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Political Theory Database Based on the "Do Ask, Do Tell" Concept

One major purpose of the doaskdotell.com domain is to build a political and social theory database. 

The material on hppub.com consists of book texts, running footnotes, specialized footnote sidebars (or “peripetia”), and topical book, movie and theater or drama reviews. The collection of all of this material represents a body of arguments on social and political theory ("sociology" indeed!), centered around the idea of how the individual balances his or her own direction in life with meeting the more collective goals of his society, starting with family and moving outwards. An important goal is presentation of arguments and opposing counterarguments about a problem in successively deeper layers. Each argument could be viewed in software engineering terms as an “object” (or class instance.) But the practical goal is to show the layers of subtlety in social, legal, and political thought. “Same-sex marriage” for example can be discussed in terms of comparative or equal rights and entitlements, bedrock societal institutions for social stability, or the different ways people see their own psychological lives in relation to the expectations from them from their own communities, and even the way people (whether children or the elderly) will be taken care of when they need to be. Likewise, the Internet has made it possible for any person to reach almost the entire planet with very little capital, and this observation has many subtle ramifications, not only in the suddenly familiar areas of piracy or copyright infringement and spam, but in subtle new problems having to do with publicity, brand, cultural property, third party validation or “bureaucracy,” and professionalism vying with innovation.  The appreciation of free speech and its value changes so much from one culture to another. The ability of law to keep up with technology and social or cultural change is given particular emphasis. Finally, the global economy makes it possible from individuals or small groups intending harm to do so in an asymmetric fashion (steganography is just one disturbing specific example), creating new problems in balancing individual liberties with security and stability.

It is desired, then, to give this body of arguments some coherence by organizing them into a database so that users can track them and provide feedback, along the “open source” model.

The end result is to encourage people (especially students in high school and college) to learn to appreciate the different ways different people (as individuals and as members of groups) view the same problem, especially when it is a problem that invokes downstream effects or examples set by one person's use of his freedom or property. Public policy should be more than special interests paying for lobbying to "get their way," or for people trying to see how they can get the government to meet their own particular familial needs. It should be more than the ballot box.

For more visit http://doaskdotell.com/hpinfo

The health care topic near the end of the page (with the optional PowerPoint presentation) provides a good illustration of how this might work. The user can first see a simple flatfile-like list of all the major lists with a one-sentence name for each argument. The user can click on any argument (according to its "code") and then see the argument in detail, with specific bibliographic references. The user can then look up opposing arguments, and also "ambiguous" arguments--which point to some public gain but at the cost of compromise of individual rights or equal treatment for some individuals whose behavior does not conform to "norms."  There is value to the simple list page frame -- the "big picture" or "bird's eye view" of an issue, as well as to analyzing the different points and counterpoints -- a kind of Socratic examination.

 ©2004 Bill Boushka

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