Rank your rights

Apropos of tomorrow's Independence Day festivities, YLE commissioned a poll in which respondents were asked to rank their rights. It's an interesting excercise, but YLE's coverage of its own poll is disappointingly misleading. The worst offender is this paragraph:

The survey also asked which rights people would be willing to sacrifice under exceptional conditions. Most of those asked said the right of association and a quarter put freedom of movement on their list.

The survey didn't ask what rights respondents would be willing to sacrifice. The question (fi) concerned "being flexible" "if decision makers see it as necessary". Second, when it comes to limiting the right of association, "most of those asked" actually amount to 36 percent of those asked.

YLE's Olli Ainola wrote a column (fi) on the topic titled "Many Finns would accept the East German society." He makes some good points about situations in which rights need to be weighed against each other, but the title is of course very, very hyperbolic.

Ainola writes, "After a little bit of pushing, surprisingly many Finns are prepared to accept a society in which the right of association and freedom of movement are limited, the death penalty is in use, and freedom of religion and conscience is shackled - as long as social services and privacy are guaranteed.

"What sort of a society does that bring to mind? What else than the former DDR; only Stasi is missing."

Stasi was pretty damned central to the East German society, but we'll forget about that for the moment. Instead, let's try to figure out what what we can say about how many is "surprisingly many".

Of the rights that would be limited, the freedom of religion and conscience is the most popular (fi), with 19 percent willing to accept restrictions on it under exceptional circumstances. That's the upper limit. On the other hand, if there was no correlation between accepting limits on the four rights Ainola mentions, then the number would be approximately, oh, zero percent. So take your pick.

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