Whitewashing Rosh

by Henry on June 9, 2010

In my inbox from the Cato Institute this morning.

More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws
(University of Chicago Press, 2010)

BOOK FORUM
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Noon (Luncheon to Follow)

Featuring the author John R. Lott, Jr.; with comments from Paul Helmke, President, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; and Jeff Snyder, Attorney and Author, Nation of Cowards: Essays on the Ethics of Gun Control (Accurate Press, 2001). Moderated by Tim Lynch, Director, Project on Criminal Justice, Cato Institute.

On its initial publication in 1998, John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime drew both lavish praise and heated criticism. More than a decade later, it continues to play a key role in ongoing arguments over gun-control laws. Relying on a comprehensive data analysis of crime statistics and right-to-carry laws, the book challenges common perceptions about the relationship of guns, crime, and violence. Now in this third edition, Lott draws on an additional 10 years of data — including provocative analysis of the effects of gun bans in Chicago and Washington, DC — that he claims lends even more support to his central contention that more guns mean less crime. Join us for a wide-ranging discussion of guns, self-defense, and public safety.

Why yes indeed. You could say that More Guns, Less Crime drew heated criticism. But then, you might prefer to ask why John Lott became a public laughing stock before you got into detailed back-and-forths about the econometrics. Mysteriously disappearing surveys. The wonderful Mary Rosh, a former ‘student’ of John Lott’s who went after Lott’s critics on the Internet, and gushed about how “Lott was the best professor that I ever had….Lott finally had to tell us that it was best for us to try and take classes from other professors more to be exposed to other ways of teaching graduate material,” before she was revealed as a sockpuppet for John R. Lott himself. And finally, the famous lawsuit against Steven Levitt.

The people at Cato can hardly be unaware of this peculiar history. After all, one of their own research fellows, Julian Sanchez, did as much as anyone to uncover Dr. Lott’s various misdeeds. But they’ve chosen nonetheless to associate themselves with the notorious Dr. Lott, and to promote his work. If Michael Bellesiles was still working on gun issues, and the Center for American Progress was holding events to promote his work, it would be a problem. But Bellesiles’ hackwork is still treated as toxic by the left. Cato is an odd mix of genuinely smart and honest people (e.g. Sanchez, Brink Lindsey) and organized hackery. It’s not doing its reputation any favors by hosting this event.

{ 60 comments }

1

mds 06.09.10 at 4:03 pm

It’s not doing its reputation any favors by hosting this event.

Since the beatings must apparently continue until the dead horse’s morale improves, reputation with whom?

2

Barry 06.09.10 at 5:03 pm

“Cato is an odd mix of genuinely smart and honest people (e.g. Sanchez, Brink Lindsey) and organized hackery. “

CATO was a lying propaganda shop (leninist plan to destroy social security, anybody?) from its inception. As a by-product, it has some actual true-believing libertarians on staff who – I was going to say ‘who occasionally go off-reservation, but I can’t recall any instances where they didn’t support right-wing econowhackjobery. Can anybody?

3

Barry 06.09.10 at 5:12 pm

Which leads to a working definition of ‘core’ values for an organization – on what items do people either never go ‘off reservation’, or immediately ‘spend more time with their families’ if they do?

4

no 06.09.10 at 5:18 pm

One may also ask what the University of Chicago press is doing reissuing this book.

5

burritoboy 06.09.10 at 5:22 pm

When we had this same discussion about Bellesiles, everybody was pissed off about someone republishing his Bellesiles’ flawed book. But the University of Chicago Press republishes Lott’s complete garbage, vulgar propaganda intentionally designed to win a particular political party support of the disturbed among so that party can eventually overthrow our entire regime, and no one even blinks at it.

6

Nick 06.09.10 at 5:29 pm

I agree. It is a bad move by CATO, and undermines some of the other interesting work that they do.

7

Barry 06.09.10 at 5:41 pm

Nick, my point pretty much was that CATO’s work is right-wing glibertarian propaganda.

no : “One may also ask what the University of Chicago press is doing reissuing this book.”

