Friday, October 19, 2012

An Election Appraisal

Here is one more election related post that may have little to do with faith, but a lot to do with reason. There is a logic method I teach where I work called Situation Appraisal. Its purpose is to sort out priority concerns and it answers the question “What is going on?” It can help a confused Catholic voter sort out and prioritize many issues at once (at least for themselves). Here is how it works with an everyday example:

Step 1: List any concerns as vague as you want.
Ø  Every day example: I hate my car

Step 2: Separate & Clarify:
We ask questions to restate unclear concerns into specific elements to help minimize/alleviate over-generalizations and rationality overloaded by feelings. Whether questioning another or yourself, remember that the goal is NOT to solve a problem; the goal is to bring clarity. Any concern should be questioned until it is difficult or even impossible to give it more than one meaning. This is done with probing, open questions like “why”, “what do you mean by”, “what concerns you about”, “what else”.

Ø  I hate my car (this can mean many things)
- Why?
            - It doesn’t work well.
- What’s wrong?
            - It vibrates at highway speeds
- What else?
            - It’s bad on gas mileage
- What else?
            - That’s it.

“I hate my car” was separated & clarified in to two specific concerns; a vibration that happens at highway speed & poor gas mileage.

Step 3: Consider Current Impact, Future Impact and Time Frame
For each clarified concern we ask, what is the current impact or seriousness? What is the future impact or growth (or what is likely to happen if nothing is done)? What is the time frame or urgency (when does it become too late)?

Concern
Current Impact
Future Impact
Time Frame
Car has vibration at high speed
It’s annoying
Vibration will destroy my new tries
A few weeks until the tires are destroyed
Car has poor gas mileage
Spending $40/mo too much on gas
Going into debt $40/mo
6 months until out of extra money

Step 4: Make a Comparative Evaluation.
Compare & prioritize each column one at a time, and then look at all three columns at once for the big picture.

Concern
Current Impact
Future Impact
Time Frame
Result
Car has vibration at high speed
Annoying
LOWER
New tires destroyed
HIGHER
A few weeks
HIGHER
2 Higher
1 Lower
Car has poor gas mileage
 
Spending $40/mo too much on gas
HIGHER
 
Going into debt
LOWER
 
6 months
LOWER
1 Higher
2 Low

The car vibration issue becomes the top priority concern since it was given 2 highs and 1 low, so we address this concern first.
This same kind of logic can be applied to a Catholic considering election issues:
PLEASE NOTE: This is only an example of hypothetical voter opinion.
Step 1: List any concerns:
Ø  Life Issues
Ø  Religious Liberty
Ø  Social Justice
Step 2: Separate & Clarify:
Ø  Life Issues
- What specific life issues concern you?
            - Abortion & Death Penalty
- What else?
            - That’s it
- What’s concerns you about abortion?
            - That it is legal. Abortion should be illegal.
- What concerns you about the death penalty?
            - God is the author of life, so the death penalty should be outlawed.

Ø  Religious Liberty
- What is your religious liberty concern?
            - HHS Mandate will cause Catholics to violate their conscience or be fined.
- What else?
            - That’s it.

Ø  Social Justice
- What concerns you about this?
            - Healthcare
- What about healthcare?
            - Many Americans can’t afford insurance.
- What else concerns you about Social Justice?
            - Nothing else.
 
“Life Issues” was separated & clarified into two specific concerns; legalized abortion & the death penalty. “Religious Liberty” was clarified to the HHS mandate. “Social Justice” was clarified to healthcare coverage for those who cannot afford it.

Step 3: Consider Current Impact, Future Impact and Time Frame
Concern
Current Impact
Future Impact
Time Frame
Legalized Abortion
Over 1 million babies killed per year (U.S.)
Over 1 million more killed per year, every year
No specific time limit
Death penalty
<50 executions per year in recent years
About 50 more per year, every year
No specific time limit
HHS Mandate
Law suits taking time & money
Many Catholic Institutions forced to close. Higher cost to government to fill the gap
A few years for the full impact
Healthcare for the poor
Tens of millions do not get basic care
Preventable sicknesses left unchecked cause suffering & higher healthcare cost
No specific time limit

Step 4: Make a Comparative Evaluation
Concern
Current Impact
Future Impact
Time Frame
Result
Legalized Abortion
Over 1 million babies killed per year (U.S.)
HIGH
Over 1 million more per year, every year
HIGH
No specific time limit
LOW (none)
2-High
0-Med
1-Low
Death penalty
<50 executions per year
MEDUIM
About 50 more per year, every year
LOW
No specific time limit
LOW (none)
0-High
1-Med
2-Low
HHS Mandate
Law suits taking time & money
LOW
Many Catholic Institutions forced to close. Higher cost to government to fill the gap
MEDIUM
A few years to feel the full impact
HIGH
1-High
1-Med
1-Low
Healthcare for the poor
Tens of millions do not have health insurance
MEDUIM
Preventable sicknesses left unchecked cause more suffering & higher healthcare cost
HIGH
No specific time limit
LOW (none)
1-High
1-Med
1-Low

So for this hypothetical voter, abortion becomes the top priority concern, followed by the HHS mandate & healthcare coverage with the death penalty coming in last. The voter can then compare a candidate’s position to these priorities.

A full list of clarified election issues would be much longer than in our example, but it is hard to imagine any concern that has a greater current & future impact than the slaughter of over one million innocent lives this year and every year. Even if we added in the concern of over 20 million unemployed people, at least they are alive and have the legal right to remain so. Of course, the spiritual impact of a nation that allows this kind of killing is difficult to measure even in a detailed appraisal like this.

Remember that the purpose of Situation Appraisal is NOT to actually solve the concerns; it is meant for clarity. Clarity of thought and prioritization brings focus to any state of affairs, no matter how complex. Using an appraisal like this in the context of our faith can give us true clarity to act by the reality of things, and there is a word that describes acting by the reality of things very well; that word is…“sanity”.


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