The Freedom to Diminish Other Peoples’ Freedom
by Mike Kimel
The Freedom to Diminish Other Peoples’ Freedom
You’ve probably heard about this study by the Mercatus Institute looking at Freedom in the 50 States.
I always find these measures look at the wrong things, and that’s usually because they pick one side of an equation and ignore the rest. See, I support my neighbor’s right to play loud music at 3 in the morning, fire a gun in his front yard, and generate toxic waste and polluting to his heart’s content. However, I object to my neighbor violating my property rights by placing anything, anything at all on my property, be it music, high velocity projectiles, or any contaminants of the air, water, or soil. The problem is that in general, people who play loud music at 3 in the morning choose to do it in a way that leads to unwanted sounds being expressed on other peoples’ property. Those who choose to enjoy their rights to send toxic emissions up a smokestack on their own property usually aren’t doing it because they value the ability to send toxic emissions up a smokestack, but rather because they know that by doing so they will push those toxic emissions into the air over the property of their neighbors… and people tens or even hundreds of miles away. We know that precisely because there are ways to send toxic emissions up a smokestack without exporting those emissions onto other people, but despite the huge number of smokestacks, we never see those being done in practice.
This Mercatus study, like so much else that comes from that institution, seems to be promoting a specific kind of freedom, namely the freedom of some parties to diminish other people’s freedom and the ability of one group of people to make decisions about what goes onto someone else’s property. And this, to me, is not really a measure freedom, but rather a measure of the right to oppress. So as a result, I am going to exercise one of my remaining freedoms (and I hope you do the same) to treat this latest Mercatus study the way way I think of almost everything else coming from Mercatus, namely as an assorted collection of random buffoonery. If they ever extend their concept of freedom and liberty to considering the rights of people not to have sights or sounds or bullets or pollutants placed on their property without their say-so, I might reconsider.
We need only know that the Mercatus Center, though now seeming to be a branch of a university (George Mason U.) is in fact an independently directed organization which received initial seed money from the Koch brothers and is funded through donations from the biggest of corporate America. So we might expect that any research project and its results might be ideologically slanted.
Can the methodology section of the study stand up to peer review? It seems that the paper, purporting to be a research study, is a publication of the Mercatus Center rather than having been submitted for publication in a peer reviewed journal in a related field of study. That alone is reason to be suspect of its methods, statistical analysis and results.
“So as a result, I am going to exercise one of my remaining freedoms (and I hope you do the same) to treat this latest Mercatus study the way way I think of almost everything else coming from Mercatus, namely as an assorted collection of random buffoonery.”
Too late. If you were to treat it as buffoonery, you would ignore it an walk away. But instead you dignified it with a post.
Beg to disagree Joel. Criticizing a piece of crap fir what it is is not the same as dignifying the work. Given that the Mercatus Center seems to have its own public relations department to push its bullshit onto an unsuspecting public it is then necessary to publicly present the short comings of the crap. I’d already heard reference to this “study” on some media outlet that now escapes me. It sounded absurd then, but it is not a waste of time to repeat any critique of the absurd.
Peer review is over-rated. Assuming it isn’t doing so already, the Mercatus Institute could fund its own peer-reviewed journal. If you pick the peers, you pick what appears.
It isn’t difficult to round up economists who perceive the ability to place pollutants on someone else’s property as freedom, but the right to keep someone else’s pollutant off one’s front lawn as an infringement of freedom.
personally, from what i know, i wouldnt want to live in any of the 15 states they’ve got rated highest…
maybe their ratings are a contrary indicator?
I’ve been out of grad school a very long time and my subsequent professional activities in that field of study had little to do with research. I can recall, however, that in the field that I did study in grad school many participants took great pleasure in pillorying poorly done research. Such criticism was relatively common and public displays of ideology overcoming validity were generally seen as poor taste. Is economics really that different?
I don’t want to alarm you, but yes, economics is different. And BTW, it isn’t confined to the right or the libertarians. One of the more widely cited papers by hero of the left looks at the impact on economic growth of several decades worth of tax cuts and tax hikes, but the measured size of the tax cuts and tax hikes are… what the politicians pushing those tax cuts and tax hikes said they’d be at the time they were pushing those changes. Its like if a prominent epidemiologist put out a report measuring the cost benefit of vaccination comparing the cost of vaccines not to the number of people helped, but to the number of people the vaccine makers expected to be helped.
And that isn’t even the close to being the papers worst sin. More here: http://www.angrybearblog.com/2009/01/further-critique-of-romer-and-romer.html
To complete the analogy, assume the epidemiologist was then made surgeon general.
It occurs to me that someone outside economics might view my analogy as being an exaggeration, particularly this piece:
“but to the number of people the vaccine makers expected to be helped.”
From the Romer and Romer paper:
“The most straightforward estimates to use are statements about the expected revenue effects of a tax change at the time it was scheduled to go into effect. Such estimates are often provided in the Economic Reports, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. For this reason, we place particular emphasis on revenue figures from this source.”
Note the word “expected” in the first sentence.
But like I said, that isn’t even the most egregious problem with the paper. Top 3, yes. Worst, no.
The ordering makes no sense at all, and it just goes downhill from there.
Oregon is a -16, Montana -2 because… the “right” to ram one’s ignorance (religion) down another’s throat is, by popular consensus, limited?
The methodology is a mess too. Walk away.
From the Montana report:
“On the regulatory policy side, labor laws score poorly, with a minimum wage, no right-to-work law, and a no-exception workers’ compensation mandate.”
