Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Establishing the Context

I am not aware as to what the status is currently vote-wise of Barack Obama's medical care reform legislation, but I do know it is a threat and worthwhile focusing on. Paul Hsieh of We Stand FIRM has posted some interesting links and commentary as to why the free market is not to be blamed for the current problems of medical care. I also recommend reading, for a more thorough and exhaustive understanding, Moral Health Care vs. "Universal Health Care" if you have the time, for it explains how certain aspects of universal medical care have already been implemented in some states and have failed horribly.

To add an epistemological postscript to these articles, the blaming of the free market for the failures of universal medical care is a spectacular example of the epistemological poison known as "context-dropping". To drop the context, in this instance, means to improperly disassociate information or someone's stated words from the context that gives it its appropriate meaning, thereby forming a distortion. While one may be tempted to argue so, it is not always the case that when someone isolates a certain piece of data or a statement of someone's speech that it is automatically dropping the context (it is certainly "removing from the context"); "context-dropping" isolates instances when the meaning is *distorted* by the act of removing information from its context. An example for clarity: say politician X is speaking about the holocaust and in his speech he quotes Hitler on his contempt for the Jewish. Then politician Y comes along, politician X's opponent, and then publicly quotes only X's quote. This would be dishonest context-dropping, as this new quote distorts the meaning by making it seem as if politician X holds contempt for Jewish people when in reality he is merely quoting someone else who did.

To relate this back to universal medical care, the context-dropping that is taking place is in regard to the totality of the factors affecting medical care quality and prices. This is the fault of pragmatism. Pragmatism denies that there are such things as principles, or at least that principles are practical, and therefore, by corollary, denies the purity of principles. By "purity" I mean "absolute". Anything introduced to a guiding principle that is irrelevant or inapplicable to it means that that guiding principle is no longer being used. A laissez faire free market, for instance, entails that the government does not intervene in the economy is any way whatsoever. Even the most minuscule regulation, say a penny tax on cigarettes, is enough to change a laissez faire market into a mixed economy.

But our politicians think they can eat their cake and have it too.

Thus we see the practice of politicians continually adding taxes and regulations to the economy while at the same time calling it a "free market". This is as dishonest as saying chocolate milk is bone white plain milk. In reality, America has neither a controlled economy nor a free one: it has a mixed economy, an economy that employs a mixture of freedom and controls (the ratio of freedom to control is the measurement omitted).

The result of this context-dropping is that we have national confusion as to what constitutes a free market, causing economic problems to be far too often misdiagnosed. To demonstrate, there were within the last few months two contradictory polls. One poll asked about how favorable certain economic models were and indicated that fewer Americans are supporting capitalism, but then another poll by the same organization indicated that Americans mostly favor the free market. Capitalism and free markets are synonymous, so it makes no sense as to distinguish between them except to show that Americans are confused as to what capitalism actually is.

To prevent this epistemological poison from seeping into our systems and establishing confusion and dishonesty, we must employ its antonym; we must "establish the context". Establishing the context means finding out what constitutes essential information in a particular context and then actively retaining it as one works with it. When we quote someone's words we must make sure to include in that quote all the essential sentences which give that portion meaning and when we isolate a piece of data we must also isolate all the factors that give it meaning.

In the medical care debate over cost, quality and service, establishing the context would mean to take into account the following factors which may or may not be relevant: cultural, environmental, things affecting other industries, governmental, and that which is left up entirely to the discretion of a provider. As of far, only the last factor on the list has been popularly focused on, and in a dishonest fashion too, for people far too often attribute to freedom choices made by medical industry workers that were actually coerced choices. To establish the context, I again echo my deepest recommendation in inquiring the links mentioned at the beginning of this piece.

It may be redundant to say this, but if we misdiagnose this problem, it could be fatal for millions.

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