Sunday, November 22, 2015

John Lott Defends “More Guns, Less Crime” Thesis | Ari Armstrong

John Lott Defends “More Guns, Less Crime” Thesis | Ari Armstrong

Criminologist Gary Kleck on Guns, Crime, and Their Study | Ari Armstrong

Criminologist Gary Kleck on Guns, Crime, and Their Study | Ari Armstrong

The Cost of Good Survey Results
Armstrong: You did such a study at one point. Would anything tempt you to conduct another such study at some point in the future? What sort of work-hours are we talking about here?

Kleck: Yes, but it’s a matter of somebody has to pay for it. I imagine these days telephone surveys similar to my previous one would probably cost you on the order of $50 for each completed reply.
Gun Ownership and Violence

Armstrong: Various studies have claimed to show that buying or owning a firearm makes one more prone to being involved with violence. Usually these are in medical journals. What do you think of these studies?

Kleck: The authors didn’t really seem very interested in falsifying their hypothesis. Good researchers make a serious effort to show that their initial hypothesis is wrong, and then, when they fail repeatedly, it’s a strong indication that we ought to tentatively accept the hypothesis or at least not reject it.

In this case, that would mean you would ask a lot of questions about confounding factors, other things that would affect whether or not people got involved in violence besides having a gun in their household, that might also be correlated with gun ownership. You might confuse the effect of these confounding variables with the effect of having a gun in your home.

Since these studies really don’t make any serious effort to control for those factors, you really don’t know much about them.

As far as we can tell, the only reason why people who end up getting murdered were more likely to have a gun in the household is because they live in more dangerous circumstances, and they anticipated the need to have a gun for self-protection. So, if you live in a dangerous neighborhood, or you know dangerous people, or you go into dangerous places, then you are more likely on the one hand to get murdered, but of course you’re also more likely to acquire a gun somewhere along the line for self-protection. So it’s a classic case of a spurious association.

None of these studies has made any serious effort to control for those sorts of factors, things like belonging to a street gang. You’re way more likely to own a gun, and you’re way more likely to get murdered. If you don’t control for whether a person belongs to a street gang, you’re not really going to get a serious estimate of the effect of having a gun.

Probably the best of a bad lot was the famous Arthur Kellermann study from 1993 in the New England Journal of Medicine. All the rest are even worse, but at least he controlled for a few possible confounding factors. But he withheld one crucial piece of information from his readers. He knew that virtually none of the people who had been murdered while having a gun in their home had actually been killed with the gun that belonged to someone in the home. They were almost always killed by someone from outside the home, presumably using their own gun, brought in from outside the home. So whether the victims had a gun of their own in the house had absolutely nothing to do with the event. And Kellermann withheld that information, and a lot of people noticed the problem right away. There were even letters to the editor of the journal asking “what gives,” and he responded with a very evasive answer in his reply to the letters.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Knowing Models vs. Knowing Economics | Foundation for Economic Education

This blindness to the most important features of economic reality is promoted by the failure of modern economic training to teach young economists to ask — always to ask — why.
  • “You say that monopsony power is rampant in reality. Why? Why are not profit-hungry entrepreneurs entering markets to seize the available profits that are implied by your assertion?”
  • “You say that Ex-Im is profitable for taxpayers. Why? Why are not profit-hungry entrepreneurs entering markets to seize the available profits that are implied by your assertion?”
  • “You say that women are consistently underpaid. Why? Why are not profit-hungry entrepreneurs entering markets to seize the available profits that are implied by your assertion?”
  • “You say that worker pay is falling short of worker productivity. Why? Why are not profit-hungry entrepreneurs entering markets to seize the available profits that are implied by your assertion?”
  • “You say that economic growth uses up resources unsustainably. Why? Why are not profit-hungry entrepreneurs entering markets to seize the available profits that are implied by your assertion?”
  • “You say that free-rider problems cause all manner of problems in markets — problems that must be solved by government. Why? Why do the very same sorts of decision-making arrangements that can lead to free-rider problems in markets not also plague politics in ways that often render imperfect politics an even worse alternative than imperfect markets?”
Such questions can be greatly multiplied. Just as knowing a lot about cooking does not mean knowing how to cook well, knowing a lot about economics does not mean knowing how to think clearly and creatively as an economist.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Vox Day on Social Justice Warriors « Samizdata

Vox Day on Social Justice Warriors « Samizdata

Vox Day is a game designer, science fiction and fantasy writer, blogger, and a prominent figure in the #GamerGate and Sad Puppies movements. His book SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police describes social justice warriors and is a strategy guide for dealing with them and for winning the larger culture war.
SJWs are the people whose hobby it is to get offended.
They have also invented the useful concept of the “microaggression”. This is an inadvertent offense committed by an offender who violates the Narrative without even realizing he has done so. It is the most insidious violation because it means that the hate is buried so deeply inside the offender that he doesn’t even realize it is there. Needless to say, SJWs have a highly developed ability to observe these microaggressions being unwittingly committed.
They would be nothing more than a minor annoyance if they did not currently seem to have the ability to cause the sort of controversy that can lose people like Brendan Eich or Tim Hunt their jobs for having the wrong kind of opinion or making the wrong kind of joke.

It contains the sort of advice that should be passed onto one’s children:
The reason SJWs demand apologies is in order to establish that the act they have deemed an offense is publicly recognized as an offense by the offender. The demand for an apology has nothing whatsoever to do with the offender. It is focused on the SJW’s need to prove that the violation of the Narrative involved is publicly accepted as a real and legitimate offense for which punishment is merited. […] it is absolutely and utterly futile for the target of an SJW attack to apologize for whatever offense he is said to have caused

This is indeed what happened to Eich and Hunt. Once they apologised, the media attacks only increased.

