Friday, December 07, 2012

More Legal Gun Ownership = Less Crime?

It is an unexamined assumption on the part of gun-control activists that the possession of a firearm by a law-abiding person will almost axiomatically cause that person to fire it at another human being in a moment of stress. Dave Kopel, the research director of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, in Denver, posits that opposition to gun ownership is ideological, not rational. “I use gay marriage as an analogue,” he said. “Some people say they are against gay marriage because they think it leads to worse outcomes for kids. Now, let’s say in 2020 all the social-science evidence has it that the kids of gay families turn out fine. Some people will still say they’re against it, not for reasons of social science, but for reasons of faith. That’s what you have here in the gun issue.”

...Today, the number of concealed-carry permits is the highest it’s ever been, at 8 million, and the homicide rate is the lowest it’s been in four decades—less than half what it was 20 years ago. (The number of people allowed to carry concealed weapons is actually considerably higher than 8 million, because residents of Vermont, Wyoming, Arizona, Alaska, and parts of Montana do not need government permission to carry their personal firearms. These states have what Second Amendment absolutists refer to as “constitutional carry,” meaning, in essence, that the Second Amendment is their permit.)

Many gun-rights advocates see a link between an increasingly armed public and a decreasing crime rate....Crime statistics in Britain, where guns are much scarcer, bear this out. Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University, wrote in his 1991 book, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, that only 13 percent of burglaries in America occur when the occupant is home. In Britain, so-called hot burglaries account for about 45 percent of all break-ins. Kleck and others attribute America’s low rate of occupied-home burglaries to fear among criminals that homeowners might be armed. (A survey of almost 2,000 convicted U.S. felons, conducted by the criminologists Peter Rossi and James D. Wright in the late ’80s, concluded that burglars are more afraid of armed homeowners than they are of arrest by the police.)

From Jeffrey Goldberg's article in The Atlantic.  Discuss.

Insider Trading: Grand Game "Mad-Enough-to-Spit" Edition

Wow. Wowdie wow wow. Exec thinks company has had good month. Exec posts happy note to this effect on Facebook. Regulatory thugs call this "insider trading", and prosecute.

This was not a secret note to investors.  It. was. on. Facebook.

For reasons I have never understood, "insider" trading makes lefties insane. Drvies them mad. And so on.

I actually find this argument persuasive: if we allowed insider trading, prices would be more accurate.
But you can stop well short of that view and still think it's okay to post accurate information on Facebook. I mean, IT WAS ON FACEBOOK.

Judge for yourself, friends.  That's the law.  And here is the Facebook post.  Click for an even more public and open image:
And then, go crazy, folks, go crazy.

Nod to Angry Alex.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Holiday Videos!

Deck the Halls with Macro Follies (with thanks to PB)

And...the REAL Santa Claus is the US Government!

Big Bang and Gifts

So, Ruth Kappes added this video to the thread on the question of gifts and voluntary exchange over at EE.  Thanks, Ruth, nicely connected!

And the points about money being better than gifts, and just going back and forth until someone dies.... what a happy thought!

Morals and Markets

Detecting the Trustworthiness of Novel Partners in Economic Exchange

David DeSteno et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Because trusting strangers can entail high risk, an ability to infer a potential partner's trustworthiness would be highly advantageous. To date, however, little evidence indicates that humans are able to accurately assess the cooperative intentions of novel partners by using nonverbal signals. In two studies involving human-human and human-robot interactions, we found that accuracy in judging the trustworthiness of novel partners is heightened through exposure to nonverbal cues and identified a specific set of cues that are predictive of economic behavior. Employing the precision offered by robotics technology to model and control humanlike movements, we demonstrated not only that experimental manipulation of the identified cues directly affects perceptions of trustworthiness and subsequent exchange behavior, but also that the human mind will utilize such cues to ascribe social intentions to technological entities.

An actual version of this experiment:  would YOU trust THIS man?

(The correct answer is "yes," btw.)


Are social preferences related to market performance?

