If you read Shotgun News
, you almost certainly know who John Lott
He is an economist who has written extensively about gun control, including More Guns, Less Crime, The Bias Against Guns, and his newest book, Freedomnomics: Why The Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't (Regnery, 2007).
You might not agree with all of Dr. Lott's conclusions-and indeed, since this book came out, Professor Bernard Harcourt at the University of Chicago Law School has identified yet another possible factor-but you are likely to be surprised by the points Freedomnomics raises.
examines the claim that rising abortion rates caused the falling crime rates, as a whole generation of poor black kids were never born-and concludes that the data just doesn't support it.
Lott points to a variety of studies that have now been completed by economists that analyze, using multivariate correlation analysis, the relationship between the death penalty and murder rates.
Of sixteen such studies, eleven demonstrate that the death penalty reduces murder rates, five show that it has no effect at all-and none of the recent studies find evidence that the death penalty increases murder rates.
tells us about changes that seem to have played a part in reducing crime rates in the 1990s, including increases in the number of police officers on the streets, and the dramatic expansion of "right to carry" laws in state after state.
also shows that gun control laws had no impact at all.
It is not just that Dr. Lott
thinks such laws are stupid, but that when you run the calculations, gun control laws are so minor in their effects that the benefits are impossible to detect.
If you have read some of Dr. Lott's
previous work-especially those publications aimed at other academics, you might be a little worried about how readable this will be.
I've always found Dr. Lott's
writing clear and interesting (except when he
dips deeply into discussions of statistical methodology), but I know that many others cringe a little at what is serious academic writing.
The good news is that Freedomnomics isn't one of those books that you are supposed to read, but hate doing so.
It's very lively writing, aimed at a popular audience, and I suspect that very few of you who read my column are going to use Freedomnomics as a sleeping aid.
writing is occasionally downright funny, and when he
includes anecdotes from his
professional career, such as the section of the Crime and Punishment chapter titled, "How rent control killed the kitty cat," you realize that underneath the egghead economist is a person just like you and me.