Ideology and Integrity

by Kieran Healy on July 23, 2005

Via Tim Lambert, some evidence that these two properties might still be orthogonal. Tim reproduces an email exchange between John Donohue and a representative of the Federalist Society’s chapter at University of Chicago. They are trying to organize a debate between Donohue and the awful John Lott, but they fail through a sequence of scheduling problems exacerbated by Lott’s efforts (on his blog) to make it look like Donohue is afraid to face him in public. You have to give the Federalist Society person credit for an evenhanded and respectful demeanor in the face of relentless provocation from Lott’s trademark mix of misrepresentation, slander and evasiveness. Eventually the head of the Chicago chapter writes to Donohue telling him they’ve withdrawn Lott’s invitation to speak because of his repeated refusals to remove the libels of Donohue from his blog. So full marks to them for being on the up-and-up. The fact that the American Enterprise Institute remain happy to have Lott as a senior fellow, on the other hand, speaks for itself at this point.

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Deltoid » Duncan Maltz letter to the AEI
07.26.05 at 1:14 pm

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1

text 07.23.05 at 7:52 pm

the federalists I knew at u chicago were all a fairly scrupulous lot. they helped each other out like any other organization, but on the whole were bright, fair-minded, reputable — like some conservatives used to be.

I wonder how long those fellows will feel welcome under the umbrella.

2

Glenn Bridgman 07.23.05 at 8:15 pm

I attended a federalist society debate at chicago that had newdow speaking about his lawsuit. They struck me as quite professional–conspiricy theories aside, I think it represents the Volokh wing of the republican legal establishment, if you will.

3

John Quiggin 07.23.05 at 11:48 pm

As Tim L notes, Lott had his talk cancelled rather than remove an erroneous blog post. He is simply incapable of admitting error, even when he harms himself by not doing so.

At this point, I judge the AEI more harshly than Lott himself. They have clearly made the judgement that intellectual standards of any kind are irrelevant (probably a correct judgement, but still depressing).

4

SG 07.24.05 at 6:23 am

If you look at the postings on Lott’s site, he is not really saying what Lambert claims he is. True, for the first event, he says that the event was cancelled by Donohue. However, the other event he just says was cancelled. Do you read it as him directly attaching blame to anyone? Lott also puts evidence for his claim that Lambert skips over in his posting (including emails that he asserts are all the way back to September and the dates of which are different than the timing that Donohue claims).

5

Brett Bellmore 07.24.05 at 6:55 am

Yes, Lott is the right’s Bellesiles, and it’s rather embarassing every time I see him treated better than he deserves.

6

Barry 07.24.05 at 7:55 am

Brett, as usual you’re full of it. When Bellesiles was found to have commited academic fraud, his academic career was over, right then and there. Lott is going strong, in the ‘academy’ deliberately set up by the right as an alternative to the allegedly spoiled ‘liberal academy’.

7

wage slave 07.24.05 at 9:41 am

Remind me never to piss Tim Lambert off…

8

Brett Bellmore 07.24.05 at 11:46 am

I see, and you don’t think Lott is being treated better than he deserves in that respect?

9

Brett Bellmore 07.24.05 at 12:05 pm

“When Bellesiles was found to have commited academic fraud, his academic career was over, right then and there.”

Unadulterated BS. Doubts were raised about Arming America even before it was published, due to some fraudulent work Bellesiles had done earlier on the same topic, and he STILL got the Bancroft Prize, months after he’d been exposed, months after anybody who really cared knew it was a work of fiction. It wook most of two years after he was exposed, before his career really tanked.

I suppose you could say is academic career was over as soon as academia officially admitted he was an academic fraud, but that came long, long after he was “found” to have been a fraud.

And you don’t think Lott’s career doing well constitutes being treated better than he deserves? How generous of you…

10

Brett Bellmore 07.24.05 at 12:14 pm

Heck, I’m not even an amateur historian, and I was able to confirm the fraudulent nature of the book within a few hours of picking it up, just from publicly available sources he’d misquoted to his advantage. By contrast, the problems with Lott’s work were remarkably subtle.

