Assorted thoughts, courtesy of the health care bill
I stayed up late tonight watching the results of the health bill vote, and it got me thinking about a number of things:
-how rhtetoric factors into the political and policy process.
-the general reasons that rhetoric can be effective (usually because the target audience doesn’t have access to better information and/or a sound understanding of the relevant issues, but also because of emotional appeals)
-what does this health care bill actually do? I have a vague understanding, which I have acquired primarily from newspapers and news on TV, neither of which is beyond reproach. I sure haven’t read the bill, and the prospect of doing so makes me start to feel dizzy. Incidentally, I recently saw the world’s fastest speed reader go through the bill on live TV, and then summarize it (I only saw portions of the show, unfortunately). As I understand, the bill prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, eliminates life-time coverage limits, provides a way for all people to be insured (I don’t know exactly how, but apparently it’s not the public option), requires everyone to purchase insurance and, as with any good health care legislation, nationalizes the student loan industry. A more complete understanding is pending.
-I was blessed to have a very erudite father and a lively and intellectually-engaging family culture growing up, and currently have roommates who are renaissance men in their own rights. However, I think most people lack a forum where they can comfortably ask questions, seek understanding of confusing or complicated issues, and not have to worry that they are somehow being duped.
-because I want to start a nonprofit organization some day, and am constantly on the lookout for compelling ideas that are also sufficiently marketable, I wonder if I can somehow convert these ideas about rhetoric, persuasion, and complex or poorly understood issues into a viable nonprofit organization.
-along the same lines, if I were to pursue a course providing research, analysis, and communication of poorly understood and/or complicated issues, how could I make it work? For one, I would have to be, or to be able to become, knowledegable about relevant topics. Also, I would have to exude some sort of credibility, achieved by a fair-minded, thorough approach, as well as credentials (part of the persistent rationale for sticking with my grad program – I want to understand policy)
-thinking about how I can be considered credible, I recalled the range of college courses I have taken, and (here’s where I toot my horn) the intellectual curiosity which motivated me. Also, while searching for my contact lens after its unexpected exodus from my eyeball to the bathroom floor, it occurred to me that my current political understanding (admittedly incomplete, but not half-bad either, if I do say so myself) is almost completely self-taught, something of which I am quite proud. I have taken only two political science courses in my lifetime, both of which were more focused on specific areas (the international political economy of women, and urban policy problems) rather than providing a general framework for political thinking (that I mostly had to figure out myself, which again, I pride myself on).
-lastly, do people value being helped to understand current events and salient issues enough to pay for such a nonprofit? I have some doubts, but I don’t really know for sure, one way or the other.