What roles do politics and economics
play in the discovery and exploration
of new frontiers?
Political economy explores the ways in which
government affects the allocation of scarce resources
in society through laws and policies, as well as the ways
in which economic interests affect the form of
government a nation has. Political economy also involves
the use of game theory, since groups competing for finite
resources and power must determine which courses of action
will give the most beneficial results and what the probability
of those results being reached are. Alfred Marshall spoke of this
discipline as "the study of people in the business of everyday life."
Understanding political economy better prepares us to recognize new
frontiers and to determine how to explore them in meaningful ways. One
example of this is technology and its dramatic transformation of everyday
life. The Internet has opened new frontiers for economic growth and ways
citizens engage in the political process. However, no matter what innovation HONORS IN ACTION
occurs, political economists help us understand the possibilities and the perils TAXI PLEASE! OBAMACARE AND
of politics and economics in our everyday lives. FRONTIERS OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
EXPLORE MORE! OVERVIEW
We often go about our lives unconcerned about the ways
Brooks, David (2011). The Paradise Suite: Bobos in Paradise and On political economy affects us. Our Honors in Action project
Paradise Drive. began with our interest in the Patient Protection and
Brooks investigates the lives of "bourgeois bohemians" -- people who wed the Affordable Care Act (PPACA), popularly known as
values of capitalism enterprise with those of the counterculture. These bourgeois ObamaCare. Though we had heard PPACA mentioned,
bohemians strive for personal utopias in ways that reflect and even shape the we knew little about how it truly affected our lives. We live
political economy. in a small town with a relatively low average income and
instinctively knew ObamaCare must have an impact on our
Levin, Mark R. (2012). Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America. community. Through our academic research, we came to
Are human beings overly enamored with the systems we have created? Levin understand both the theoretical and practical outcomes
compares President Obama's policies with Utopian ideals described in Plato's of the act. For our community, transportation to and from
Republic, Thomas More's Utopia, Thomas Hobbe's Leviathon and John Locke's medical appointments proved to be the most meaningful
Second Treatise of Government. way we could put our research into the frontiers of political
economy to work.
Levitt, Steven D. & Stephen J. Dubner (2011). SuperFreakonomics: Global
Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life PREPARATION
Insurance. SELECTION OF THEME During a facilitated brainstorming
Levitt and Dubner explore the impact of political economy on everyday and some session, members expressed interest in researching five
extraordinary events. The frontiers of everyday life they explore elicit some of the nine themes of Frontiers and the Spirit of
surprising answers to questions they ask, such as "How is a street prostitute like a Exploration. Members agreed they wanted to know more
department store Santa?" and "Are people hardwired for altruism or selfishness?" about ObamaCare, and they believed Theme 8: Political
Economy was the best place to explore the potential
Sholette, Gregory & Oliver Ressler (2013). It's the Political Economy social, political and economic effects of the act on
Stupid: The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory. everyday lives. To be sure, members invited both an
Sholette and Ressler discuss the global financial crisis in ways that question the economics and a political science professor to present
economic system under which it has occurred and couple their text with artistic various perspectives of PPACA to a full chapter meeting.
interpretations of the social consequences of making potentially poor choices in After the professors' presentations, members decided
business and politics. they had found the theme to pursue to learn more about
ObamaCare as it related to frontiers of political economy
For more sources related to this theme, go to ptk.org/honors. and agreed to move forward with their academic research.
DEVELOP RESEARCH QUESTIONS _ team leaders facilitated the chapter discussions about the research
_ Who benefits from PPACA/ObamaCare? and analysis of political economy and its impact on ObamaCare;
_ To what extent has the PPACA changed the delivery of medical care? _ team members visited the four general practitioners who provided
_ How have costs been shifted, if at all, among health care recipients much of the day-to-day medical care for citizens of the community
and companies? who needed transportation to their appointments;
_ In the college's service counties, to what degree has PPACA changed _ members served as liaisons with the college and gained permission
access to medical care for those in lower socioeconomic classes? for the chapter and its collaborators to operate the taxi service for
_ To what extent do politics and economic interest play significant community members;
roles in the development and implementation of PPACA? _ members coordinated the taxi service, inviting the Student
Government Association and Skills-USA to participate; and
ACADEMIC RESEARCH Members established five research teams to _ team members organized a journaling and evaluation team to keep
examine the frontiers of political economy as they relate to PPACA. detailed records of each step of the Honors in Action process.