There is also advice for the sort of people who feel the need to post articles like this as Samizdata Illuminatus:
It’s much easier to put pressure on someone who works for a university or a large corporation because the attacking SJW knows that he can count on the support of fellow SJWs in the faculty or the Human Resources department. […] The action itself only matters insofar as it indicates that the individual is a Bad Person, and since there is NO PLACE for such Bad Persons in the university, the corporation, the club, the group, or the organization, the only possible solution is for the target to be promptly expelled.
There is a chapter that describes the various stages of an SJW attack, from the moment you wake up to a Twitter storm demanding your scalp to the demands for an apology to your final ejection from polite society. Then there is a follow-up chapter explaining how to deal with each of these stages and maybe even put your attackers on the back foot by not playing along how they expect.
The first thing to do when attacked by SJWs is to recognize that you are under SJW attack, remain calm, and realize that no one else cares. […] A refusal to play along with their game quickly strips the mask of sanity from their faces and reveals the angry, shrieking madness underneath.
Of course, there may be no escaping your fate:

in many state and local governments, you are far more likely to be fired for violating the Narrative than you are for never coming in to work at all, especially if you are a member of one of the Narrative-protected classes.
And you should not expect much help:
Everyone knows, on some level, that it could just as easily be them instead of you.
That is part of the reason, and another is the tendency of people who, without full information, will take some sort of average of all the versions of events they hear. Day is critical of this approach to forming opinions:
many actually believe that being moderate and trying to see both sides of the story is a virtue. This is completely insane, of course […] Splitting the difference between the truth and a lie is not virtuous; it is providing effective cover for those who tell lies.
There are chapters about pre-emptively protecting yourself and your organisation from SJWs by keeping them away. First you have to recognise them. It is the person who wants there to be a code of conduct, which will be inoffensive and vague precisely so it can be used against selected targets. Day quotes Margaret Thatcher talking about the EU: “We had to learn the hard way that by agreement to what were apparently empty generalizations or vague aspirations we were later held to have committed ourselves to political structures which were contrary to our interests.”

Day points out that SJWs can be anywhere. They might be the reason you did not get that job. He quotes someone claiming to be a Barclays employee:
Two other things we implemented which aided the recruitment process: We followed advice which is quickly becoming the industry norm. Never look at someones Github profile until you have made the decision to hire or not hire them and do not let it influence you. Github profiles tend to favor CIS White men over most minorities in a number of ways. CIS white men often have more spare time or chose to pursue building up an impressive portfolio of code rather than women or minorities who have to deal with things like raising children or instiutionalised racism. […] We used Randi Harper’s blockbot to assess applicants twitter profiles for problematic or toxic viewpoints.

Having dealt with SJWs you may encounter up close and personal, Day goes on to describe the wider cultural war and the tactics being used to fight back. Partly this is interesting in its own right, and partly I wonder if there are lessons that can be applied in the other war of ideas: that of authoritarianism vs. libertarianism. Day describes many different strategies. GamerGate was the proving ground for some of them. Various hashtag campaigns are described, such as #NotYourShield which is about people who are members of minorities pointing out that they don’t agree with the SJW narrative. And there was Operation Disrespectful Nod which amounted to a letter writing campaign that targeted the advertisers of various media sites and lost them lots of money.

Day points out the dangers of moderates inside your own movement causing wasteful infighting.
Moderates are usually nice people who want to think well of everyone, and they make for very good ambassadors and diplomats. Unfortunately, they usually prefer appeasement to offense, and they are far more inclined to shoot at their own side than they are at the enemy. […] Moderates merit friendly civility, but no respect. They are often useful, if irritating allies, but do not permit them any input into strategy and tactics or decision-making. And do not accept them as leaders except of their own moderate faction. They are considerably worse than useless in that regard because they are constantly trying to find a middle ground that quite often does not exist.
He spends an entire chapter describing what he calls the alternative languages of dialectic and rhetoric. He quotes Aristotle:
Before some audiences not even the possession of the exactest knowledge will make it easy for what we say to produce conviction. For argument based on knowledge implies instruction, and there are people whom one cannot instruct.
The idea is that you can not win an argument with a SJW with reason and facts. So it is useful to learn how to use rhetoric against him. I am usually less than impressed when I see people on my side attempting to win arguments with this technique. My own approach, when I know I can not convince my interlocutor, is to at least appear convincing to bystanders. However Day points out the usefulness of putting your opponent on the back foot and demoralising him.
The correct strategy is to fight dialectic with dialectic, expose pseudo-dialectic with dialectic, and fight rhetoric with rhetoric. […] you must keep in mind that the actual information content is irrelevant. SJWs communicate in competitive emotion.

When Milo Yiannopoulos destroyed a feminist on live television during a public debate concerning modern Britain’s hostility to men, it wasn’t his smooth recitation of relevant facts that left her reeling in shock and disarray; she blithely ignored all of that. It was his dismissive use of the word “darling” that literally muted her. Her wide, staring eyes and gaping mouth made it very clear how powerful a well-placed, well-timed rhetorical bomb can be.Day gives an appendix to Milo, who points out the harm SJW journalists can do that appears contrary to their stated aims:
Most women aren’t strident gender activists brandishing placards and blog posts about micro-aggressions. If they hear an industry is a terrible place to go for women, they’ll simply quietly avoid it. That’s what gaming journalism has achieved through a combination of negligence and malice: it has convinced the world that gaming is a scary place for a woman to be.
This has been more of an overview than a review. Day has strong and definite opinions and I wonder if perhaps he is so deeply involved in these arguments that he has lost perspective. After all, day to day, I do not encounter the worst examples of social justice warrior ideas. But I do see things moving in a direction I do not like, and I am glad there are forces moving in the opposite direction.