I wonder if ‘labor’ would agree . . .
OMG! I’ve lived my entire life in the bottom 3 overall! And lately, I’ve become aware of just how lucky I’ve been.
This “study” is a perfect example of just how much our definitions of the words used to describe our once-upon-a-time most fundamental beliefs as a nation have been perverted. Every time I hear someone talking about Freedom, I wonder if they’re using a definition I’d recognize.
“Ranking of State Liability Systems
A measure of a state’s liability system from the US Chamber of Commerce.”
“State Lawsuit Climates
ILR’s Lawsuit Climate report explores how reasonable and balanced the states’ tort liability systems are perceived to be by U.S. business.”
So rankings are based on how pleased the US Chamber of Commerce is, or the perceptions of US business? So the road to a high ranking is the complete elimination of the right of an individual or class to engage in tort litigation?
“Health insurance mandates index
A measure of a variety of health insurance mandates. State-level health insurance mandates impose direct costs of nearly $9 billion a year.”
Seriously? They call this a “study”? Looks more like a position paper with citations to me.
“are perceived to be by U.S. business.”
ah. i wonder how they know that.
(answer… about six of them get together in a room and say, “okay, we represent business. now what to we think?”
or, of course, there is always the more complicated process of telling business people what they think and then conducting a poll to find out that they think they have been told what they think.
Frankly I’ve always been in favor of the right to impose my religious beliefs on others. My morality is certainly of greater social value to that of any one else’s, therefore, do unto others as you would wish to do unto them. I had been hoping for and looking forward to a return engagement of the Angel of Death as he/she/it is generally conceived by god-fearing people. There are a great many people who do genuinely deserve the wrath of God if not the wrath of Khan. The biggest problem in our society is that the criminaljustice system gets to make the determination of who lives or dies or goes free or not. And a more criminal system one would be hard put to identify.
So the basic question is whether your freedom to be is more important than my freedom to impose or require?
while it is true that some people who call themselves religious behave as you describe, it is unfortunate to identify them as “religious.” after all, the devil can appear as a Fransican to accomplish his purposes, but pretty much all the decency you believe in came from “religious” people who thought, and died for for it.
there is a huge difference between forcing you to behave as “my religion says god demands,” and my telling you about ways to be that my religion believes will lead to “the peace that passeth understanding.”
The following was linked to at http://freedominthe50states.org/how-its-calculated#Ranking%20of%20State%20Liability%20Systems
The 2012 State Liability Systems Ranking Study was conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform to explore how fair and reasonable the states’ tort liability systems are perceived to be by U.S. businesses. Participants in the survey were comprised of a national sample of 1,125 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives who indicated that they are knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenues. The 2012 ranking builds on previous years’ work,1 where in each survey year all 50 states are ranked by those familiar with the litigation environment in that state. Prior to these rankings, information regarding the attitudes of the business world toward the legal systems in each of the states had been largely anecdotal. The State Liability Systems Ranking Study aims to quantify how corporate attorneys view the state systems.
So now we know whose opinions matter.
Average Overall Score Among 50 States
Year Average Overall Score
The fact that corporate attorneys are increasingly pleased with states’ “tort liability systems” is a heads up for those of us who are human citizen/persons.
Ruger and Sorens say, “We weight public policies according to the estimated costs that government restrictions on freedom impose on their victims.” So government restrictions have victims, and the degree of victimization is directly related to the cost of those restrictions.
Elsewhere, there is this regarding California: “Travel freedom is low due to a primary seat belt law, motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws, a statewide primary-enforcement cell phone driving ban, an open-container law, and sobriety checkpoints. Little gambling is allowed.” It would seem that the costs to other individuals, or the State, are irrelevant.
As Mike Kimel says, “Freedom” seems to be about a lack of restriction on the personal behavior of a favored group, regardless of whom it affects and how.
“…but pretty much all the decency you believe in came from “religious” people who thought, and died for for it.” Coberly
Well I can’t say how much of what we recognize as decency came about through the efforts of “religious” individuals. But I’d say that that which was brought to us by the devout is more an example of the results of “some of the old time religion.” It’s the modern day variety that’s likely to force itself upon us through its over zealous practitioners. The current culture wars are being provoked and fought most vigorously by zealots in the name of their gods if not the actual intention of their gods.
well, Jack, I try.
zealotry was not unheard of in the old time religion.
i just wish “left” folk would not be so eager to alienate ordinary people who take comfort in their religion, and actually believe in the sermon on the mount or one of the variations on it found in other relgions.
It’s not the comfort that they take or the actual beliefs that they have that is ever the problem. It is the insistence that their beliefs and their personal definitions of morality must rule the way that all of us carry out our lives that results in the infringement on our freedoms. We are all free to worship and pray as we prefer to do. Requiring others to follow those beliefs is the problem.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful Information.Great job.
who is this “they”?
you don’t like certain behaviors. neither do I. but instead of talking about those behaviors, you use a word that applies to many many people who do not practice those behaviors. and in the process you alienate them. and frankly, we could use their votes.
we could also learn something from them if we weren’t so bigoted.
back in the day people threw the word “commie” around to mean “traitor” and ruined the lives of many people who were not traitors, or even communists. and back in that day they threw around the word we still cannot say, it begins with an n.. to mean people we don’t like because we treat them bad… and that made it easy for us to treat them bad.
“liberals” can’t seem to understand they are as careless… and bigoted… in their use of language.. and thoughts… as all the bigots they think they are fighting against.