Answer: disseminating right-wing econofraud. They’re Chicago.

8

ben 06.09.10 at 5:43 pm

The Press is not actually a subsidiary of the economics department.

9

Nick 06.09.10 at 6:13 pm

“Nick, my point pretty much was that CATO’s work is right-wing glibertarian propaganda.”

…in your opinion.

10

Rich Puchalsky 06.09.10 at 6:19 pm

Libertarian and glibertarian are the same thing. The supposedly smart and honest ones just function to give the others cover.

11

lemmy caution 06.09.10 at 6:19 pm

Everybody loves the sock puppeteers. Here is a similarly stupid email Andrew Gelman got:

TEMPLETON BOOK FORUM invites you to “Is the Cyber Mob a Threat to Freedom?” featuring Ron Rosenbaum, Slate, Lee Siegel, The New York Observer, moderated by Michael Goodwin, The New York Post

New Threats to Freedom

Today’s threats to freedom are “much less visible and obvious than they were in the 20th century and may even appear in the guise of social and political progress,” writes Adam Bellow in his introduction to the new essay collection that he has edited for the Templeton Press. Indeed, Bellow suggests, the danger often lies precisely in our “failure or reluctance to notice them.”

According to Ron Rosenbaum and Lee Siegel, in their provocative contributions to the volume, the extraordinary advances made possible by the Internet have come at a sometimes worrisome cost. Rosenbaum focuses on how online anonymity has become a mask encouraging political discourse that is increasingly distorted by vitriol, abuse, and thuggishness. Siegel argues that the Internet has undermined long-established standards of excellence, promoting participation and popularity over talent and originality. Both writers warn against the growing influence of what Siegel calls “interactive mobs.” . . .

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for research and discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support work at the world’s top universities in such fields as theoretical physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and social science relating to love, forgiveness, creativity, purpose, and the nature and origin of religious belief. We also seek to stimulate new thinking about freedom and free enterprise, character development, and exceptional cognitive talent and genius.

12

Henry 06.09.10 at 6:24 pm

As I asked Andrew via email, was Siegel there as a discussant or as a cautionary example?

13

Barry 06.09.10 at 6:36 pm

ben: “The Press is not actually a subsidiary of the economics department.”

And when the department which is disproportionately responsible for the fame of the entire freakin’ university, and which probably brings in loads of right-wing moola, asks for something, do you think that the Press doesn’t ask ‘how high’ on the way up?

This is pretty much proof of that, unless the Press has an existing series called ‘Reprints of Publications by Disgraced Scholars’.

14

herr doktor bimler 06.09.10 at 8:09 pm

One thing I learned from the Mediterranean aid-flotilla saga is the importance of relaxing gun controls. If the people on that ship had been armed they would have been able to incapacitate the deranged gunmen earlier, with less loss of life.

15

Mitchell Rowe 06.09.10 at 8:11 pm

herr doktor bimler :
God I hope that is sarcasm…

16

chrismealy 06.09.10 at 8:18 pm

Libertarians love to use signaling as an explanation (probably because it preserves the homo economicus/hedonistic sociopath perspective: people are evil robots only pretending to be human). By promoting obvious bullshit Cato is signaling that they’re still willing to say anything for a price.

17

herr doktor bimler 06.09.10 at 8:21 pm

Sarcasm? I prefer the phrase “childish inflammatory bullshit”.

18

More Dogs, Less Crime 06.09.10 at 8:45 pm

From what I recall Robert Frank and Geoffrey Miller, both unabashed liberals, are some of the biggest pushers of the signalling model. If a good has signalling value, then reducing consumption (through, say, taxation) does not produce the “deadweight loss” economists normally assume.

“Cato is signaling that they’re still willing to say anything for a price”
Including supporting single-payer, hiking the minimum wage, and banning firearms, gambling or the charging of interest? Is the hypotheses that they are simply deluded ideologues that much more implausible than that they are pundits-for-hire?

