Economic security

  • Question: How can we ensure that working-age Americans and their children have a decent income?

  • Jan 27, 29, 31 (MWF): study course materials
  • Feb 2 (Su): written comment 1 due, on D2L, by 11:59pm
  • Feb 3 (M): in class, discussion, quiz 2
  • Feb 5 (W): in class, discussion, quiz 3
  • Feb 7 (F): in class, discussion, quiz 4

  • Video: Franklin Roosevelt, “Second Bill of Rights,” 1944, 2 minutes
  • Reading: Lane Kenworthy, Social Democratic America, 2014, pp. 17-30, 49-56, 111-117, 124-129, 134-147
  • Reading: Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat, “The Party of Sam’s Club,” The Weekly Standard, 2005
  • Reading: Charles Murray, Coming Apart, 2012, chapters 7-9, 13
  • Video: PBS, Poor Kids, Frontline, 2012, 53 minutes

3. Opportunity

  • Question: How can we improve opportunity for Americans who grow up in less advantaged families and neighborhoods?

  • Feb 10, 12, 14 (MWF): study course materials
  • Feb 16 (Su): written comment 2 due, on D2L, by 11:59pm
  • Feb 17 (M): in class, discussion, quiz 5
  • Feb 19 (W): in class, discussion, quiz 6
  • Feb 21 (F): in class, discussion, quiz 7

  • Reading: Lane Kenworthy, Social Democratic America, 2014, pp. 30-35, 56-62
  • Reading: Stuart M. Butler, “Can the American Dream Be Saved?,” National Affairs, 2013
  • Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Early Education,” The Good Society, 2014
  • Video: California Newsreel, “Are We Crazy About Our Kids?,” The Raising of America, 2013, 30 minutes
  • Reading: Jonathan Cohn, “The Hell of American Day Care,” The New Republic, 2013

4. A vibrant economy

5. Shared prosperity

  • Question: How can we ensure that a rising tide lifts all boats?

  • March 10, 12, 14 (MWF): study course materials
  • March 17–21: Spring break
  • March 23 (Su): written comment 4 due, on D2L, by 11:59pm
  • March 24 (M): in class, discussion, quiz 11
  • March 26 (W): essay 1 due, in class
  • March 26 (W): in class, discussion, quiz 12
  • March 28 (F): in class, discussion, quiz 13

  • Reading: Charles Murray, Coming Apart, 2012, chapters 2 and 5
  • Reading: David Brooks, “The American Way of Equality,” New York Times, 2007
  • Reading: Lane Kenworthy, Social Democratic America, 2014, pp. 35-48, 63-70, 130-134
  • Video: Robert Reich and Jacob Kornbluth, Inequality for All, 2013, 91 minutes, available via Amazon instant video (rent or buy) and Netflix (DVD only, no streaming)
  • Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Is Income Inequality Harmful?,” The Good Society, 2014

6. Liberty

7. Social cohesion

  • Question: Can we have a cohesive, trusting society without vibrant voluntary associations?

  • April 14, 16, 18 (MWF): study course materials
  • April 20 (Su): written comment 6 due, on D2L, by 11:59pm
  • April 21 (M): in class, discussion, quiz 17
  • April 23 (W): in class, discussion, quiz 18
  • April 25 (F): in class, discussion, quiz 19

  • Reading: Yuval Levin, “The Real Debate,” The Weekly Standard, 2012
  • Reading: Charles Murray, Coming Apart, 2012, chapters 10, 14
  • Reading: Lane Kenworthy, Social Democratic America, 2014, pp. 118-119
  • Reading: Franklin E. Zimring, “How New York Beat Crime,” Scientific American, 2011
  • Reading: Christian Albrekt Larsen, “Broken Societies: Inequality, Cohesion, and the Middle-Class Dream,” Juncture, 2013

8. Happiness

  • Question: How can we increase happiness?

