People who favor free markets and are skeptical of government intervention rightly cheer when a proposed bill fails or when the government chooses not to intervene at all. A report on Inside Higher Ed today shows, however, that even the mere proposal of legislation to intervene can have distorting effects. In other words, the threat of legislation is an intervention in itself. The relevant passage:

The Association of American Universities said that it had hired a research firm to design a survey that its 60 U.S. member institutions may choose to have conducted on their campuses next April. The group plans to then publicly report the “cumulative results” from those surveys.

AAU President Hunter Rawlings said in a statement that the surveys were aimed both at helping inform university decision-making on campus sexual assault issues and also at preempting a efforts by the federal government to force colleges to conduct the surveys. “[W]e have been deeply concerned about the possibility of Congress or the administration mandating that campuses conduct a government-developed survey,” he said. “Such an initiative would likely be a one-size-fits-all survey that would provide potentially misleading data, given the extraordinary diversity of higher education in our country, and would not reliably assess the campus culture on this issue.”

The legislation Rawlings is likely referring to is proposed by Democratic senators and sexual assault warriors Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand. While their bill has been stalled, at least for now, the AAU survey is a partial win for their misguided agenda. Still, the AAU should probably be lauded for taking the initiative to tackle the issue on its own before the federal government inevitably screws it up.