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Argue What You Know

Erica Greider observes that issues that are largely non-technical in nature engage the public in a much deeper way than other kinds of policy issues:

One other comment regarding abortion, which I offered as an example of a sacred issue and which was much discussed in the comments. I typically think of hot-button issues such as abortion (or gay marriage, or now health-care reform) through the framework of accessibility. Public discussions over, say, fiscal policy don’t become attenuated because most people don’t know much about the issue, or don’t care. They are therefore more willing to defer to the opinion of the presumed experts on the subject. In contrast, everyone has some personal expertise on sex and love and health, so they are more willing to venture and defend a strong opinion on this subject. So in many cases our sacred values are also our quotidian concerns.

You certainly see this in the health care debate, where the very small difference between the House and Senate about how to treat abortion coverage has garned vastly more attention than the difference between nationwide insurance exchanges and state-run insurance exchanges. But as I was saying the other day, I think it’s important to recognize that this dynamic exists outside the sphere of the traditional “hot button” issues as well. When ordinary people think about something like bank bailouts, the point that they are going to have strong clear views on is the question of justice not the issue of interest rate spreads.

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