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…On weighting the issues.

Posted by Steve on March 2, 2009

Courtesy of the second-latest post at Volokh Conspiracy, I now know that a study has been put out by a research center at George Mason University (oddly, the two authors are assistant professors at Texas State University and the University of Buffalo, not George Mason University. So you’d think it would have been published at either TSU or Buffalo, not at a third-party university) that performs a statistical analysis on all 50 states’ laws in order to rank them according to personal and economic freedom.

I’ve looked through the study, and I can’t say I agree with it. Things I think have between no and minimal relevance to freedom are, in a few cases, weighted heavily in their analysis (elements of education policy, for instance). Likewise, they weight campaign finance laws more heavily than alcohol regulations and blue laws, which I disagree with. And because in their overall index they give economic freedom equal weight with personal freedom (something I disagree with – freedom is for people, economic matters are for machines and drones), tax levels count for more than the combination of marriage & civil union laws, arrests for victimless crimes, and occupational licensing schemes.

But that’s ok. They’ve published their coded data in Excel files. The report explains what each data code means. And, as they explicitly invite people to do, you can use that data, assigning better weightings, to get a corrected index.

They were even kind enough to code data they didn’t use in their report. And I quote page 6:

Our definition of freedom presents specific challenges on some high-profile issues. Abortion is a critical example. On one account, the fetus is a rights-bearing person, and abortion is therefore an aggressive violation of individual rights that ought to be punished by government. On another account, the fetus does not
have rights, and abortion is a permissible exercise of an individual liberty, in which case government regulation of abortion would be an unjust violation of a woman’s rights. Rather than take a stand on one side or the other (or anywhere in between), we have coded the data on state abortion restrictions but have not included the policy in our overall index.

I think I may just go ahead and play around with their data and some point, see which state comes closes to the my ideal.

And not that this matters, but I never would have used the phrasing “on one account/on another account”. Either “on one/another hand“, or else “by one/another account”, but not that bastard idiom.


2 Responses to “…On weighting the issues.”

  1. Philip H. said

    Now Steve, what’s wrong with bastard idioms? At least they add some penache’ to the written word.

  2. Steve said

    Nice pun.

    What I don’t like about it is that they combined two idioms which both bring specific visual imagery of a literal event: on one/another hand would be someone with their hands out, physically weighing two objects to compare them; by one/another account would be two people giving separate accounts. The phrase they actually used is either somebody weighing two separate stories, or two people telling objects. Both cause my brain to spit out a syntax error message.

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