I think Henry had the more accurate take: “I may think that some of the bloggers whom I argue with and criticize are political hacks. I don’t usually believe that they’re bought-and-paid-for political hacks (and if I did, I’d probably criticize them in very different ways).”

19

Gene O'Grady 06.09.10 at 9:42 pm

There are still a few of us left for whom the English department was the part of the University of Chicago that made it famous.

And the press publishes a lot of quality stuff in many fields, with (as far as I can tell) this kind of stuff being pretty far down on their list of priorities.

20

ChrisN 06.09.10 at 10:17 pm

“And when the department which is disproportionately responsible for the fame of the entire freakin’ university, and which probably brings in loads of right-wing moola, asks for something, “

This would be the department that employs that well-known friend – one could say fan – of John Lott … Steven Levitt???

21

CHRISTS 06.09.10 at 10:40 pm

Someone over at Volokh went crazy over Bellesiles’ NEW book. I wonder why no one over there is blogging about Lott’s reissue.

22

Joshua Herring 06.09.10 at 11:05 pm

Let me start off by saying that I agree that Cato isn’t doing itself any favors by hosting an event about Lott’s new book.

That out of the way, there’re several things about your post that strike me as disingenuous.

(1) The implied moral equivalency between Lott and Bellesiles. Actually, Bellesiles is much more thoroughly discredited than Lott – and no, not because of the towering integrity of the Left, but just because of good ol’ fashioned dodginess. The survey under dispute in More Guns is, to quote Julian Sanchez, “tangential” to the main point of his book. This is not true of all those many fabrications in Bellesiles’ book. Bellesiles fabricated all of his important evidence; Lott (probably) fabricated some points here and there.

(2) Lott has admitted the Rosh affair as soon as it was exposed; Bellesiles claims to this day that the charges against him are false.

(3) Heated criticism of a book is not sufficient to prove that it is erroneous. There are many motivations for criticism, only some of which are scholarly integrity, as anyone working in academia is well aware. To the extent that Lott’s current book checks out, there is no reason not to read or cite it. The only thing that Lott’s tarnished reputation requires is that it be more thoroughly checked than similar books, I should think.

(4) Lott won one of his lawsuits against Levitt. Among the more interesting points of the case that would seem to be relevant here but remain unmentioned include that Levitt admitted having been one of the reviewers of an article of Lott’s in the Journal of Law and Economics that he claimed had not been peer reviewed. Half of Lott’s lawsuit was (rightly) thrown out, but publicly claiming that someone’s article had not been peer reviewed when one is well aware – having himself been one of the reviewers – that it had – that’s defamation.

(5) It is false on its face that the Left in general considers Bellesiles’ work “toxic.” Several leftist academics do – including the one you quote – true enough. Nevertheless, Bellesiles has a book in press now (due out in August) from a leftist publisher that advertises the book’s author as “He is a nationally known historian who has been vilified, many think unfairly. This book will reestablish his reputation.” Their publication release went so far as to call him the target of a swift-boating.

In short, I can see why you are concerned about Cato hosting Lott, but this post is overstated. If you have substantive problems with the book, I’d be interested in hearing them. If, however, there is nothing wrong with the book, then it is real scholarship, and there’s no reason not to read and cite it. Facts are facts, regardless of who peddles them. Yes, that goes for Bellesiles too. If his new book is on the up-and-up, it’s on the up-and-up, and, just as with Lott, his shady past only means we need to be more diligent in our source-checking than we otherwise would be.

23

Michael 06.10.10 at 12:13 am

Well, I’m not going to either the Cato book forum or the Templeton one. I’m trying to decide whether to attend the investment webinar hosted by Bernie Madoff or the workplace safety workshop led by Tony Hayward.

24

Map Maker 06.10.10 at 2:04 am

Well, Cato has had several internal dustups over the years, including Milliken (over the issue of textile import restrictions) and the Gulf War I (isolationist libertarians vs. the god-and-country side). One-and-a-half out of two is how I score their libertarian vs. rightwing apologist debate, but each to their own.

