Venturing outside one’s comfort zone is an important skill to have in the modern world. One of the most discomforting situations in American society is, apparently, the pluralism of opinions. Instead of facing one another in an honest and polite debate, a considerable number of people prefer staying in the relative comfort of echo chambers created on various social media platforms, such as Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and others.
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Many individuals have preconceived notions about politics, morality, social justice, and other important aspects of their lives (Sprei). At the same time, however, it is necessary to understand that anyone can be wrong and that truth is usually found in a debate. To challenge me, I chose to visit the student-led depolarization debate at the American University Center for Innovation, which took place on October 4, 2018.
The debate that took place was about the status of healthcare as a universal right guaranteed by the government. This question has been the cornerstone of many political confrontations since the introduction of Obamacare in 2010. Democrats and their supporters typically sustain that healthcare is a right whereas Republicans believe that it is a privilege. The debates between the two opposing views usually result in insults. However, the forum I attended was nothing like I imagined it to be. There were about 20 participants, with several professors from an organization called “Better Angels” to serve as mediators (Sprei).
Surprisingly enough, both sides were much more civil than they are on the Internet. The debate started with whether or not healthcare was an essential right but soon slid into a discussion on whether universal healthcare would be sustainable or not, or if it should be left to the forces of the free market. Both sides came prepared and provided various arguments to support their positions, citing the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, the Bible, and Milton Friedman, among other sources. Charisma and the ability to present a case played as much importance in the debate as facts did, making me wonder whether it was a venture in finding the objective truth or an exercise in debating abilities.
Personally, I supported the idea of healthcare being a commodity rather than a right, despite the imperfections of the existing healthcare system in the USA. However, an argument offered by one of my opponents managed to change my views to a degree. The basis behind free-market capitalism lies in the capabilities of the customers to compare services and prices, choosing the best ones available. That is how competition works, pushing out irresponsible producers and promoting quality.
However, healthcare is not an industry that works by the laws of classic capitalism. A sick person often does not have the capacity to choose the best option for themselves. Healthcare insurance companies do not work the same way as regular companies in the market do – they derive money from young and healthy customers, who need insurance less and lose money on older and more vulnerable customers, who need healthcare the most. Therefore, the laws of the market do not apply to healthcare.
The debate concluded peacefully, and since the discussion shifted from healthcare as a right to how healthcare should be administered in the USA. I consider that the pro-universal healthcare side won the first part of the debate, forcing the opposition to admit that it was indeed a right, and having them change the discussion to the possibility (or lack thereof) of providing healthcare for everybody. What I found interesting in this debate was that both sides were willing to listen to one another. David Blankenhorn and April Lawson were excellent mediators, ensuring civility and plausibility of arguments. I think that the divisiveness in our current society is the product of the Internet and mass media, as it prevents people from discussing matters face to face.
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Sprei, Doug. “Interview: David Blankenhorn, Founder of Better Angels.” GoACTA.com. 2018. Web.