Sunday, September 09, 2012

Great Idea, Great Concept

Here's a rhetorical problem: how to write this post without making it sound like I'm reporting on a topless mud wrestling cage match.  I.e., to make it important without making it just lurid.

The core point: Austin Frakt, health care economist and blogger, is setting up a "conversation"--I will not call it a debate--with health care economist and book-author John Goodman.   I should say this is a wonderful idea.  Love him or hate him,  you have to concede Goodman is a grownup on issues of health policy.   And if anybody can reeducate him while remaining temperate and respectful, it would have to be Frakt.  It may not work--Frakt has already reserved the right to video a public immolation (of the book, not Goodman) if it goes off the rails.  But these guys have at least half a chance.

And is it just remotely possible that this is an idea we could generalize?  The web has unambiguously proven its power to obliterate the landscape with shitstorms. But through it all there are still people who perversely insist on using it to generate useful content.

They'd have to find each other, of course.  I'm not suggesting an internet commissioner of rhetoric.  And I suppose you can say we already find pockets of this sort of thing in stuff like  blogginheads talks.  I'm just looking for a path to generalize.

A final note:  be it recorded that I'm not necessarily looking for a "path to a center," built on the hypothesis that "civilized people can come to agreement."  Properly done, I'd say the forecast is very likely not.  But even without syncretism, I'd like to believe that there is still some room for low-voltage disagreement, where people with heft can agree to disagree, perhaps even while clarifying each others' thinking.  So, go John and Austin. But I admit I probably will check in to watch the incineration, if and when. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd say that the biggest thing standing in the way of candid discussions to clarify thinking is the audience. When two people debate publicly, they are performing. And in the performance, the debate is discarded. Some people, unfortunately, also perform when there is no audience at all.

I've never really done any public debating, but I imagine that either the public nature of pushes one towards 'persuasion' rather than 'clarity', or that the kind of person who seeks it out and achieves success is of a more 'persuasive' bent in the first place.

Somehow, we have to get smart people in a room and record their conversation secretly. Kind of like candid camera for intellectual exploration.