As for Lott, just because you think he is beyond the pale of listening to, doesn’t mean everyone is. Cato has had “worse” depending on your views … Charles Murray is a much talling lightening rod than Lott every will be and has been a more frequent speaker on a broader range of issues AFAIK.

25

TGGP 06.10.10 at 2:41 am

“there is no reason not to read or cite it”
That doesn’t summarize what Cato is doing. They are hosting an event dedicated to the republication of the book. I’m not particularly worked up about it, but I can easily understand how others might be.

26

Walker 06.10.10 at 3:48 am

I’ve followed Cato a good bit, and I don’t recall any dustup over trade restrictions or Milliken. Nor do I find anything in a quick search. Are you perhaps misremembering something?

Since no one here has offered any evidence that any person at Cato has written things he didn’t actually believe, may I conclude that for many of these commenters, anyone who disagrees with you is automatically crooked or “on the take”?

27

mark 06.10.10 at 4:44 am

@13:

Chicago in the ’50s was the home of Nobel laureates in physics and chemistry like Fermi, Urey and Goeppert-Mayer. I can’t say much about it now, but it had maintained an excellent reputation in the sciences at least through the early ’90s, when I was in school.

I think the econ department may add more to the Unversity’s notoriety than its fame, at least on the left.

28

bad Jim 06.10.10 at 7:55 am

Cato is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful thinktank I’ve ever known in my life.

29

Anarcho 06.10.10 at 8:13 am

CATO has “some actual true-believing libertarians on staff “? I doubt you will find ANYONE in CATO who thinks that “property is theft” or whose aim was, to quote Proudhon again, “to rescue the working masses from capitalist exploitation.” That is because are propertarians, NOT libertarians.

30

ajay 06.10.10 at 8:36 am

I’m trying to decide whether to attend the investment webinar hosted by Bernie Madoff or the workplace safety workshop led by Tony Hayward.

You joke, but Tommy Franks is out there giving lectures on effective leadership and strategy. He’s even running the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute. In his spare time, he runs a stud farm in Oklahoma. Two of the stud horses are called “Shock” and “Awe”.

I am not making this up. (Though I suppose maybe Nate Fick and/or Andrew Exum are.)

31

Mrs Tilton 06.10.10 at 1:59 pm

Anarcho @28, re “libertarianism”:

two peoples separated by a common language and all that. Like “liberal”, “libertarian” has a different meaning on my side of the Atlantic (as do both words’ respective cognates in Foreign) . Or it has traditionally done, anyway; the American sense of “libertarian” seems to have found a toehold in cisatlantic English, probably due to Yank carpetbaggers and Brit wannabes.

In my younger days I used to know people in groups called libertäres this and libertäres that. I don’t think they’d have found many friends at Cato, and they’d have had “libertarians” like Glenn Reynolds and Megan McArdle hiding under the bed.

32

Nick 06.10.10 at 3:07 pm

Anarcho: Proudhon also said that property is freedom, and Cato style libertarianism and Proudhon have a common connection in the form of Kevin Carson: http://mutualist.blogspot.com/

Tom G. Palmer has anarchist elements in his thought: http://oxlib.blogspot.com/2009/10/modest-case-for-sacking-state.html

We are not necessarily quite as different as you think:)

33

musical mountaineer 06.10.10 at 6:05 pm

I’ll second Joshua Herring’s vote on item (1), with qualifications. Lott’s work was merely shoddy and tendentious, whereas Bellesiles’ was full-on fraudulent. But Lott scores a way higher “ew” factor for those creepy Rosh escapades. It may not be scholarly misconduct narrowly defined, but it’s sure embarrassing. He’s creepy-looking, too.

As one who believes More Guns really do mean Less Crime in a wide range of relevant contexts, I nevertheless found Lott’s conclusions surprising from the start. Intuitively, I did not expect a measurable deterrent effect on crime as a result of legalized concealed carry. I haven’t closely examined Lott’s work or that of his critics, but I find it believable that Lott simply took his data to the stop where he wanted to get off.

