February 27, 2003

THE RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH has a very unfavorable editorial regarding John Lott.

UPDATE: Prof. Dan Polsby emails:

“Nevertheless, [wrote the Times-Dispatch] serious supporters of gun ownership would be wise not to cite Lott’s work in the future.”

Good luck! Numerous of Lott’s opponents (John Donohue, Ian Ayres, Phil Cook, Jens Ludwig, and many others) use the Lott-Mustard numbers, subsequently updated by Lott, in their work because they have to; there is nothing else out there.

Cast your mind back to what things were like pre-1997. Remember that (in retrospect hilarious) study by David McDowell and collaborators, that the New York Times made so much of, that looked at murder rates in five (!) counties for a few years? Stuff like that could be done (and touted in the newspapers as “science”) because nobody had the sitzfleisch to clean up the boxes and boxes of panel data, that were just sitting there waiting to be analyzed, until Lott and Mustard did it — and shared it, freely and immediately, with the whole world. Now there is a minor industry of free riders dining out on that work. There’s just plain no chance that it wouldn’t be cited in the future, no matter how how ludicrous Lott’s displays of personal vanity might be.

Good point.