Andreas Leibbrandt
Experimental Economics, December 2012, Pages 589-603

This paper combines laboratory with field data from professional sellers to study whether social preferences are related to performance in open-air markets. The data show that sellers who are more pro-social in a laboratory experiment are also more successful in natural markets: They achieve higher prices for similar quality, have superior trade relations and better abilities to signal trustworthiness to buyers. These findings suggest that social preferences play a significant role for outcomes in natural markets.

(Interesting note for Mr. Overwater:  being pro-social is adaptive, even (especially) in a market setting.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Matt Zwolinski on Social Justice

I really, really like Matt Zwolinski....


Men Have No Clue

Grand Game: Academic "Honor" Edition


UPDATE:  Okay, so don't even read my post.  It is lame and ad hoc.  GR answers all the questions, way better than I did.  Just read what he said.  Seriously.


So, this piece, based on this book, says that there is a giant conspiracy of "honor" in academic political science.

I'll admit that perhaps academic rank of PhD institution is more important than it "should" be (and I'm not sure what that means, but I'll admit it).  But if admissions processes are based on grades, recommendations, and GRE scores, and if the top ten PS departments* choose the 150 best applicants each year, wouldn't it be amazing if those departments did NOT dominate the job market?  Let's assume that the admissions criteria are only 50% predictive of later success.  Still, year after year, 75 of the best young political scientists in the country are going to the top ten departments. 

Sure, that means that there may be no value added in "top" PhD programs.  But if the admissions process selects based on traits that are actually correlated with ability, this is just sorting.   To put it another way, the admissions processes at top ten poli sci departments would have to be pretty dumb for anything other than dominance to occur.

Anyway, see if you agree with me, and pick out some of the logical howlers in this piece.

(*Based on this ranking, which the researchers used, Duke is 9th, so perhaps I'm just biased? Or drunk on all that "honor"?)

And, since @lordsutch linked it in the first place, apparently (?) approvingly...what say you, Lord Sutch?  You called it "in-breeding."  Why isn't it just probabilistic sorting?

Speed as Lower Transactions Cost

The speed of ships and shipping productivity in the age of sail

Klas Rönnbäck
European Review of Economic History, November 2012, Pages 469-489

A sample of vessels from the transatlantic slave trade is used as source for a quantitative analysis of the transit speed of ocean-going ships during the early modern period. In contrast to influential previous studies, the results show that the speed of ships in my sample increased significantly during this period, potentially contributing to increasing productivity of ocean shipping. The pattern is homogeneous geographically. This might have been one of the factors behind falling freight rates in the transatlantic trade, which in turn contributed to a process of market integration already during the early modern period.

MicroWork Development

From the HBR....

What’s the best way to help the world’s poor? The answer may not be giving them more aid. What people need to break the cycle of poverty is work. A small but growing industry known as “impact sourcing” is addressing that need head-on by hiring people at the bottom of the pyramid to perform digital tasks such as transcribing audio files and editing product databases. Essentially, it’s business process outsourcing aimed at boosting economic development.

Impact sourcing is not unlike microfinancing: It aspires to create meaningful work for and put money in the pockets of the people who need it most. And because it connects new workers—often those who’ve been marginalized, such as Muslim women in Calcutta—to the global supply chain and addresses real needs of first-world companies, it could quickly reach a large scale. In a study commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation last year, Monitor Group estimated that the market for impact sourcing was $4.5 billion in 2010 and would rise to $20 billion by 2015. It also predicted that employment in the industry would grow from 144,000 to 780,000 over the same period.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bad Day

Some overlap, but some other good ones, here...

Hard to beat the Captain America one, or the steering wheel fail... That would be a bad feeling.

Minimum Wage

The Montana Department of Employment, Division of Labor Standards got an anonymous tip that a small rancher was not paying proper wages to his help.  They immediately sent an official  agent out to investigate him.

GOVT AGENT: I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.

RANCHER: Well, there's my hired hand who's been with me for 3 years. I pay him $350 a week plus free room and board.

GOVT AGENT:  Well, those payments and conditions are within the law.  Anybody else work here?
RANCHER:  Well, I wasn't going to say.  But there's also a mentally challenged guy. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work on the ranch. He makes about $10 per week, sometimes less.  He pays his own room and board.  I do buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night so he can cope with life, but then sometimes he tries to make love to my wife.

