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Roger & Ann Worthington Essay Prize in Plan II

2021 Essay Contest Prompt posted!

In 2002, Plan II alumnus, Roger Worthington (’80), provided funding for an annual essay prize in Plan II.  Originally a single prize, Plan II now awards 3 prizes each year, including a first-year student prize. The essay topics have ranged from hypothetical scenarios to real-world events and always challenge students to form an argument on one side of a legal, medical, or ethical debate, then present it convincingly. Plan II faculty members read each essay to select the winning essays, and all current Plan II students are eligible to enter.

Grand Prize:  $5000 
First-Year Prize: $3500 (best essay written by a first-year student)
Second Place Prize:  $2500

2021 Essay Prompt: Ethics and Wealth Inequality

The year is 2031, and wealth inequality has become a priority issue in domestic politics. Many middle-income Americans feel priced out of economic opportunities such as college education and home ownership. Costs of living have risen dramatically in the most habitable regions of the country. Meanwhile, conspicuous consumption among the very rich—especially the growing popularity of space tourism—has enflamed class resentments. Once an adventure reserved only for the richest few individuals, brief trips to the stratosphere have now become a common recreation of the growing billionaire class, with several dozen suborbital launches each year. A seat on such a journey typically costs between $10 and $30 million, with most trips lasting 20 minutes or fewer.

Last week, a private spacecraft owned by cosmetics magnate Agatha “Marie” Antoinette was involved in deadly accident. The ship, L’America XV (nicknamed “Versailles in the Sky,” and “Rouge One” by late night talk show hosts), ejected a booster rocket over the Gulf of Mexico. The debris was expected to splash down hundreds of miles offshore, but instead broke apart over coastal Louisiana, crashing into lower-income fishing communities. Private homes, a school, some roadways and a historic boardwalk were damaged. Three people died. News helicopters broadcasting from the scene spotted fragments of the trademark-pink rocket among the wreckage, including a section of the fuselage that read “Earth is for losers” in hand-painted script.

In response, some legislators have called for new curbs on the industry, mostly in the form of taxes or regulations. Some have suggested banning recreational space travel altogether, citing its environmental impact. Others have suggested a steep luxury tax that could generate revenue for infrastructure. Opponents say that another accident of this type is unlikely, and that such restrictions will merely move launches to locations outside the United States.

You are chief of staff to newly-elected U.S. Representative Natasha Renaldo, who won a special election to replace her long-serving predecessor (who was removed from office following an insider-trading scandal). Your office has fielded hundreds of constituent calls about the L’America crash, with a variety of opinions about what should be done. In this morning’s meeting, Representative Renaldo asked you to help her prepare for an upcoming town hall.

“I don’t want to just address space tourism,” she said. “I want to develop some broader policy positions about wealth inequality. I want your advice.”

In approximately 1500 words, prepare a brief for the congresswoman, outlining the moral and ethical dimensions of wealth inequality, and what remedies (if any) government should pursue.

2021 entry instructions:

  • Deadline:  5:00 pm, Monday, October 4, 2021
  • Submit your essay online via the widget on this website below.  NO LATE ENTRIES.
  • At the top of your essay, please include your full name, eid, and class year
  • Submit your entry as a PDF file using the following filename format: 
lastname_firstname_eid
  • Students who receive financial aid should check with the UT Office of Student Financial Services to find out if winning a prize will affect their aid package.
  • Questions?  Email mdillman@austin.utexas.edu

 


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    512-471-1442