6/13/13

What's Worse?

Re: Can't see the forest for the trees!

What's worse:

* A Korean husband who beats his immigrant wife--or the Korean government that makes it difficult for that immigrant wife to live here legally without that abusive husband?

I ask that question because both issues are raised in Kim Rahn's article in today's Korea Times. Yes, I counted the paragraphs--the first 20 paragraphs of the article are about those abusive husbands. The last nine discuss the role of government making things more difficult for those immigrant wives. Reporters are taught to put a human face on issues--in this case, the faces of immigrant wives having their faces bashed in by their Korean husbands. And, of course, it is possible that Rahn has focused on the government in other articles.

Okay, so some people don't like "what's worse" questions, and I accept that. For those people, feel free to rephrase the questions as, "which part of this problem deserves more attention?"

* Brokers making money off North Korean refugees sending money to their families members in North--or the NK regime treating people born in NK as their private property?

* A big company bullying its suppliers and smaller companies--or a government using its guns and laws to bully big (and small) companies?

* Slush funds hidden by people trying to hide their money from the taxman--or politicians who openly steal MUCH MORE money from citizens?

* A whistle blower revealing a super secret government program allowing the government to have access to private phone calls, photos and emails of private citizens--or a government that rigs the law so it can have access to private phone calls, photos and emails of private citizens.

* High or low prices?

* A racist who doesn't want his daughter to marry a man of a different ethnicity--or a government that allows Jim Crow laws in public policy?

* A slaveholder--or a government that allows slavery?

* A slavecatcher--or a government that allows slavery?

* Bad words or bad actions?

* People paying and getting paid for sex--or arresting and prosecuting people for such activity?

* Someone who asks "what's worse" questions--or someone who asks "what's worse" questions?

* * *

In so much of public policy analysis, the focus is on the particular players. There is something that, it is good to tell the stories of people for dramatic effect, for example. But so much of public policy analysis also focuses so much on the individual stories that the larger story gets lost in the anecdotes and personal stories. In spending so much time, for example, in denouncing Korean husbands for beating their immigrant wives, it is easy to lose focus on government policy that makes it difficult for such wives to remain here legally without those abusive husbands.

Of course, one public policy change creates new problems. So what's worse, current problems that are known or new often unanticipated problems?

* * *

(And, of course, the husbands mentioned in today's Korea Times deserve to get denounced, I hope people won't somehow draw the opposite conclusion.)