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Posts Tagged ‘structural change’


It is election season. In all the hubbub about impeachment (for the last 3 years) it is easy to lose sight of the debates and televised town halls that have been going on for the last 6 months. The 20 has slowly been dwindling in our game of who offers the most free stuff and is most relatable.

TImage may contain: 1 person, tree, table, plant, sky, grass, outdoor and naturehere haveĀ  been plenty of policy proposals. Some of those are slightly different than current policies, and some are vastly different. Some promise “big structural change.” I won’t go into how that scares the pants off me for now.

In the September 28, 2019 edition of World Magazine, Janie B. Cheaney has an interesting piece on policy. She begins with a documentary called One Child Nation which examines the effects of China’s “one-child policy”.

In one clip, the co-director (who grew up under the policy but now lives in the states) says, “I left a country where the government forced women to abort, and I moved to another country where governments restrict abortions.” Well, some states do. She seems to think, Cheaney says, that the central issue is government attitudes toward women (hear the cries of the ‘war on women’). The issue doesn’t seem to be “human life itself.”

The people interviewed in the clips seemed to fall back on “Policy is policy.” People feel helpless in the face of government policy. They have less impact in a system like China’s. Here we can vote, and we should evaluate policy.

In China the policy was enacted by top-level party members. The expressed problem they were trying to solve was “overpopulation.” Abortion was a means of population control. The resulting unintended consequences are a demographic nightmare (not enough women because parents wanted sons to care for them in old age). They self-corrected to a two-child maybe policy where if you have a girl you can apply for permission to have a second child in the hopes of having a boy. Cheaney notes that in the future they may have to require two children to fix the problem they created with their one-child policy.

Bad policy creates very negative consequences that are often addressed by the same group of people who gave you the bad policy in the first place. They create problems and then try to fix them, often having the same level of success. The ACA tried to fix our healthcare system, for instance. At least that is what we were told before it was crammed down our throats with a series of statements that proved false. It really messed up the healthcare system because it “fixed” the wrong things (in my opinion) and in the wrong way. We elected people to fix it in 2016, and they failed to get the necessary votes (thanks to the senators from my state, both of whom are no longer senators but one ran expressly on getting rid of Obamacare). Now we have different plans proposed in these debates without substantial debate on the motives, means and consequences of the plan. We have this on healthcare, student debt, gun control, climate issues and more.

“Policy has become the end-all of politics. Bad policy caused the current mess, however we define the messiness; good policy will fix it.”

Cheaney rightly notes that policy should be at the end of the discussion, not the beginning. Policy is the ‘how’ of a solution to a problem. First we have to sort out the “what” and the “why” of the particular problem. She goes back to China’s one-child policy. The stated rationale was overpopulation and therefore potential starvation of the population (obviously not the party elite, they always seem to eat). They didn’t consider the effect of their policies regarding how food was grown. They didn’t evaluate their communist system and whether it could feed that many people or not. The issue was their economic and political framework. Because they failed to examine their presuppositions, they came up with really bad policy. They also failed to consider the nature and value of human life. What matters to them is the Party.

We have the same policy problems. We don’t look at our presuppositions that drive a policy proposal. We don’t stop to think about what caused a problem. We treat symptoms instead of the disease and have bigger problems before we know it.

LenBias.jpgHere is a policy gone awry. In 1986 the Boston Celtics won the NBA title AND had the 2nd overall pick it the draft. Choosing Maryland standout Len Bias, it seemed the dynasty would be able to continue beyond Larry Bird. He flew up to his press conference in Boston, went home afterward and died overnight due to a cocaine overdose. This was high profile! This prompted policy change so “this never happens again.” The Len Bias Law, as it came to be called, increased the penalties on the local distributor of drugs. As a result large numbers of African-American men were incarcerated. Once in that system, it is amazingly difficult to become disentangled. Getting out of prison rarely means freedom. As a felon it is hard to get a job (due to policy), and other limitations and policies make it even harder to be employable. The person imprisoned by bad policy finds him or herself continuously constrained by bad policy (however well-intentioned) that continues to keep them impoverished materially, emotionally, relationally and even spiritually.

One of the great ironies is that most of these candidates are lawmakers in DC. Amazingly, they don’t seem to have proposed any of these in the form of law to this point (which if they are so awesome their colleagues should all vote for them) . In other words, they haven’t been doing their current jobs as legislators but make policy proposals so they can become President, the chief executive. They don’t really want their policy proposals seriously examined and debated until after they get in office. This is not a 2020 issue, but has been this way for awhile. Rather than electing people who have a track record of good policy, we are continually asked to vote for people on the basis of their promised policy about problems they usually helped create by voting on bad policy in the past.

Policy has its place. Let’s put it there.

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