Wording the Questions
By Arnold Kling
Seeing Greg Mankiw’s reference to the World’s Smallest Political Quiz put me in a puckish mood to tweak the questions. Alternative versions (Arlo’s versions?) are in parentheses.
Government should not censor speech, press, media or Internet
(People should be allowed to advocate for terrorism, racial hatred, or any other unpopular cause)
Military service should be voluntary. There should be no draft
(The wealthy and the powerful should be able to initiate wars, and pay others to fight them)
There should be no laws regarding sex for consenting adults
(If two teachers want to have sex in front of a classroom of elementary students that is fine, since the teachers are consenting adults)
Repeal laws prohibiting adult possession and use of drugs
(Abolish the requirement to obtain a prescription to get medication)
There should be no National ID card
(Illegal immigrants and terrorists should have their anonymity protected)
End “corporate welfare.” No government handouts to business
(Government will do nothing to try to help save small farms, achieve energy independence, provide affordable housing, or achieve other social goals)
End government barriers to international free trade
(End government barriers to free trade, including all barriers that restrict people coming into this country to work)
Let people control their own retirement; privatize Social Security
(Either stop paying benefits to people near or beyond retirement age, or pay those benefits and use borrowing or new taxes to finance the large expenditures necessary)
Replace government welfare with private charity
(Eliminate government welfare, and hope that private charity picks up the slack)
Cut taxes and government spending by 50% or more
(Eliminate public education, Medicaid, and Medicare)
Even with the revised wording, I would take the libertarian view on several of these issues, particularly the economic issues. However, it strikes me that the original wording of the questions is too heavily geared toward encouraging libertarian answers for the quiz to have any reliability.
Two issues give me pause no matter how they are worded. I feel that the national ID card is not a big issue either way–the need for ID is so great and the forms of ID so widespread that I cannot see what the fuss is about. And regarding the military, I think there are serious problems with either a draft or a volunteer force. The draft is a cruel tax, but the volunteer army does create a disconnect between the people who are fighting and the people for whom they are fighting.
Note, however, this CNN poll.
Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country’s problems.
Americans had a slightly different perspective when it came to the specific issue of promoting traditional values. A slight majority — 51 percent — said they thought that was an appropriate activity for government, while 43 percent said it should not favor any particular set of values.
I wonder how those questions were worded.