Even if Lott’s research was valid, I’d only be about half-happy to have him on the pro-gun team. The basic argument is that individual humans have the right to an effective means of self-defense against violent attack. It’s a proposition that can be worked out in moral philosophy. Sociology doesn’t enter into it. When pro-gun people argue from sociology, they implicitly spike their best cannon.

34

mds 06.10.10 at 6:14 pm

and Cato style libertarianism and Proudhon have a common connection in the form of Kevin Carson

This is clever right-libertarian humor, right? Cato’s idea of a left-libertarian is Will Wilkinson, because he doesn’t completely dismiss Rawls out of hand. Carson and his fellow mutualists’ free-market anti-capitalism would not seem to actually be a very good fit with the capitalism crowd that funds and runs Cato. But perhaps I’ve simply overlooked that pro-union contingent who are card-carrying members of the IWW like Carson.

We [mutualists] believe in private property, so long as it is based on personal occupancy and use. … Our ultimate vision is of a society in which the economy is organized around free market exchange between producers, and production is carried out mainly by self-employed artisans and farmers, small producers’ cooperatives, worker-controlled large enterprises, and consumers’ cooperatives.

I couldn’t find anything matching up with this mutualists.org manifesto at Cato (though admittedly, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there).

So, sorry, as someone with occasional outbreaks of libertarian socialist sympathies, I’m still seeing a lot of daylight between the two, since I’m not sure even Benjamin Tucker would be a likely Cato hire.

35

Rich Puchalsky 06.10.10 at 6:33 pm

Libertarians have single people who carry on the entire libertarian supposed project in that area. If any libertarian ever wants to pretend that they care about civil liberties, they yell “Radly Balko!” If they ever want to pretend that they aren’t corporatists, they yell “Kevin Carson!” If either of those two people ever decided to do something different, libertarians all over America would feel momentarily sad that they no longer had an excuse.

36

mds 06.10.10 at 6:58 pm

Libertarians have single people who carry on the entire libertarian supposed project in that area.

So what you’re saying is, Cato will be really unhappy when Chomsky dies, because they won’t be able to pretend they aren’t minarchists anymore?

There’s also an element of “useful idiot” in your formulation, which I don’t think actually applies to Kevin Carson and small-but-nonzero group of mutualist peers. It’s not as if Mr. Carson has been liberated from toil by means of a cushy Cato gig. And seriously, do you really think that most self-identified libertarians in the US have even heard of mutualists, let alone used them for cover?

37

Nick 06.10.10 at 7:16 pm

mds: they are approaches towards similar visions of a free society. It is rare that you will find any sophisticated libertarian who is content with the current system of legal property arrangements, nor sees the insitution of our arrangements as initially legitimate. They just usually find the foreseeable alternatives to private property as worse than the current system. But Carson represents one possible ideal outcome.

Rich: your views are irrefutable by design so I won’t try to tackle them.

38

mds 06.10.10 at 8:26 pm

they are approaches towards similar visions of a free society.

I guess I’m still not seeing the strong similarity between a marketplace supplied with goods from small freeholds and worker-owned factories, and Cato’s aggregate vision of a world where first we must get government and organized labor out of the way, and then some of us promise to deal similarly with corporate power. If the order were reversed a little more often, I might feel more reassured.

They just usually find the foreseeable alternatives to private property as worse than the current system.

Because … ? I’m not intrinsically anti-propertarian, though I think Georgists (and mutualists!) have a point about some of its manifestations. But I’m also not intrinsically propertarian, and certainly not strong propertarian like capitalists tend to be. So I’m not clear on what specific alternatives are considered both terrible and exhaustive.

Whoa, I guess this is somewhat off-topic, isn’t it? That’s certainly never happened before.

39

Rich Puchalsky 06.10.10 at 8:31 pm

mds, I didn’t mean to imply that anyone was a useful idiot. But does Kevin Carson still call himself a libertarian, or, like Henley, does he consider himself something else now? If the second, then Nick is doing the old libertarian shtick of taking credit for people who’ve rejected libertarianism. If the first, then Carson is providing cover for Cato by his own choice.

