Course Justice, Law and Capitalism - Law 673A
Instructor Simone M. Sepe
Coteachers: Thomas Christiano
Units 3 (Graded)

No Prequisites, but it is recommended that students have taken or are taking Contracts and Constitutional Law.

Recommended Courses:  

In this course we will study issues of distributive justice and ethical issues concerning climate change with particular emphasis on questions of justice in the distribution of burdens and benefits in climate change policy and law.  Among the most fundamental issues to be addressed in climate change policy and law are questions of justice.  For example, are developing countries to bear the same burdens as developed countries?  If not, why not and what should the differences be?  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change asserts that developed and developing countries have "differentiated responsibilities."  But what is the basis of this differentiation and what is the appropriate extent of this differentiation?  Another central question of justice concerns the fact that developed countries historically have the lion's share of responsibility in the production of greenhouse gases.  The developing countries are often disproportionately negatively affected by this accumulation of greenhouse gases.  Do the developed countries have duties to remedy these harmful effects on the developing world?  Another set of justice issues concerns what current generations owe future generations.  It is the current levels of emissions that threaten future generations.  How much sacrifice of our current consumption do we owe to future generations?  We will study these issues first, by examining the work of some leading scholars in the study of justice.  The main question we will address is: what is a just or fair distribution of benefits and burdens in a society?  We will consider an egalitarian approach to distributive justice that recommends that material goods be distributed equally or at least in such a way that benefits the worst off as much as possible.  We will consider an individual rights based approach to just distribution.  We will also consider what people owe each other by way of remedy for rights violations.  And we will consider the question of the relation of justice to efficiency in society.  Second, we will explore how to think about the central questions of justice in climate change policy with the help of the theories and concepts elaborated in the first part of the course.

Tentative Schedule

Distributive Justice

January 21: Selected background readings on theories of distributive justice in preparation for Arneson's presentation.

January 28: Richard Arneson (Philosophy, University of California, San Diego)
"Distributive Justice and Egalitarianism"

February 4:  Selected background readings on rights and remedies in preparation for Jody Kraus's visit.

February 11:  Jody Kraus (Law and Philosophy, Columbia University)
"Rights and Remedies"

February 18:  Selected background readings in law and economics with special attention to the issue of relation of justice and efficiency.

February 25:  Robert Cooter (Law, University of California, Berkeley)
"Efficiency and Justice"

Climate Change and Justice

March 4:  Selected background readings on justice and climate change

March 11:  David Weisbach (Law, University of Chicago)

March 18: Spring Break

March 25:  Selected background readings on environmental justice

April 1:  Alice Kaswan (Law, University of San Francisco)

April 8:  Selected background readings in preparation for Paul Baer's visit.

April 15:  Paul Baer (Union of Concerned Scientists)

April 22:  Student paper discussions

April 29:  Student paper discussions

Students will meet on Tuesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.


 A list of the materials will be provided before the beginning of the semester.

Course Format

The format of the course will involve three main elements.  The central element will be the presentations of invited speakers on issues of the course and open discussion of the work of the speaker (which will have been read in advance by the group).  The week before these presentations, the sessions will be designed to provide background for the study of the issues and a framework within which the issues make sense.  It will consist of two parts: first, introductory lectures by Professors Christiano and Sepe that provide background and a framework for students to understand the issues; and second, open seminar style discussion of the issues in the background readings.

Written Assignments

Students are required to write brief comments on articles presented in class by the invited speakers.

Type of Exam

Two short essays.

Basis for grading

Class participation: 20%

Brief written comments: 20%

Short essays and presentations: 60%

Additional Comments  
Print this Course Description