  • April 28 (M): essay 2 due, in Social Sciences 440, by 10:50am
  • April 28, 30, May 2 (MWF): study course materials
  • May 4 (Su): written comment 7 due, on D2L, by 11:59pm
  • May 5 (M): in class, discussion, quiz 20
  • May 7 (W): in class, discussion, quiz 21

  • Reading: Charles Murray, Coming Apart, 2012, chapter 15
  • Reading: Jeffrey Sachs, “How the Right Is Wrong About Happiness,” Huffington Post, 2012
  • Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Happiness,” The Good Society, 2014
  • Video: Justin Wolfers, “Economics of Happiness,” Aspen Institute, 2011, watch the first 25 minutes
  • Reading: Ryan Blitstein, “Should the Government Make Us Happy?,” Pacific Standard, 2008

Final exam

  • May 14, Wednesday, 10:30–11:20am, Modern Languages 350. Bring a pencil.


Course grades will be determined as follows. See below for details.

  • 20%: written comments (7)
  • 40%: quizzes (21, only your 15 highest scores count)
  • 10%: “create” tutorials and tests
  • 20%: essays (2)
  • 10%: final exam

Each of these will be graded on a scale of 0 to 100. So your numerical course grade is calculated as:

  • (written comments average grade x .2) + (quizzes average grade x .4) + (“Create” grade x .1) + (essays average grade x .2) + (final exam grade x .1)

Your letter grade for the course will be determined as follows:

  • A: 90 and above
  • B: 80-89
  • C: 70-79
  • D: 60-69
  • E: below 60

There will be no extra-credit projects or assignments.


For each issue, you will write a comment of 50-100 words on the course materials. Due dates are listed above. You can highlight something you found especially interesting or controversial, state an agreement or disagreement, raise a question or two, or make a recommendation. You may focus on one of the materials or draw on a number of them.

As long as your comment exhibits some thought, refers directly to one or more of the course materials, and is within the word limit, you will receive a 100 for it. Comments that don’t follow these guidelines will receive a lower grade. If you don’t post a comment by the deadline, you’ll get a zero.

You will post these comments on D2L. Log in to D2L and choose this course. Click on “discussions.” Click on the topic. Click on “compose.” Type your comment or paste it in (don’t attach a file). Click on “post.” You don’t need to put anything in the “subject” field.


During days we meet in class to discuss a particular topic, you will take a short quiz on the course materials for that topic. Each quiz will have ten multiple choice or true/false questions. The quiz dates are listed above.

You will answer the questions using your clicker. To do this, you must register your clicker for this course. Here’s how to do that. (If you have a smartphone contract with TurningPoint instead of a clicker, the registration process is similar.)

  • Log in to D2L and choose this course
  • Click on the “content” tab
  • Click on the “click here to register your clicker” link
  • Provide your device ID in the space indicated
  • Enter the security code found at the bottom of the window in the space provided
  • Check that the device ID is correct and then press “final submission”

For technical support with clicker registration and use, contact Malcolm Elliott at or 520.621.5965.

If you get a new clicker at any point during the semester, register it immediately. Your clicker must be registered correctly by 8:00am on the day of a quiz in order for your clicker to work (that’s when I update the class list).

You can take a makeup if you have to miss a quiz for any of the following three reasons: (1) holidays or special events observed by organized religions (for students who show affiliation with that particular religion), (2) absences pre-approved by the UA Dean of Students (or Dean’s designee), (3) extended illness (this requires a doctor’s note). If you miss a quiz for one of these reasons, contact me no later than the day of the quiz to schedule a makeup. I will need written verification of the circumstances.

You cannot take a makeup if you miss a quiz for any other reason. This includes faulty clicker registration, forgetting to bring your clicker to class, stolen or lost clicker, clicker malfunction, dead clicker battery, needing to arrive late to class or leave class early, oversleeping, minor illness, transportation problem, family or friend’s special occasion, family problems, family illness, needing to study for another course, etc.

Here are my recommendations for how to prepare for the quizzes: (1) Take notes on the course materials. Study those notes rather than re-reading or re-viewing the materials. (2) Don’t get too bogged down in detail. Try to understand the question(s) the author is trying to answer, the answer(s) she gives, and the key pieces of evidence and reasoning. (3) Don’t overthink the quiz questions. Don’t assume I’m trying to trick you. (4) If possible, study with one or more other students in the class.


The University of Arizona has a set of online tutorials to help students with writing skills. It’s called Create: A Guide for Writers. You are required to complete modules (tutorials) 1-5 and the accompanying tests.

