The problem of the materials economy (Story of Stuff) and Government’s response to the pandemic (COVID-19)


Based mostly on the reading and lectures in this class, write an original paper of 6 to 7 double-spaced pages in length. This paper will be addressed to a current member of Congress, focused on a single public policy issue. The paper should achieve three things:

  1. The paper should explain the issue in detail (1 to 2 pages);
  2. The paper should describe the issue’s connection to different parts of government (4 pages); and,
  3. The paper should encourage the member to take a particular course of action (1 page).

You are required to base the paper around only ONE of these two issues:

  • The problem of the materials economy (Story of Stuff)
  • Government’s response to the pandemic (COVID-19)

You are required to use at least three chapters in the American Government textbook as supporting evidence, and whatever material from the assignments you find helpful. Although not a requirement, you may cite popular news sources, but they should be reputable journalistic sources.


  1. The paper is due Wednesday, June 24at 11:59:00 PM.
  2. You must turn in the paper by submitting on Blackboard, via TurnItIn.
  3. You are strongly encouraged to cite both the book and course material.
  4. In a works cited page, let me know which chapters of the textbook you are using and any news sources you cite.
  5. The length requirement of 6-7 pages assumes the paper is double-spaced using 1” margins and 12-point Times New Roman font. If you submit with some other combinations of margins and fonts, I will assess the length of the paper reformatted accordingly, so everyone is held to the same standard.
  6. Be sure to review rules and principles of plagiarism, even if you have no intention of attempting to cheat. Occasionally students are unaware of their obligations when submitting a term paper and inadvertently find themselves in trouble. For instance, you must use a citation when paraphrasing, even if you are not quoting directly. Also, cutting and pasting even a few sentences from the Internet without citing constitutes plagiarism. In this assignment, you are not to use Internet-based sources anyway.

Citations and References

In your paper, you must employ a clear, unambiguous, and thorough system of citations to your sources. Many standard citation styles exist, and all accomplish the same thing: provide the reader with a definitive indication of the source material. The principle at work is that a citation should permit a reader to find the material you used.

You may use any of the standard styles, so long as you are consistent in the style that you choose. MLA, named after the Modern Language Association, is one common style. APA, named after the American Psychological Association, is yet another style. For an excellent overview of styles with a detailed guide to citations, see this link:

Notes on the Topic

This is not a traditional “research” paper requiring library work or Internet-based searches. All of the supporting material and evidence you will need is contained in the book assigned for this class and in the course material. You must use and cite as your main evidence three chapters of your choice from the American Government textbook (any three are acceptable, whether assigned in the reading or not) and any other material from the class.

Your challenge is NOT to figure out “the right answer” and feed it back to me. Political issues are too large and complex. There are several ways to address any political issue. You will be graded on 1) whether you provide a coherent and plausible thesis, and; 2) how well you systematically support your thesis throughout the paper. I will also grade you on how well organized and well written your paper is, and whether or not you follow directions.

The thesis of the paper is inexorably connected to the course of action that you will recommend your member of Congress to take. This will be the major argument of the paper. You should carefully plan and outline your entire paper before you start typing. In fact, the introduction of the paper should give the reader a preview (or roadmap) of what you intend to do in its remaining pages. This includes your thesis and which parts of government you think are affected by the issue.

Some students are timid about asserting a clear thesis that answers the question in the introduction to their papers, partially out of fear of getting the thesis wrong. That is not a good strategy with this assignment. You are more likely to be graded down for failing to take a position rather than for taking a position that is flatly wrong.

It may help to think about the introductory section of your paper containing the thesis as partially analogous to the opening statement of a trial attorney in a major constitutional case. In that opening statement, a good civil liberties attorney tells the court that he or she is going to show that government violated the Constitution when it acted, and the attorney gives a preview of the logic and principles that will be presented throughout the trial. In this way, the attorney starts right from the beginning with an answer to the question of constitutionality, and then attempts with careful argumentation to convince the court of his or her initial assertion. Similarly, in your introduction you should tell the reader what you think the answer is (thesis) and give a preview of the arguments you’ll be making in the body of the paper. Do not fall into the trap that entangles many students who are fearful of getting the wrong answer, merely telling the reader that it is an interesting question and you’ll be discussing various sides of the matter. This would be analogous to an attorney telling the court that he is not sure about his client’s position and whether or not the Constitution was violated.

Ultimately, I am asking you to make a descriptive assessment of how government should, in fact, solve a problem.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should I address my paper as if it was a formal letter to Congress?

A: Sure, you could. I don’t have a strong preference here. It can be written and addressed as a formal letter or it could be more of a policy paper, which a statement that describes a public policy issue in depth. To look up members in the US House based on a physical US address, check out this website. You can also write to any member of the US Senate.

Q: How do I explain the issue in detail?

A: The first one to two pages should just describe the issue you have chosen to work with. Just like any paper, you should establish the terms of the discussion. You can assume that the member of Congress does not have the full set of information regarding the materials economy or global pandemic. Give whatever detail you need in order to have a discussion of how government should respond to the issue.

Q: What do you mean by connecting the issue to different parts of government?

A: This is the bulk of the paper. Here, what you should do is make connections to the lessons of the class. Think about the different parts of government as the different units of the class. For example, can you connect the issue to the bureaucracy, the Presidency, Congress, civil liberties, federalism, public opinion, etc.? Here, you should be able to draw connections between the readings and cite the different chapters of the book. Demonstrate your understanding and knowledge of institutions of government by taking a critical look at what we have learned in class.

Q: How are the papers graded?

A: First and foremost, the paper is graded for clarity. A clear paper is a successful argued paper. Part of this lies in the strength of your thesis. Do you have a clear thesis statement in the introduction that clarifies your position on the question? Separately, but tied to clarity, is your paper free of writing errors? A paper with more than three to four instances of writing errors will be graded down. Keep spelling, grammar, and sentence structure in mind.

Second, you should be following the directions from this prompt. Have you met the page length requirement? Do you have the correct number of sources? Do you appropriately cite the course material? Are you formatting your paper given the guidelines (1” margins, 12-point Times New Roman font, double spaced)?

Finally, have you made a serious effort to think about the features of our American institutions? This is a very conceptually challenging assignment. Do you have a creative argument that has clear, assertive thinking? Do you use the class material in a clear and organized manner to effectively support an argument? Is that argument clear in the outset of the paper? Does the body of the paper contain appropriate evidence that supports that point?



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