Baylor > Political Science > Undergraduate Program > Honors Theses 2009


Honors Theses Completed in 2009 by Political Science

and International Studies Majors

Ariel Alexander, International Studies
Dr. Joan Supplee, mentor

Democracy re-establishing justice through truth: the Strengthening of Rule of Law in Argentina, Chile and Paraguay as seen through the effectiveness of their truth commissions

The actions of the Truth and Justice/Reconciliation commissions in Argentina, Chile and Paraguay, as representations of the re-establishment of rule of law within these countries differed greatly. This project shows how the actions taken during the dictatorship to remove or change rule of law, the atrocities committed, and the duration of said regimes directly affected the process of judicial strengthening and the breadth and quality of the actions taken by the different commissions. As a result of this analysis, it is possible to conclude that each case study is a prism for analyzing the strengthening of the judiciary as part of the re-democratization process in the Southern Cone. The different processes also highlight the areas where greater reforms could take place.

Adam L. Arrington, Political Science
Dr. Jerold R. Waltman, mentor

Whose Land Is It Anyway: The Evolution of Eminent Domain in the United States

It sounds simple enough: "[private property shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation." For years, government - at the federal, state and local level - utilized this power, known as "eminent domain," for purposes that few could dispute were public use, but as times and circumstances changed, so, too, did the concept of "public use." A litany of federal and state court cases, as well as articles in everything from scholarly journals to community newsletters, betrays the government's history of defending a wide range of projects as legitimate exercise of its eminent domain power, and the judiciary's almost unbroken streak of acquiescence. My thesis offers a concise history of eminent domain leading up to the Supreme Court's seminal decision in Berman v. Parker (1954), followed by in-depth analyses of that and two other landmark cases - Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit (1981), a Michigan Supreme Court decision which exemplifies state and local courts' acceptance of economic development as "public use," and Kelo v. City of New London (2005), in which the U.S. Supreme Court established this doctrine at the federal level - that help explain both the causes and effects of government's ever-expanding eminent domain power.

Sam Chen, Philosophy and Political Science
Dr. David K. Nichols, mentor

Defending Religious Liberty: Is a Secular Definition of Religion Possible?

Since the landmark case Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the U.S. Supreme Court has continually sought to define religion in exclusively secular terms, in hopes of, on the one hand, preserving religious liberty and, on the other, establishing a clear and distinct line between government and religion. This thesis carefully analyzes and evaluates a number of constitutional tests introduced by the Supreme Court to accomplish the aforementioned task. The Lemon Test (Lemon v. Kurtzman), the Establishment Test (Lynch v. Donnelly), and the Coercion Test (Lee v. Weisman) form the Court's position on establishment. The right to free exercise is outlined by the Sherbert Test (Sherbert v. Verner) and a number of other precedents developed in cases such as Employment Division v. Smith, Wisconsin v. Yoder, and Lyng v. Northwestern India CPA. These tests and precedents have guided the courts in their quest to defend religious liberty by balancing the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. Through this process of understanding and critically assessing the development in establishment and free exercise case law, this thesis demonstrates the limits and contradictions inherent in the high Court's attempt at an exclusively secular definition of religion, which is a road block in the path of defending religious liberty.

Rachel M. Frankeny, Economics and Political Science
Dr. Jerold Waltman and Dr. James Henderson, mentors

The Political and Policy Challenges of U.S. Health Care Reform

Few issues in American politics today garner as much attention and debate as the issue of health care, yet there is still a great deal of ambiguity as to what reform is possible and what reform is needed, if any. Thus, this work aims at evaluating, at a basic level, first the political and then the policy challenges of health care reform in the United States. After a general discussion of public opinion and partisan differences, as these substantially affect the political viability of reform itself and of various reform proposals, I move on to address whether the two areas of primary concern, the uninsured and costs, are indeed creating major problems or even a health care crisis. I evaluate the current trends in these two areas and provide an analysis of the types of problems that the trends of rising numbers of uninsured and rising costs are creating for the country. Then, after showing that these problems are both serious and severe and that the need for reform to alleviate them is indeed pressing, I conclude by evaluating the reform plan set forth by President Obama in light of how well the plans accords with the aforementioned political and policy challenges of reform.

