Παρασκευή, 29 Μαρτίου 2013

Freedom's Just Another Word for Never Cutting Class


North Dakota bound!This
week the Mercatus Center
released
a report that set out to rank
the 50 states from the most free to the least. The results, which
declared North Dakota the most liberated part of America and New
York the most enslaved, have come in for inevitable
criticisms
.


I'm less interested in the study's rankings than in its
customized "Personal Rank" feature, which lets you decide for yourself how to
weigh the laws being measured
pick for yourself which
policies affect the outcome (but not, alas, how much each law is
worth). I'm pretty sure that if I were to use that tool to make my
own list, it wouldn't look the same as the one the study's authors
put together. So I'm open to arguments that, say, they shouldn't
have treated
right-to-work laws
as a form of economic liberty.


But some of the arguments against the report are just
incoherent. Here is
Matt Yglesias
, for instance:


You might think at first that abortion rights are given
zero weight for metaphysical reasons rather than reasons of
cultural politics, but it turns out that permissive homeschooling
laws are given weight as a factor in freedom. Children, in
other words, are considered fully autonomous agents whose rights
the state must safeguard vis-a-vis their own parents from birth
until conception
at which point they lose autonomy until
graduation from high school.

I'll assume that the "birth until conception" bit is a glitch,
and that Yglesias isn't actually confused about which one of those
comes first. I won't dwell on his belief that one must think a
fetus is a "fully autonomous agent" to oppose legal abortion. I
won't make a big deal of the fact that he assumes the Mercatus
writers are themselves taking a stance against abortion rights,
though it's clear to me that they're trying to sidestep the issue
entirely.


Hero of freedom!It's when Yglesias suggests that homeschooled
kids "lose autonomy" that he goes completely off the rails. Under
the restrictions favored by the pro-life crowd, the fetal "rights
the state must safeguard vis-a-vis their own parents" are the
rights not to be deliberately killed or maimed. Needless to say,
those rights don't disappear when a child is born. The only way
Yglesias' argument would make sense is if permissive homeschooling
rules overturned the laws against child abuse. Needless to say,
they do not.


It is also possible, I suppose, that Yglesias thinks compulsory
schooling isn't a restriction on children's liberties. But that
would be even more backward than "birth until conception."


Update: Matt Yglesias replies:



You can click
through
and scroll down to see the argument he says he was
trying to make. Judge for yourself how much it resembles the
passage he actually wrote—and, while you're at it, whether it
qualifies as an "argument about homeschooling."

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