For technical support, contact Dwight Farris at

Go to Log in using your UA netID and password. Click on the link for Soc 150C2. Then click on the link for Module 1. Follow the instructions to complete the module, including the test. Do the same for Module 2, Module 3, Module 4, and Module 5. Each test has ten questions; to pass, you must answer six or more of the ten correctly. If you fail a test, you can take it again. (Modules 4 and 5 also have a pretest; you must complete these, but your scores on them won’t affect your grade and you don’t need to turn them in.)

When you complete the test for a module, print a hard copy of either the screen showing your result or the email confirmation you receive. Staple these printouts together and write your name at the top of the first page. They are due in class on the date listed in the schedule above. Printouts turned in late but within 72 hours of the deadline will be penalized 25 points (out of 100). Printouts turned in more than 72 hours late, or not turned in at all, will receive a grade of zero.

Your “Create” grade will be determined as follows:

  • five modules with a passing test grade = 100
  • four = 80
  • three = 60
  • two = 40
  • one = 20
  • zero = 0


You will write two short essays. The assignments:

  • Essay 1: What’s the most useful thing we could do to improve K-12 education in the United States?
  • Essay 2: What’s the most useful thing we could do to improve Americans’ health?

Due dates are listed above. An essay turned in late but within 72 hours of the deadline will be penalized 25 points (out of 100). An essay turned in more than 72 hours late, or not turned in at all, will receive a grade of zero.

Turn in a hard copy and post your essay on D2L. Emailed essays won’t be accepted. To turn it in on D2L, log in to D2L and choose this course. Click on “dropbox.” Click on “essay 1” or “essay 2.” Follow the instructions to upload your file. Your essay won’t be visible to other students on D2L; this is just to allow us to easily check for plagiarism and length.

Length: Each essay should be 1,500 words (including footnotes), plus or minus no more than 100 words.

Formatting: The essays must be typed single-space on 8½-by-11 paper with 1-inch margins on top and bottom and 2-inch margins on each side. Use 11-point or 12-point font size.

Sources and citations: Consult at least five sources of your choosing. Use footnotes to give credit to anyone from whom you borrow evidence or argument. The footnotes are included in the word count. I’m not picky about the formatting of the footnotes, but be sure to include the author(s) name, title, and year; don’t simply list an internet address.

Don’t plagiarize. If you aren’t sure what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it, see

Keys to success: Answer the question. Write clearly. Refer to relevant evidence (opinion and logic are fine but insufficient). Anticipate objections to your position. Use proper grammar and punctuation. Adhere to the length, formatting, and citation instructions. It might help to try out your argument on classmates or friends or family.


The final exam will cover all of the course material. It will consist of 50 multiple choice and true/false questions. Bring a pencil. The date and time of the exam are listed above.


Students taking the course for Honors credit will, in addition to the regular course requirements, write a 4,000-to-6,000-word paper. A proposal (one or two pages) is due in class on the date of quiz 16. The paper is due at the final exam. The paper should be single-spaced with 1-inch top and bottom margins and 2-inch side margins. The assignment: propose and argue for a change in an institution or policy that would make the United States a better place. You aren’t limited to issues we cover during the semester. Your grade will be based on how effectively you argue on behalf of your proposed solution. Some keys to success: State the proposal. Identify the problem(s) it aims to address. Say how it will help. Anticipate objections. Refer to relevant research and data. Write clearly.


Students are encouraged to share intellectual views and discuss freely the principles and applications of course materials. However, graded work must be the product of independent effort unless otherwise instructed. Students are expected to adhere to the UA Code of Academic Integrity as described in the UA General Catalog.


Students are expected to observe the UA Student Code of Conduct as it pertains to classroom behavior and should be familiar with UA policies against threatening behavior by students.


Students who need special accommodation or services should contact the Disability Resources Center, 1224 E. Lowell St, tel 520.621.3268, email You must register and request that the DRC send me official notification of your accommodation needs as soon as possible. Please meet with me to discuss accommodations and how my course requirements and activities may impact your ability to fully participate. The need for accommodations must be documented by the appropriate office.


See here.


Information here, other than the grade and attendance policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.