Directions: Select either (a) or (b) for each of the twelve questions.
1. Neo-Nazis are holding a demonstration in a small town, waving swastikas around and shouting about Hitler. They seem to be pretty peaceful so far, so the First Amendment says you probably can’t get rid of them. However, their demonstration seems to be near a main street and it could be a minor inconvenience to the traffic trying to go through.
a) Allow the neo-Nazis to demonstrate unmolested
b) Break up the demonstration on the grounds of ‘blocking traffic’
2. The anchor of a major news network donates lots of money to organizations fighting against gay marriage, and in his spare time he writes editorials arguing that homosexuals are weakening the moral fabric of the country. The news network decides they disagree with this kind of behavior and fire the anchor.
a) This is acceptable; the news network is acting within their rights and according to their principles
b) This is outrageous; people should be judged on the quality of their work and not their political beliefs
3. A conservative Southern state makes a very strict law restricting the cases in which a woman can get an abortion. The United States Supreme Court, which happens to be dominated by liberal justices, takes an activist stance and strikes down the law based on a conflict with a very broad interpretation of the Constitution.
a) This is acceptable; the Supreme Court should be zealous in its duty of defending constitutional rights against potentially extremist states
b) This is unfortunate; when something is not clearly prohibited, the Supreme Court should err in favor of states rights
4. The Dalai Lama comes to speak at a college town, and the town wants to hold a big celebration honoring his visit, give him the key to the city, and make a small monument commemorating the event. The town’s sizeable Chinese minority population gets upset, saying they strongly believe the Dalai Lama is a bad person trying to break apart China.
a) The town should celebrate the Dalai Lama’s visit however they feel appropriate; it’s pretty cool and the Chinese are outvoted
b) The town should consider the sensibilities of the Chinese minority and keep the Dalai Lama’s visit low-key and unofficial
5. The United Nations is trying to pass a resolution banning land mines and allocating some resources to clean up existing mines that pose a danger to civilians. North Korea is causing a fuss and refusing to support the resolution, and this is endangering its chances of passing. The proponents of the resolution come up with a scheme to exploit a loophole in UN procedures, holding the vote in secret at a time when the North Korean representative might not even be present.
a) Exploit this loophole to make sure the anti-mine resolution passes
b) Stick to normal procedure and try to pass the anti-mine resolution above board and through legitimate channels
6. A feminist group is annoyed at Disney for making too many movies where a dashing male hero saves a helpless princess. They publicly demand Disney stop making this kind of movie and instead make movies with strong female heroes. They will have prominent marches accusing everyone in Disney of sexism until they comply.
a) This feminist group is acting according to proper democratic means to change a problematic feature of the culture, and deserve praise
b) This feminist group is being obnoxious and bullying, and deserve condemnation
[DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES WITHIN OUR CONTROL, QUESTIONS 7 THROUGH 10 HAVE BEEN CANCELLED.]
11. A human rights group is picketing the headquarters of Exxon Mobil for abusing their workers in Third World countries. Exxon Mobil executives feel very uncomfortable entering their HQ and say that the protesters are blocking the main entrance to the building. They want the protesters to go protest in a designated free speech zone a few miles away where it will have no effect on them.
a) Allow the human rights group to continue to stay near the building
b) Tell them to go protest far away
12. The principal of a private school is a member of Planned Parenthood and, off-duty, speaks out about contraception and the morning after pill. The board of the private school decides this is inappropriate given the school’s commitment to abstinence and moral education and asks the principal to stop these speaking engagements or step down from his position.
a) The school board is acting within its rights; they can insist on a principal who shares their values
b) The school board should back off; it’s none of their business what he does in his free time
13. New York City passes one of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation. A conservative-dominated Supreme Court strikes it down, taking a broad construction of the Second Amendment as prohibiting such regulations.
a) Agree with the Court’s decision; the Court has a duty to protect freedom against state infringement
b) Disagree; the Court should respect New York City’s right to legislate toward its own problems
14. A Southern town that produced a disproportionately high number of great Confederate generals and soldiers wants to erect a monument to its Civil War military heritage. The town’s small African-American community objects, saying that these generals, however impressive, were fighting to defend slavery and an evil regime.
a) The town should build the monument, as desired by the majority of its citizens
b) The town should avoid building the monument to respect the wishes of its minority community
15. The Democrats are in the process of passing a new law that cuts corporate welfare to large oil companies. A small group of Republicans oppose this measure but seem to be outnumbered. One delegate realizes that if he filibusters for the next twenty-six hours, he can delay the bill long enough that it will fall off the schedule of this session of Congress and potentially be voted upon by a friendlier legislature next term.
a) The Republican legislator is fairly following procedure and therefore his filibuster is acceptable or even commendable
b) The Republican legislator is contradicting the obvious will of the chamber and is kind of an asshole
16. Sometime in the 1950s, The Society Of Patriotic Americans For A More Patriotic America notices that a lot of writers seem to lean left, and worries that novels are promoting Communist ideas (perhaps by portraying businessmen in a very negative light or having rebels and political agititators as heroes). They meet with the heads of various publishing companies and ask the companies to self-monitor their books to make sure they are suitably American. SOPAFAMPA threatens to tar them in the press as Commies if they refuse.
a) SOPAFAMPA did not threaten force and therefore did not violate the First Amendment. They are doing their patriotic duty as citizens to try to fight Communism wherever they finds it.
b) SOPAFAMPA’s comments, even if not direct threats, will have a chilling effect on artistic expression and are tantamount to censorship.
Scoring: Each question 1 through 6 is paired with the question from 11 to 16 that shares the same terminal digit – ie 1 with 11, 2 with 12, etc.
Give yourself zero points for each pair of questions you answered differently – ie A for one but B for the other. Give yourself one point for each pair of questions you answered the same – ie both A or both B.
Score of 0 to 3: You are an Object-Level Thinker. You decide difficult cases by trying to find the solution that makes the side you like win and the side you dislike lose in that particular situation.
Score of 4 to 6: You are a Meta-Level Thinker. You decide difficult cases by trying to find general principles that can be applied evenhandedly regardless of which side you like or dislike.
Commentary: This test was inspired by this graph.
I tried to use pairs of questions that were similar enough that they both tested the same general principle, but not so similar that it would be immediately obvious what I was doing as soon as someone read the test. I realize that my insistence on the second criterion might have allowed me to slip with the first criterion. I do ask that if you criticize a pair of questions on the test, you propose an alternative pair that you think would make a good substitute and which also follow both criteria.
Other suggestions for add-on questions also welcome; the test would look a lot more streamlined if I could fill in 7-10.