Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Folly than Fact

John McCain's proposed health care policy is another example of irrational faith in a market that has already failed millions of Americans, particularly the 50 million without any health insurance. The problem is that "the market" and health have an extremely poor track record in all countries that have implemented market-oriented measures. The costs in each of the countries has increased without an increase in the actual services provided or quality of the care. This is the reason (as mentioned at length in previous posts) that Americans spend the most per capita on health but have among the poorest health outcomes for OECD countries. The U.S. government currently covers health for the two groups most prone to health problems: the poor and the elderly. By bringing all Americans into a national health system, the higher risk of these groups could be shared across a larger pool. This would bring down costs per patient overall in the U.S. and would reduce the overhead and bureaucracy needed to run the system. While both Barack and Hillary have imperfect plans for health care they are vastly superior than the "faith-based" plan from McCain. While government may not be the perfect provider of health, we have plenty of examples of more successful programs run by other countries that we could draw lessons from.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Work in Progress

My last teaching semester of my M.A. career comes to an end on Monday. It will be the last lecture and after that there is only the final exam where I am just invigilating (Canada's equally dirty sounding version of proctoring). I have really enjoyed being a teaching assistant and have lucked out with the classes that I have taught. Both the quantitative methods course and the social research methods course helped me to strengthen my abilities as a researcher. They also forced me to be able to discuss these issues with people who are seeing them for the first time. I think that experience will be invaluable once I am working as a policy analyst or researcher. Being able to explain or identify relevant methodological issues to a lay person will be important as I will be dealing with a variety of folks that don't have that type of training.

One thing that being a teaching assistant has taught me is that I am not interested in teaching, at least in the short term. I find it interesting but exhausting at the same time. Trying to get people to do what they are paying a lot of money to do is difficult. Many students know they should read and study and carry out the exercises but do not. I understand time is a factor, but many people are paying a lot of money to be here and I would imagine they would want to get the most they can out of it. Though even if I had a class of all stellar students, I don't think it would make me want to teach any more. I really like the applied aspects of the social sciences generally and sociology more specifically.

If I end up not liking policy research and analysis I can imagine going back and getting my PhD and being a professor as an option. It seems that many of my favorite professors came to that point after working for some time outside of academia. I am not sure what this says about what I will find outside the ivory tower, but I look forward to seeing it for myself. As I look at possible jobs in my field I am continually amazed at how many I would be applying for if my thesis were finished at this point.

Despite that, I am really looking forward to my final semester (for most programs in Canada an M.A. is two full years, six semesters - including summers). I am at an interesting point in the writing of my thesis and am enjoying the wide range of readings that it leads me to. At my most recent meeting with my adviser I was asked if I was sick of my topic yet. It was followed by a quick "because it's ok if you are..." I have to say I am not sick of it yet. I actually really enjoy it. I will miss working on Chile and focusing so much attention on a very narrow topic. It is hard to imagine where I will be in six months... But I sure will miss the view here:

Photos by Heather