What would be a good public policy issue for a law elective?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There are so many public policy issues for a law elective, I hardly know where to begin! 

Taxation is a big public policy issue.  It was prominent in the last election, when Obama promised not to tax the middle class and McKain wanted to reduce taxes for the wealthy.  What is the public policy issue involved here?  It is complex, but the short story is that this is a redistribution of wealth.  There are people who think that is a terrible idea, and that if we tax the wealthy, they will be discouraged from trying to make more money through investment, and the economy will suffer as a result.  There are people who think the redistribution of wealth is a good idea because since there are always some people who are poor, if we help them through this redistribution of wealth, they will be more likely to succeed, less likely to become criminals, and less likely to be an even larger drain on the economy.  So, who gets taxed and how much is taxed is a public policy issue.

Another policy that is that of the decriminalization of drugs, particularly marijuana.  Presently there is a conflict between federal law and the laws of some states, which is an interesting problem in and of itself.  But the primary public policy issue is: What are the consequences of decriminalization?  If we allow people to use drugs with no restriction, will they use more drugs or fewer drugs?  Will addiction increase or decrease?  Would we be able to free up the resources we currently use on drug enforcement and use that money to help treat addiction?  As you can see, this is a complex issue!

Yet another issue that is in the news every day is health care reform. How is this a public policy issue?  If we do not provide health care for everyone in the country, some people become much sicker than they should be or even die as a result.  In fact, this is happening right now.  There are people who must choose between medicine and food. This is damaging to the people involved, to be sure, but it is also damaging to our economy.  Healthy people are productive people because they work, pay taxes, and spend money.  Sick people (and obviously dead people) cannot make those contributions.  This is my point of view, but there is another side to the issue.  There are people who argue that the federal government has no business involving itself in health care.  There is, in fact, nothing in the Constitution that suggests they should, but they can make an argument that this is interstate commerce or good for the defense of the country.  Another argument against health care reform is that it would discourage people from taking good care of themselves.  They could drink, smoke, eat too much, engage in other risky behaviors, and we would have to take care of them.  If we do not provide health care for everyone, people will work harder to get good jobs that provide health care and they will take better care of themselves.  There are other arguments against health care, but they are largely based on misinformation about what kind of reforms Congress intends to provide. 

There, those are just a few ideas.  Perhaps someone else will give you more. 

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