Working in small teams afforded members opportunities to explore
aspects of PPACA in depth and then return to the larger team to COLLABORATION
discuss findings and determine next steps. As the larger team _ After consultation, the college administration offered support to the
determined the most meaningful sources that represented varied taxi service and its operation from campus.
perspectives on the subject, team leaders facilitated a discussion _ Four medical doctors treated the patients that the chapter and
among members at two monthly meetings. Team leaders invited the collaborators taxied to and from appointments.
economics and political science professors back to a chapter meeting _ Student Government Association and Skills-USA members
to discuss their findings. The professors invited a historian to provide supported the project by providing transportation.
context for the contemporary decisions being made by politicians and _ Chapter officers completed the preparations necessary to share their
economists regarding national health care. These discussions helped project at their Regional Convention.
our team critically look at various perspectives about ObamaCare and
its potential impact on the local community. ACTION Members partnered with the Student Government
Association and Skills-USA to organize a medical taxi system for the
ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSIONS Members concluded that many of the community. In the process, they learned firsthand from both medical
fears they have heard expressed about national health care did not providers and patients how the PPACA was working in real life.
match the text of PPACA or its implementation thus far. Both
proponents and opponents of the act downplay concerns expressed REFLECTION
by the other side and at times exaggerate their positions. The U.S. EVALUATION Members used qualitative research to evaluate the
Supreme Court decision in National Federation of Independent effectiveness of their project with the goal of providing rich, in-depth
Business v. Sebelius (2012) upheld the constitutionality of most of the descriptions of the process by which they determined the chapter's
Affordable Care Act. They found that many politicians who action as well as of the perspectives of the people with whom they
philosophically opposed the PPACA before the 2012 elections were worked on the taxi service. The chapter used the amalgamation format
quietly suggesting that we should work to find a compromise and for qualitative reports to triangulate their journal entries, interviews with
come up with a "win-win" solution for involved parties. doctors, drivers and patients, and quantitative data showing the
number of people reached by the action portion of the project.
DETERMINATION OF ACTION While researching the impact of the Members asked participants what impact ObamaCare had on their
PPACA in our community, members discovered that being able to take health care. A majority of taxi service patrons saw no discernible
advantage of PPACA was the most pressing issue for many community difference in care delivered but often cited the taxi service as a factor
members. Specifically, they cited the need for transportation to and in helping them consider preventative care as an option. All four of the
from local doctors' offices.They were more concerned with a solution doctors with whom the chapter worked had chosen to pay a fine in the
to their medical needs that had little to do with medicine, but first year to see if the Affordable Care Act would be repealed under a
everything to do with political economy in their everyday lives. Working possible Mitt Romney presidency. Post-election, all four have updated
with local doctors, our implementation team developed a plan. their technology to avoid increased penalties. They expressed concern
for security of patients' online records. Patients did not have the
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT To successfully complete this project, same concern but had rarely thought about the implications of online
members received training in academic research from the college's records. We grew as scholars and leaders by learning more about the
research librarian as well as three professors whose lectures helped them ways political economy affects our lives and more specifically about
focus their project. Advisors conducted workshops on goal setting and the frontiers of the Affordable Care Act in our community. We grew as
facilitating group discussions. Upon determining the action component people by working with fellow students, faculty, administrators and the
of the project, which involved driving people to medical appointments, community members who participated in the taxi service.
team members engaged in a safe driving seminar and pledged to
eliminate distractions, such as cell phones, while transporting patients. FUTURE IMPLICATIONS The success of the chapter's Honors in Action
project and the positive feedback from the doctors and patients with
IMPLEMENTATION whom we worked indicated a need in the community for the volunteer
LEADERSHIP ROLES The desire to complete this project and stretch taxi service. Members are currently seeking additional support for the
their abilities led members to engage in the following leadership roles: service and are mentoring other student organizations and community
_ officers and members read and analyzed sources for the chapter as collaborators to take the lead to continue and expand the service.
part of the research team;