This site can help you find where you stand on tough political and social issues – without all the spin

November 25, 2015

It's always been hard to figure out exactly where you stand when it comes to the big public issues of the day, and the massive amounts of data available in the Internet age can make these decisions feel more overwhelming than ever. If you feel undecided about any important societal issues such as immigration policy, gun control, or climate change, we suggest you take a look at ProCon.org, which concisely summarizes the pros and cons of adopting different policies by citing knowledgable sources on each side.

 

Founded in 2004 and still partially financed by Los Angeles-based businessman Steven C. Markoff, ProCon.org is notable for its simple, easy-to-read pro vs. con rundowns of complicated public issues. Most of ProCon.org's content is organized around some 50 very broad issues, such as: 

 

  • immigration in the United States

  • climate change

  • gun control

  • the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare")

  • euthanasia/assisted suicide

 

Each of these broad issue pages features specific analyses of more detailed questions. In the case of immigration in the United States, that includes:

 

  • whether illegal immigration is a burden to the U.S. economy

  • whether migrants who commit crimes should be deported

  • more specific and technical questions, such as whether the 2005 Sensenbrenner-King Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act a good piece of legislation

  • Summaries in the form of "core question" breakdowns, Top 10 pro & con pages, and so forth

 

The bulk of ProCon.org's specific information appears on the sub-pages that address these smaller questions, such as the aforementioned page on whether migrants who commit crimes should be deported. These specific-issue question pages open with a contextualizing summary of the issue, typically drawn from a news source, followed by a number of arguments from each side the question at hand. These arguments come from a whole variety of sources, such as political stump speeches, news journalism, editorials, academic research, corporate press materials, and so forth. No matter their origin, ProCon.org identifies the speaker/writer & the organization with which they're most closely affiliated, and links to the source of the argument — which is very important, since public figures' issues on these controversial matters are often influenced by those figures' own backgrounds and personal interests.

 

Many of the issues ProCon.org touches on are directly relevant to the current electoral conversation in the United States, and the site features an extensive page on the 2016 presidential race, which describes each candidate's positions on a host of issues in detail using mostly their own words. This side-by-side comparison chart is an especially quick and useful way to visualize the policy differences among the remaining candidates.

 

ProCon.org certainly faces some limitations, as any information source of this nature would. It's notoriously difficult to arrive at a truly impartial stance on many of these issues — or to even understand some of them fully, given how thoroughly complex they are and how epistemologically slippery social science can be. And even if the source material ProCon.org draws on is all thoroughly valid, personal bias is a powerful force; there's no guarantee that individuals readers won't choose to simply disregard arguments they encounter there that don't jibe with their own worldviews. ProCon.org also focuses primarily on matters pertinent to the United States, so readers who live elsewhere may not find it as useful. But on the balance, skeptics and fair-minded political thinkers will find ProCon.org a powerful tool for refining their thoughts on the tough questions we encounter every day.

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