And yes, every libertarian in the U.S. — or at least every one who comments on blogs, which is a pretty much all 10,000 of them — has at least heard of the concept that if the government stopped supporting big corporations the way that they do, market failures would vanish. It’s a standard libertarian bit of blather. They may not know what a mutualist is, and they certainly defend corporations and corporatism at every turn, but they do have this vague sense that libertarianism is about small business and voluntary associations and that that would be what would happen in Libertopia just after they first do important stuff like making racially segregated lunch counters legal again.

The bit about Chomsky is a red herring. There’s a basically European use of “libertarian” which has really nothing to do with libertarianism in the U.S., as Anarcho often tells us here. I think that “anarcho-socialist” is probably the best U.S. translation. Libertarians don’t claim Chomsky.

40

Jacob T. Levy 06.10.10 at 8:41 pm

“Lott’s work was merely shoddy and tendentious, whereas Bellesiles’ was full-on fraudulent. But Lott scores a way higher “ew” factor for those creepy Rosh escapades. It may not be scholarly misconduct narrowly defined, but it’s sure embarrassing. “

Don’t let the comical ‘ew’ factor of Mary Rosh overshadow misconduct and fraud. No matter how ‘tangential’ the point was, to all available evidence Lott simply fabricated the existence of a survey, and relied on the fictional survey’s fictional results both in his book and in subsequent arguments.

The negative has never been proven, and so his apparent misconduct can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt the way Bellesiles’ was– but Lott’s story relies on an awful lot of dogs eating an awful lot of homework. Were I on a disciplinary committee I’d probably say that there’s not enough evidence to convict him of fabricating the survey– but if an omniscient deity asked me to bet before revealing the true answer, I’d bet a good sum of money that he fabricated the survey. And that’s serious scholarly misconduct.

41

Henry 06.10.10 at 9:23 pm

What Jacob said, more or less. It’s notable that the litigious Dr. Lott has never sued any of the many people who made public allegations about this. I imagine that this is because he knows the discovery process would be an interesting one. As one of the commentators above notes, the mysteriously vanishing survey is not central to his results. But given the scope of play that even faintly dishonest people can have when using econometrics, and given, even more pertinently, the various shenanigans with changing specifications etc that Tim Lambert documents, it doesn’t add up to a very pretty picture. If I was one of the honest libertarians working at Cato (and contrary to the usual arse from resident loonies above, there are indeed some who meet that description), I’d be exceedingly pissed off and feel that this event was damaging my good name by extension.

42

Nick 06.10.10 at 9:46 pm

“They just usually find the foreseeable alternatives to private property as worse than the current system.

Because … ? I’m not intrinsically anti-propertarian, though I think Georgists (and mutualists!) have a point about some of its manifestations. But I’m also not intrinsically propertarian, and certainly not strong propertarian like capitalists tend to be. So I’m not clear on what specific alternatives are considered both terrible and exhaustive.”

Ok, lets just assume the absence of a right of use and possession based property system as a policy option for now, even though it might be a great thing if it could be instituted. You are left with a sort of continuum of property policies, running from strong individual ownership rights through increased public and corporate control of property, all the way to widespread or total state ownership.

Libertarians favour the first few points on that spectrum, the argument being that increased political control over property usually causes more problems than it solves, leading to mismanagement and inefficiency. As a kind of ‘least bad’ existing scenario, this seems perfectly reasonable (without being able to justify it on natural rights grounds). All successful societies have fairly robust property rights.

43

Nick 06.10.10 at 9:49 pm

By the way, I am in favour of voluntary unions, and I am against limited liability for corporations. These are probably majority views amongst libertarians.

