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Ethics in American Politics (University of Florida)

The problem of unethical behavior involving elected officials is a perennial concern in American politics. Since the early days of the Republic, policy makers and ordinary citizens have sought to control unethical conduct such as bribery and treason. In recent decades, the focus of concern about political ethics has shifted to the problem of "conflicts of interest" between elected officials' private interests and their public duties, and to the regulation of campaign finance. This course will examine theories of political ethics, important episodes of corruption, and the regulation of political ethics through elections and legislation. The main focus will be on the ethics of legislators, but we will also look at presidents, governors, and other public officials.

Some of the main questions the course will address include: How does political ethics differ, if at all, from private ethics?  What causes corruption?  What have been the aims of good-government reformers?  What sorts of ethical issues does the American campaign finance system pose?  Should unethical behavior be addressed at the ballot box rather than through new laws?  What are the limits of ethics regulation?  What constitutes political courage, and what other virtues are important for public officials to have?

Books For Purchase

            Two books and one coursepack are required for purchase.  The coursepack will be available at Orange and Blue Textbooks, 309 NW 13th St. (ph 375-2707)

 Books Required For Purchase

1)      Dennis F. Thompson, Ethics in Congress  (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1995)

2)      John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage (Harper Collins (HarperPerennial): 2000)

3)      Michael Beschloss, Presidential Courage (Simon & Schuster, 2007)

The full course syllabus can be found via the following link:

14 Nov 2013

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