GOVT AGENT:   Okay, yes, then THAT's the guy I heard about, and need to talk to -- the mentally challenged one.

RANCHER: That would be me.

Does Cheating Make You a Cheater?

When Cheating Would Make You a Cheater: Implicating the Self Prevents Unethical Behavior

Christopher Bryan, Gabrielle Adams & Benoît Monin
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

In 3 experiments using 2 different paradigms, people were less likely to cheat for personal gain when a subtle change in phrasing framed such behavior as diagnostic of an undesirable identity. Participants were given the opportunity to claim money they were not entitled to at the experimenters' expense; instructions referred to cheating with either language that was designed to highlight the implications of cheating for the actor's identity (e.g., “Please don't be a cheater”) or language that focused on the action (e.g., “Please don't cheat”). Participants in the “cheating” condition claimed significantly more money than did participants in the “cheater” condition, who showed no evidence of having cheated at all. This difference occurred both in a face-to-face interaction (Experiment 1) and in a private online setting (Experiments 2 and 3). These results demonstrate the power of a subtle linguistic difference to prevent even private unethical behavior by invoking people's desire to maintain a self-image as good and honest.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, December 03, 2012

Football: Stick a fork in it?

Earlier this year, LeBron and I wrote about the end of football in Grantland. We speculated that it could take 10-15 years before football was knocked off its perch as the number 1 US sport.

New findings from Boston University make our scenario even more likely. Researchers there have found 28 previously unreported cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in deceased football players:

Previously, CTE had been found in 18 of the 19 former NFL players whose brains were examined. The 15 new cases in the BU study mean that of the 34 brains of former NFL players that have been examined, 33 had the disease. Linemen made up 40 percent of those cases, supporting research that suggests repetitive head trauma occurring on every play — not concussions associated with violent collisions — may be the biggest risk. BU also reported CTE in four former NHL players.

So, CTE is more prevalent than we thought and may well not be fixable by focussing on concussion avoidance or treatment.

The "end of football" is very much in sight.

Attack of the clones

Anonyman sends this little gem.

A hat?  He had him made into a HAT?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Publishing as a Craft

My post the other day created some pushback.

A former student here at Duke sent this response, mostly in agreement with my claims (not that my claims were original, either, by the way!)

Hi Mike, I wanted to send a quick note to say I appreciated your post today about difficult letters of recommendation, and what it takes to succeed in academia. As someone who is basically a parishioner in the Church of Munger, all I can say is "amen." (Also, as you wrote a letter for me I am sure I am one of the people who gave you fits as someone with promise but nothing to show for it yet. I probably still am). 

Please feel free to post or distribute these comments as you fit. Let stress some other reasons why sending out a lot of work--especially early in your career--is important. Net present value is a compelling argument. But, assume that people only care about doing good work and not about future earnings or even getting tenure. Writing a lot may be even more important for reasons unrelated to salary and tenure. You don't grow as a scholar if you are not working (normal family vacations aside). 

Main points after the jump...

Other People's Money, Spent for Other People

Email from W.H.:

Many times when people discuss Milton Friedman's fourth category of spending they do so in a mistaken vacuum. How so? They forget to point out HOW other people's money came to be. Stated alternatively, other people spending other people's money on other people, the discussion thereof, many, many times leaves out Friedman's first point: coercion.

Hence one ends with an isolated discussion of how Friedman's fourth category of spending points out the careless way or ineffective/inefficient way that occurs by other people [politico]spending other people's money [taxpayer] on other people [recipient class]. True enough but it decouples the coercion and only discusses the single phenomena without discussing [coupling] the ability of such a phenomena to emerge. Think about it, how many times have you heard the discussion, in isolation, of other people [cheese master] spending other people's cheese [cheese payer] on other people [cheese recipient class]??

Meanwhile, twenty six discussions later a separate subject is discussed regarding coercion of forcibly appropriating other people's money. Better yet, this discussion many times appears in isolation from Friedman's total discussion.

Nay, nay! One must correctly discuss both subjects as coercion must occur first and only then can one arrive at other people spending other people's money on other people.

Problem solved! Please go to 11:00 to 11:34 of the youtube link below and hear Friedman himself properly layout the discussion.

Here is the video...