44

Sebastian 06.10.10 at 10:53 pm

I didn’t follow the aftermath of the Lott thing super-closely, but I think it came down to “super suspicious but not provably falsified”. And then the whole sock puppet thing made it seem as if Lott was willing to falsify things. So while it isn’t *as bad* as republishing Bellesiles’ book it still damages CATO’s reputation to deal with it.

45

musical mountaineer 06.11.10 at 2:35 am

“to all available evidence Lott simply fabricated the existence of a survey, and relied on the fictional survey’s fictional results both in his book and in subsequent arguments”

I did not know that. But then, I had kind of written Lott off anyway. I have to admit, though, that some people on my side of the fence still want very much to cite Lott, and sometimes they do. Agreed that working with Lott doesn’t make Cato look good.

46

Dr. Hilarius 06.11.10 at 3:19 am

Do Lott’s fabrications mean that I have to get rid of all my guns? Can I at least keep the FN/FAL and one of the AKs for the apocalypse?

47

John Quiggin 06.11.10 at 3:34 am

If his new book is on the up-and-up, it’s on the up-and-up, and, just as with Lott, his shady past only means we need to be more diligent in our source-checking than we otherwise would be.

This is the problem, which was the core of the main lawsuit against Levitt (for his book, not for what he wrote to someone in an email). I expect that the new edition will have new econometric studies, showing that guns reduce crime, cure cancer etc. The data will all be available, and it will be possible to duplicate Lott’s results. But as soon as anyone tries replication, using the same model but with different data sets or methods, the results will be much weaker, or will break down altogether.

What we can’t check is how many specifications Lott tries and discards before coming up with those that suit his prejudices. But we can observe that he bats 1.000 in this respect. On a vast range of subjects, his econometric analyses always come up with the same conclusion: The Right is right.

48

John Quiggin 06.11.10 at 3:42 am

BTW, I don’t think Bellesiles ever conceded fraud, and nothing was ever proved in a court of law. The big difference was that the institutions that had to pass judgement on Bellesiles, like Emery and Columbia, have some standards, whereas those that had to pass judgement on Lott, like AEI and Cato, do not.

As regards Cato, my take is that they have lexicographic preferences. If they can get a high-quality scholar to do honest work that gets the *right* answer, that’s what they’ll do. But if the only person willing to give the right answer is a dishonest hack, that’s what they’ll settle for. By contrast, I think Heartland, CEI, and (largely) AEI prefer to deal with dishonest hacks.

49

tom bach 06.11.10 at 4:54 am

Sebastian this:
“So while it isn’t as bad as republishing Bellesiles’ book” is simply wrong. No one is re-issuing Bellesiles’ book. He has written a new one. Mclemee took issue with the press release for the new book which underplayed the degree to which Bellesiles cheated.

50

nick s 06.11.10 at 6:02 am

On John Q’s final point at 47, I believe dsquared’s piece from the ancient past is the point of reference here, and deserves a cite just for this:

As a social pastime, obviously, endlessly re-estimating permutations of regression models has all the disadvantages of masturbating into a sock with few of the advantages, but is it really all that harmful? Well yes. I’m not just being a luddite here.

(Also, this.)

51

Barry 06.11.10 at 1:43 pm

Dr. Hilarius 06.11.10 at 3:19 am

“Do Lott’s fabrications mean that I have to get rid of all my guns? Can I at least keep the FN/FAL and one of the AKs for the apocalypse?”

Yes – the FN/FAL was made by Fabrique Nationale – a French!!!!! speaking company, and the AK was made by commie gulag slave labor – lick it, and you can taste salt from the tears of the oppressed.

For a reasonable fee, I will dispose of them for you :)

52

chris 06.11.10 at 1:54 pm

You are left with a sort of continuum of property policies, running from strong individual ownership rights through increased public and corporate control of property, all the way to widespread or total state ownership.

ISTM that the lesson of history is that both ends are bad. All successful societies have some private ownership, but they also have fairly extensive public regulation (e.g. utilities), often a considerably important chunk of outright public ownership (e.g. roads), and some form of eminent domain.