11

Mike Maltz 07.24.05 at 2:19 pm

In October 2003 Dudley Duncan (who recently died) and I sent the following letter to Christopher DeMuth, President of the American Enterprise Institute:

October 21, 2003

Christopher DeMuth
President
American Enterprise Institute
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Mr. DeMuth:

As you are doubtless aware, a number of commentators have recommended that AEI initiate an inquiry into allegations of unprofessional and unethical behavior by John R. Lott, Jr., an AEI Resident Scholar. They include allegations:

· that Lott repeatedly presented erroneous information about what various polls and surveys had found about the frequency of gun brandishing, both in his book More Guns, Less Crime and in other media [Ref: http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/guns/files/duncan1.html, http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/guns/files/lottethics.html,
http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/guns/files/duncan3.html; for additional relevant information, see http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/guns/files/duncan3.html for dates April 2003 and later];

· that he subsequently claimed that the figure he had been citing came from a survey he himself had done; but he is unable to provide any documentation whatever to support this claim, which itself is implausible [same references];

· that he adopted a pseudonym that he claimed he used to protect himself from scurrilous comments, but that he used to make scurrilous remarks about his critics and to puff up his own reputation, including characterizing himself as a chaired professor [Ref: http://www.reason.com/0305/co.js.the.shtml, http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/guns/Lott/MaryRosh/%5D;

· that he misrepresented himself as a professor in a law school, before a legislative committee [Ref: http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/nebraska.html%5D;

· that, after being informed of the problems with the data sets he used in the major study presented in More Guns, Less Crime (to wit, extensive errors and missing data throughout the data set, and splicing together data sets that users were warned against splicing together), he ignored or trivialized their implications with regard to his findings [Refs: Maltz & Targonski, “A Note on the Use of County-Level UCR,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Vol. 18, No. 3, September 2002, pp. 297-318; Lott & Whitley, “Measurement Error in County-Level UCR Data,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Vol. 19, No. 2, June 2003, pp. 185-198; Maltz & Targonski, “Measurement and Other Errors in County-Level UCR Data: A Reply to Lott and Whitley,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Vol. 19, No. 2, June 2003, pp. 199-206];

· that when it was shown that his analysis of these error-laden data sets was, additionally, contaminated with coding errors that he had made, he continued to present his results as accurate in public forums [Ref: http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/lottbrandish.html%5D;

· that, in revising his analysis using the properly coded data, he changed the model so that the findings would conform to his original statements [Ref: http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/guns/Lott/more_guns_less_crime/0825.plain%5D;

· that he tried to cover up this manipulation of the model he used by predating the file he posted on the web, making it seem that he changed the model prior to others finding his coding errors [Same reference].

Much information about these criticisms can be found on the weblog site maintained by Tim Lambert, accessed at http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/. Although that site does not provide a single succinct summary of the allegations, it presents an illuminating chronicle and chronology of the discoveries and arguments relevant to them as they emerged, in a voluminous and wide-ranging discussion.

The undersigned have been involved in analyses of some of those activities. Although various weblogs have carried some of our comments, they do not give sufficient detail. We stand ready to provide additional detail.

We emphasize that these allegations do not address the merits of the policy that Lott advocates, laws permitting the carrying of concealed weapons. With 44 states already having such laws, that issue is essentially moot. Rather, the issue is the credibility and reputation of John Lott as a scholar and, by association, the credibility and reputation of the American Enterprise Institute.

