Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cause, Meet Effect II

From an editorial in today's NYT:
The gun lobby, fairly crowing, claims the spike in gun sales is because more people are feeling the need to protect themselves — even though the latest F.B.I. data show a 6 percent drop in violent crimes.

Huh?

11 Comments:

Blogger Mark Frank said...

How about correlation does not imply causality?

Crime has been dropping all over the Western world for years now with all their different firearms policies. Violent crime rates have been dropping steadily in the USA since about 1990 which includes a wide variety of regulation and gun sales peaks and lows.

December 30, 2011 6:53 AM  
Blogger erp said...

... also long prison sentences for drug possession have taken many potential criminals off the streets. ;-}

December 30, 2011 9:20 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

erp;

Prohibition has probably created more criminals than it has locked up. I think Mr. Frank's point is well taken -- the drop in violent crime is probably caused more by an aging population than any other single cause.

December 30, 2011 9:39 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Prohibition? I'm talking drugs, not drunks. I should have qualified by saying, illegal drugs. While the population is aging, the lawlessness of the younger generation is escalating to such an extent that they more than make up for their dwindling numbers.

December 30, 2011 12:45 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

How about correlation does not imply causality?

I agree, Mark's point is well taken.

Which means my title was to some extent misleading, or mistaken.

The NRA could well be justified in claiming the reason for the spike in gun sales is due to people being more fearful -- after all, their threat perception need not match the actual threat level.

Or, a spike in gun sales could reflect an administration that would love to, if it could, eliminate private gun ownership. IMHO, another example of threat perception not matching reality.

However, the NYT is far guiltier of not correctly perceiving the threat. The lurid claims accompanying relaxed gun carry laws have repeatedly and extravagantly been contradicted by reality, yet the NYT keeps banging the gun control drum just as relentlessly, nonetheless.

... the drop in violent crime is probably caused more by an aging population than any other single cause.

Read Stephen Pinker's "The Better Angels of our Reason". Yes, aging is part of the explanation, but there is a lot more going on than just that.

... Prohibition has probably created more criminals than it has locked up.

Why doesn't the NYT start banging on about the insanity of our contemporary version of Prohibition?

December 30, 2011 4:39 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Are you guys then in favor of relaxing the laws against use of mind-altering drugs?

December 30, 2011 6:07 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

You mean like nicotine and ethanol?

Seriously, though, the answer would be "yes". I think it's clear the Prohibition has failed and causes more death, misery, and harm than letting people recreate pharmaceutically. Just for one instance, Prohibition is funding the failing of a state on our border which producing dead Mexicans at an astounding rate and won't be long before it's doing the same in the USA.

At the very least would should legal marijauna, which isn't much worse than ethanol and enforcement of that ban ruins tens of thousands of lives every year. It is far from clear to me that the cost in ruined lives would be greater absent Prohibition, not to mention that it wouldn't be my tax dollars funding the ruination.

December 30, 2011 6:31 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Legalizing addictive drugs will result in more people ruining their lives, especially kids. It was so easy to make smoking a terrible social gaffe, why hasn't there been a similar PR campaign against drugs? My guess is that they're too profitable and that's why law enforcement against drugs has been so ineffective and disastrous.

December 30, 2011 8:24 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Legalizing addictive drugs will result in more people ruining their lives, especially kids.

Perhaps. My theory is that a certain percentage of the population has a predilection for addiction. If that is true, then the same number of people will be addicted to a slightly wider variety of drugs.

There are several serious problems with our modern prohibition, some SH has already mentioned.

But there are more. Addiction is a health problem. Countering it with legal means amounts to fighting with the wrong weapon. Worse, prohibition creates a risk premium that funds incredibly violent organized crime, while further undermining urban areas in the process. Legalized, that risk premium could be recovered as tax revenue, which could then be used to treat addiction's health issues.

Beyond that, prohibition has turned law enforcement into a menace, which is the cost of allowing Barney Frank quality intellects to decide for the rest of use what we are allowed to do with our own bodies.

December 30, 2011 11:19 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"Legalizing addictive drugs will result in more people ruining their lives, especially kids"

Yes. But that's not the important question. What you need to ask is whether legalization will result in more or less ruined lives? Against the voluntary ruinations, you must weigh all the involuntary ones, the lives ruined by our current law enforcement efforts. I think the latter is a bigger number, as enforcement has been so ineffective most of those who would be ruined without Prohibition are ruined with it as well.

Beyond that, the argument for Prohibition is exactly the same as all the other anti-free market arguments. If you concede it in this case, why not in cases like POR-care? "It's for the children" and "if only one life is saved...".

December 31, 2011 7:09 AM  
Blogger erp said...

POR-care?

Addictions might be created by circumstance rather than inborn. I don't know that much about it, except that from what I've read, recovery from heroin addition is very difficult, if not impossible even with the best of intentions and latest rehab techniques.

December 31, 2011 9:30 AM  

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