The Happy Slave

This is my surrender to the Powers that Be, who wish we all were just happy little slaves, tooling along without a care in the world, doing what our better-educated masters tell us to do, not daring to step out of line. I'm so bad at surrender...

Location: Indianapolis, United States

I'm an old-fashioned Get-out-of-my-face-atarian. So long as the gubmint left me alone, I had no problems with it. Gubmint wants to run my life, so I'm doing something about it. (Not just blogging, either.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Political "Scorecards"--just another spin gimmick.

I noticed today that Steven Gordon on Hammer of Truth has mentioned that a "scorecard" was issued for the US Senate. The conclusion of this scorecard was that, or so it claims, Democrats are far, far, oodly-doodly-woodly more libertarian than are Republicans. Well, this was a bit of a surprise to me, until I noticed that this "scorecard" was a product of Freedom Democrats.

Okay, so a group of Democrats says that the Democrats are all nice and liberty-loving while the Republicans are just as icky as can be. I've no doubt that many other blogs are now breathlessly (and mindlessly) reporting this "scorecard" as Gospel truth. That's the nature of these little bits of propaganda, and that's what "Senate scorecards" usually are. They are propaganda pieces. Remember, this was not produced by an independent person or institution. It was a product of a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party who at least seems to have enough sense to realize that a police state might not be the best of all possible worlds.

In other words, a Democrat has defined a Good Thing (liberty) and then concluded that Democrats are better at the Good Thing than are Republicans. Knee-jerk, cult-like Democrats will now gush over how "obvious" the "conclusion" is while knee-jerk, cult-like Republicans will gush over how "wrong" it has to be. I'm just all around suspicious when it comes to any member of any party nattering on about how good they are and how bad The Enemy is. I want to check things out. However, instead of just critiquing the methods and presumptions that went into this particular "Score Card", I rememberd that there is a group of Republicans who also like to claim that they're "libertarian" at heart.

The Republican Liberty Caucus just happens to have their own "Liberty Index", and with a little digging you can get hold of the specifics for both the Liberty Index and the Freedom Democrats' Senate Scorecard. The first thing that should hit you square in the face is that the "key" votes look like they've been severely cherry-picked by both sides. I'm of the opinion that this severely altered the outcome and very well may have been done to produce the specific desired result. The Republican index restricts itself to 20 "personal" and 20 "economic" votes, all taken in 2005. The Democrat scorecard has 15 "social" and 15 "econonomy" votes, but in each of their categories, the Democrat scorecard sees fit to use two votes from 2003 and four from 2004. This is highly questionable. Even more questionable is that the Democrat scorecard only lists 14 of the 15 "social" votes it counted--at least when I consulted the web site. What is really interesting is how little overlap there is in the two lists, even though I could make a case for nearly every member of both lists to have been included in some sort of "Liberty Scorecard". Oddly enough, whenever the Democrat list mentioned a bill meant to rein in spending in a field particularly favored by our President, it was absent on the Republican list. Likewise, votes on the Republican list that appeared to me to be important regarding liberty issues were absent on the Democrat.

In short: The books were cooked, and we really can't trust either of these sources on their own. A strong indicator of this is what we might see if we juxtapose the two "scorecards" on each other. It just so happens that the Democrats used a Nolan Chart while the Republicans used a modified Nolan Chart. Since I like the finer nuancing of the Republican version (which still preserves the old Nolan boundaries), I have mapped both surveys together onto a single chart:

Okay, Red is for Republican Senators, Blue is for Democrats. Solid squares represent a same-party evaluation, hollow squares are cross-party evaluation. To quote Saint Gomer of Pyle: Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! Republicans think that other Republicans adore liberty and that Democrats are all a bunch of little dictators. Likewise, contrariwise.

So here we have it, a group of Liberty-loving Democrats are ready to tell the world that the Democratic party is our last, best hope from the tyrannical schemes of the vile Republicans. Simultaneously, a group of Liberty-loving Republicans are ready to tell the world that the Republican party is our last, best hope from the tyrannical schemes of the vile Democrats. I don't need to smell ammonia to tell when someone's taking a leak down my leg and telling me it's rain.

These "liberty" or "freedom" scams within the two major parties very well may just be that--scams, if we're lucky. The more likely scenario is far worse. Both of these groups are probably quite convinced, quite dogmatically convinced, that they truly do represent the only way to achieve liberty and that anyone who won't toe their party line is irrational, deluded, or evil. I have no doubt that most of these people truly do feel emotional affection for our tradition of individual liberty, but they still also insist upon party loyalty first, last, and always.

Of course, these two conflicting charts can make me wonder, what would happen were the ratings to be combined? I decided to treat each of these partisan political factions as fundamentally "equal". Both cherry-pick their samples and both miraculously cast themselves as guarding liberty against the supreme totalitarians of the other party. Thus, I just averaged the scores. If you have the least bit of scientific training, you should be cringing right now, but I wanted to see what the model would look like if we did a simple "pos on both your houses" and threw the two dogmatic views right in with each other. The results were, at very least, amusing, as you can see for yourself:


I'd say that this is a pretty interesting turn of affairs. The Republican and Democrat jingoistic views of each other essentially cancel each other out! What is even more interesting is that, when giving Republican and Democrat evaluations equal weight, the Democrats are, as a group, distinctively "Liberal". In addition, they have the only "Statist" Senators and the sole "Authoritarian" turns out to be a Democrat.

Likewise, and remember, we are giving a Democrat source equal weight to a Republican source, Republicans turn out to dominate the "Centrist" spot in the US Senate. There are a few "Enterprisers" and "Conservatives" among them, but nobody who would qualify as "Right-Wing" or "Authoritarian". No Republicans make it as "Libertarian" on this particular chart--the "Enterprisers" would be "weak Libertarians" on more traditional charts.

The funny thing is that, unlike all the "Ooh-oh, WOW! response that the Freedom Democrat chart seems to be producing in parts of bloggieland, this "unified" chart actually poses no real surprises. The US Senate turns out to be pretty bland. Most Democrats turn out to be liberal, with a few extremists. Republicans (remember, this is Senate Republicans, not House of Representative Republicans) are mostly moderate, with a few libertarian-leaners and conservatives.

But who wants to hear that the Senate is pretty much what it's been for a long time? Political wonks want warfare. They want people at each others throats. Reason is their worst enemy, and a public informed of all sides of a question their worst nightmare.