We do not contemplate publishing or publicizing this letter. We look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Otis Dudley Duncan
Emeritus Professor of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Michael D. Maltz
Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice and of Information and Decision Sciences
University of Illinois at Chicago

– – – – – –

In response, DeMuth wrote the following:

Dear Professors Duncan and Maltz:

This is in response to your letter of October 21 concerning John Lott. I am familiar with the substance and merits of all of the matters on your bill of particulars, and do not need to ask anyone else to inquire into them for me. I should add that I think your accounts of many of these matters are very tendentious. In any event, the issues of research methodology and characterization that you raise have been thoroughly ventilated by Mr. Lott and his supporters and critics (including, as you note, Professor Maltz) in professional forums, and no doubt will continue m be-aided by Mr. Lott’s exemplary willingness to share the large data sets he has assembled and to assist those who wish to challenge (or just study) his work and conclusions. I do not regard debates over the effects of concealed-weapon laws (or other gun regulations) a moot; I hope and expect that they will continue, and also hope (but with lower expectations) that they will proceed in a spirit of open and vigorous inquiry on the merits rather than personal vilification.

Yours truly,

Christopher DeMuth

– – – – – – –

There are a number of people at AEI whose integrity and judgmment I respect, although I don’t know how they justify keeping company with the likes of John Lott. In fact, since Lott has involved his own children in his falsifications, I don’t know how he can justify such behavior to them or to himself.

12

P O'Neill 07.24.05 at 4:28 pm

Predictably, Glenn Reynolds doesn’t see what the problem is:

TIM LAMBERT CONTINUES his Javert-like pursuit of John Lott.

13

Barry 07.24.05 at 6:28 pm

Brett, I think that Mike has made my point – for Lott to be treated as he deserves, he’d have to find honest work, for a change. Nothing even faintly smelling of ‘research’ or ‘institutes’. The fact that he draws a paycheck and a letterhead and a reference from AEI is far better than he deserves.

14

Brett Bellmore 07.24.05 at 7:04 pm

Isn’t that what *I* said? That Lott is the right’s Bellesiles, and he, (Lott) is being treated better than he deserves.

15

mpowell 07.25.05 at 3:04 am

Reflexive disagreement w/ Brett here goes a little too far. You might disagree w/ his suggestion that the right’s protection of Lott is comparable to Bellesiles’ treatment, but he does make it clear that he thinks Lott’s treatment by the right is ’embarassing’ for its generosity.

16

Brett Bellmore 07.25.05 at 5:05 am

I don’t recall suggesting that the right’s treatment of Lott is comparable to the way Bellesiles was treated… Of course, the cases are quite different, too.

The chief difference between the cases, it seems to me, is that the problems with Lott’s research were fairly subtle, and the errors were at the margins. If his behavior had been a bit better, you could call it nothing more than an innocent mistake.

Bellesiles was off by a huge factor in his numbers, and engaged in forms of fraud understandable to anyone who’s minimally literate: Invented sources, changing quotes to agree with his thesis, using quotes out of context to imply the opposite of what the source was actually saying. From the moment his book was published, there was no real question that the fraud was deliberate.

17

Jadegold 07.25.05 at 9:31 am

Brett: All I can say is that you haven’t followed the controversy surrounding Lott if you believe Lott’s ‘problems’ and ‘errors’ were ‘subtle’ and in ‘the margins.’ There are no shortages of instances where Lott has been caught manipulating data and/or methodologies to fit a pre-determined conclusion. On at least one occasion, Lott’s been caught redhanded creating a study out of thin air; amusingly, even this fabricated study didn’t support his findings.

Of course, this doesn’t even touch the very creepy practices of Lott creating fictonal personas to praise his research and his marked tendency to attack and malign those who point out his errors.

Bellesiles’ work was intended to portray a history of American firearm usage–as such, it had no public policy implications. Yet, Lott continues to be cited as an authority on matters of public policy.

18

Brett Bellmore 07.25.05 at 10:29 am

Jade, if you think Bellesiles work wasn’t intended to have public policy implications, you’re more naive than I can credit.

19

Jadegold 07.25.05 at 11:15 am

Brett: If you read Bellesiles’ forward, it very clearly states his book was not intended to argue against or for issues concerning the 2A and/or public policy. And, if you think about it, how does knowing what percentage of inhabitants were gunowners in Contra Costa County in the 1880s have any bearing on any current public policy?