Dodge Grootemaat, Political Science
Dr. Dwight Allman, mentor

Tradition and Revolution

The divergence that occurs in political theory between Erasmus's Education of a Christian Prince and Machiavelli's The Prince, both written in the same decade, is arguably the most substantial rift in the history of political philosophy. Machiavelli swung the pendulum of political theory away from the classical understanding to the completely opposite end, where it remained throughout modernity. Despite Machiavelli's past philosophical victories, we are amidst yet another political revolution - one in which Machiavelli's banner is beginning to ray. Realism's overwhelming dominance and its complementary understanding that politics are nothing more than a game of survival has finally started eroding in light of a neoclassical reawakening; the pendulum is drifting away from Machiavelli's political science due to the gravity of a developing political morality, and hopefully soon we will find ourselves at last properly centered between the classical and the modern.

Tom Just, German and International Studies
Dr. Andrew Wisely, mentor

Waging Peace: Leipzig's Peaceful Revolution

Common conceptions of revolution often focus upon instances of violence. Revolution in the German Democratic Republic, however, came about with a surprising lack of violence. Images of Berliners tearing down the wall that divided East from West often dominate our memory of what occurred, but the seeds for revolution were planted long before that night. The peaceful demonstrations in Leipzig, particularly on October 9, 1989, that signaled the end of the totalitarian regime were enabled by three primary factors: the political reforms originating from Moscow, the establishment of social capital, and the role of the church. This investigation process that each of these factors was pivotal for a peaceful revolution to succeed. Furthermore, the writings of the political philosopher Hannah Arendt illuminate how the power of the people ultimately usurped the power of one of the world's most oppressive totalitarian states.

Chelsea Saylors, University Scholar
Dr. David K. Nichols, mentor

Wyatt Earp as Secretary of State: Western Films as an Expression of American Identity and Political Thought, 1946-1993

Western films have perhaps the greatest effect on American political identity, due to the fact that the Western myth itself is foundational to the national identity. No one remains to give a firsthand account of the journey west, but the story is woven into the fabric of American identity. While most Americans will never experience the West for themselves, they have been exposed to the stories since childhood. First, I present the development of the Western film genre, arranging films into specific categories based on their narrative structure. I then argue that the Western myth is the American national myth, drawing on the nature of myth and the importance of the West in American history. Finally, I consider two specific case studies, one on My Darling Clementine and the other on Tombstone, to represent the political relevance of Westerns and their effect on American political thought and identity.

Paige Tucker, Political Science
Dr. Jennifer Good, mentor

German Immigration in the 20th and 21st Centuries

The combination of a growing foreign resident population, comprising nearly ten percent of the total German population, with a declining birthrate among ethnic Germans at the close of the twentieth century led to the implementation of two major immigration reforms in 2000 and 2005, which provide a definite break from many of the immigration policies of the previous century. In order to examine the effect likely to be had by these two laws, this thesis first analyzes the primary laws and immigration movements of the twentieth century, and then analyzes in detail the specifications and immediate effects of the Citizenship Act of 2000 and the Immigration Act of 2005. To further analyze the effectiveness of these two reforms, the growing attention given to issues of migration and citizenship on the European Union level is discussed. Ultimately, the reforms of 2000 and 2005 represent a positive step in the progression of German immigration law, but further actions will need to be taken to match anticipated actions by the European Union and to attract immigrants in sufficient numbers to mitigate the effects of population decline.

Joseph Vale, Political Science
Dr. Victor J. Hinojosa, mentor

Born Or Raised? Comparing American and French Birthright Citizenship Policy

The United States is currently the only developed country in the world to utilize simple jus soli. This project makes a comparative analysis between the United States and France in order to explain why the United States adheres to its unique policy. France was the first country in Europe to reject simple jus soli, and some scholars argue that French nationality policy has led trends in European nationality policies since then. Like the United States, France also experience a revolution based on republican ideas. This project uses historical analysis to identify factors that allowed France and the United States to follow different paths after their respective revolutions. This analysis helps explain why the United States continues to adhere to a unique policy.
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