But of course saying that you can have too little public regulation of property use isn’t a very libertarian position. The emotional appeal of libertarianism is that you don’t have to engage with details — less government good, more government bad, end of discussion. Once you accept that that formula is oversimplified you’re going to drift into a more nuanced position and that is why there are so many disillusioned ex-libertarians.

53

liberal 06.11.10 at 5:57 pm

@42:

I’m not intrinsically anti-propertarian, though I think Georgists (and mutualists!) have a point about some of its manifestations.

Yes, the Georgists pretty convincingly show that most so-called libertarians are actually crypto-feudalists.

54

bob 06.11.10 at 7:08 pm

The Chicago Press isn’t entirely controlled by the lunatic right in economics. It is the publisher for example of Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot, Social Security: the Phony Crisis, and James Galbraith’s Created Unequal: the Crisis in American Pay, though such titles are a minority in its econ list. But there is no excuse for publishing Lott’s garbage – in second and third editions, no less!

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mds 06.11.10 at 7:35 pm

Jeez, liberal, what took you so long? I activated the George Signal yesterday.

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Nick 06.11.10 at 8:50 pm

“But of course saying that you can have too little public regulation of property use isn’t a very libertarian position. The emotional appeal of libertarianism is that you don’t have to engage with details—less government good, more government bad, end of discussion. Once you accept that that formula is oversimplified you’re going to drift into a more nuanced position and that is why there are so many disillusioned ex-libertarians.”

Well I am happy to take a pragmatic approach to this myself. Once government expenditure is around 10% of GDP, we will see to what extent other services can be provided voluntarily. In the meantime, I am happy to keep roads, water, sewage, a suitably judicially limited police force, and subsidies for health and education as subject to regulation or public provision.

There might well be a stage at which more government is better than less government (to use rather ambiguous ideas in any case), but we are so far away from that point right now, that radical opposition to government regulation is the best chance of making progress.

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Sebastian 06.11.10 at 10:22 pm

“But of course saying that you can have too little public regulation of property use isn’t a very libertarian position. The emotional appeal of libertarianism is that you don’t have to engage with details—less government good, more government bad, end of discussion.”

Actually I think the libertarian point is that in the current regime, the chance that you have too little public regulation of property is remote. Logically there is a chance that there are too few expressions of Christianity at the Vatican, but in practical reality you don’t have to worry about that problem much.

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Rmangum 06.13.10 at 3:28 am

I haven’t read the book, but I’d like to note the obvious problem with the title, “More Guns, Less Crime.” The libertarian position about guns is not about absolute numbers, but about unequal distribution: we don’t like it that only the political authorities may have them.

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Jesse 06.14.10 at 10:06 pm

If any libertarian ever wants to pretend that they care about civil liberties, they yell “Radly (sic) Balko!” If they ever want to pretend that they aren’t corporatists, they yell “Kevin Carson!” If either of those two people ever decided to do something different, libertarians all over America would feel momentarily sad that they no longer had an excuse.

The names recur because the writers are well-known. If Balko disappeared tomorrow, libertarians could as easily yell “Timothy Lynch!” or “Jacob Sullum!” — or they could merely point out that Nat Hentoff now hangs his hat at Cato, despite his left-wing views on economics. (Hentoff’s gig also says something the allegation that Cato scholars never go off-reservation on economic issues.) Similarly, there’s plenty of critiques of corporate welfare on the Cato site — none as radical as Kevin Carson’s, but then, Kevin will be the first to tell you that he’s a different flavor of libertarian than the folks who run Cato. (At an earlier point in its history, though, Cato published Inquiry magazine, which ran anti-corporate stuff by Ivan Illich, Marcus Raskin, and other radicals. They even ran a tribute issue to Paul Goodman after he died, and Chomsky has commented that it was one of the few American magazines willing to publish him in those years. Yes yes, that was another place & another time.)

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libarbarian 06.14.10 at 10:40 pm

Rmangum,

Amen. Furthermore, its stupid for “libertarians” to defend gun rights on utilitarian grounds. It’s an argument we are not going to win.

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