OTOH, Lott continues to provide “expert” testimony to legislatures on behalf of proposed CCW and gun-related legislation.

20

Brett Bellmore 07.25.05 at 12:26 pm

“If you read Bellesiles’ forward, it very clearly states his book was not intended to argue against or for issues concerning the 2A and/or public policy.”

Just another aspect of the fraud. Does anyone seriously believe we’d even have heard of Bellesiles, if he’d written on the frequency of butter churn ownership? That he’d have gotten the Bancroft prize? Been seized upon as support for anti-gun court rulings?

That book was meant to undercut the individual rights interpretation of the 2nd amendment, by lending the impression that there was no culture of firearms ownership in this country until after the Civil war. And if he’d had no ax to grind, why didn’t he just write the truth, instead of making things up?

21

jet 07.25.05 at 1:10 pm

Whether Bellesiles meant for his book to be political or not, it did wind up getting cited in legislation and at least one very important court case.

So while Lott has done some crappy work, I don’t see federal circuit courts being swayed by his “research”. It took the farg’n Supreme Court to overrule Bellesiles’ B.S.

22

Jadegold 07.25.05 at 2:05 pm

Just another aspect of the fraud.

I see. How devious of Bellesiles to specifically write his work wasn’t intended to support or not support public policy–when he actually had that very intention.

Thank goodness for mindreading.

23

Jadegold 07.25.05 at 2:18 pm

So while Lott has done some crappy work, I don’t see federal circuit courts being swayed by his “research”. It took the farg’n Supreme Court to overrule Bellesiles’ B.S.

Of course, the federal court was hardly swayed by Bellesiles. Bellesiles was a single footnote out of many dozen.

At least Bellesiles is real, live person. How many times have gun advocates cited Theodore Fiddleman in cases before the court?

24

Tim Lambert 07.25.05 at 8:22 pm

Lott’s work does seem to have an effect on legislation. See here for an example.

25

Brett Bellmore 07.25.05 at 8:29 pm

Well, Jade, you can hardly claim that Bellesiles wasn’t devious, given the lies piled upon lies in his book. I suppose you could argue that he was simply oblivious to the impact his book would have, if taken seriously.

26

Jadegold 07.25.05 at 9:27 pm

Sorry, Brett, but I find your argument disingenuous; Bellesiles specifically stated in his forward that he wasn’t intending any commentary on the 2A or public policy. Generally, most every work of advocacy will specifically state what it is trying to prove or demonstrate.

But, again, this is so much deflection away from the issue of Lott, who continues to be gainfully employed, despite a record of fraud and general weirdness.

27

Jadegold 07.25.05 at 9:35 pm

By the by, many Bellesiles’ bashers seem to believe Bellesiles had some powerful influence on court cases. This is most certainly overstated; in the case cited by Jet above, the judge quoted Bellesiles WRT George Washington’s disdain for civilian militias.

And Bellesiles was most certainly correct; Geo Washington had a very jaundiced view of the militias in his day. Washington’s papers indicate he found the militias ill-trained, ill-disciplined and unreliable during protracted campaigns.

28

Jadegold 07.25.05 at 9:45 pm

BTW, in response to the charge(levied by Jet) that Bellesiles had some powerful influence on gun control court cases, the judge in that case referenced Bellesiles WRT George Washington’s disdain for civilian militias.

And in this instance, Bellesilies was absolutely right. Washington’s papers and letters demonstrate he had a very jaundiced view of the militias of his day. He considered them ineffective, ill-trained, ill-disciplined, and unreliable in protracted campaigns.

29

Anderson 07.26.05 at 11:42 am

Jadegold, you can’t seriously be arguing that it’s a fact that Belleisles didn’t mean for his book to have any policy implications, just because he said so in his foreword?

I mean, come now.

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