September 18, 2002
Glenn Reynolds Finds an Ideological Hack

Instapundit says that it is bad for University of Chicago Economics Professor Steve Levitt to be on an NAS committee studying guns, for Levitt "has been described as 'rabidly antigun'"--someone who cannot think about the issues but only clamp down with his foam-dripping jaws around whatever un-PC limb his disease-poisoned brain notices. Instapundit says that the consequence is that the NAS's "'objective' government stud[y]" will be "anything but."


"National Review: Kopel and Reynolds: ...a Clinton administration-inspired National Academy of Sciences study bearing the innocuous title of "Improving Research Information and Data on Firearms," which opens its formal hearings on Thursday. According to the NAS, "The goals of this study are to

  • assess the existing research and data on firearm violence;
  • consider how to credibly evaluate the various prevention, intervention and control strategies;
  • describe and develop models of illegal firearms markets; and
  • examine the complex ways in which firearms may become embedded in the community."

Conspicuously absent from these goals is any research into the benefits of firearms becoming "embedded" in communities, as demonstrated by the research of scholars like John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute and Gary Kleck of Florida State University. Most of the people selected for the panel have reputations as good scholars, but none of them have specialized in firearms policy. Most of them have reputations as being antigun. Steven Levitt, has been described as "rabidly antigun."


There is something funny here. University of Chicago Economics Professors are being trashed as being too PC to be allowed onto committees.

But readers should be aware that Steve Levitt is "rabidly" pro-truth--not "rabidly" anything else. They should be aware that Steve is effing brilliant. They should be aware that he can think rings around almost everybody else on planet earth. I can't think of any study or committee on social science or social policy issues where I would not regard him as a powerful plus. And I have not run into any academic--other than Glenn Reynolds, that is--whose opinion of Steve Levitt is not at least as high as my own.


Update from Glenn Reynolds

Posted by DeLong at September 18, 2002 11:02 AM | Trackback

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Bizarrely, a quick scan of the first 100 google hits for "steven levitt gun" turns up only item that could even theoretically be described as "anti-gun": his support of a paper criticizing that More Guns, Less Crime book. The only other gun-related hits are recites of that NRO article, with no further explanation. That link to what he's published only appears to include one gun-related paper, "Guns, Violence, and the Efficiency of Illegal Markets."

No doubt this is subtlety related to Glenn & NRO really really really really liking that book (at least, that's what I remember, but I can't find any matches on Reynold's site confirming this.)

Posted by: Jason McCullough on September 18, 2002 07:14 PM

I'd further point out that it is misleading in the extreme to refer to "research of scholars like John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute and Gary Kleck of Florida State University". Kleck hates Lott and has repeatedly made harsh criticisms of his methodology, for the decent reason that Lott is an ideological hack and a lousy econometrician and Kleck is neither.

Posted by: Daniel Davies on September 19, 2002 06:06 AM

And in the general cause of curmudgeonly and unfriendly nitpicking, I'd point out that there's some pretty aggressive use of paraphresis in this post of Brad's as well. Particularly, it took me a couple of readings to realise that the clause containing "foam-dripping jaws" wasn't being attributed to Reynolds.

Posted by: Daniel Davies on September 19, 2002 06:14 AM

John Lott may not be the nicest person in the world (attend a seminar with him in the audience) but his work with Steven Bronars was good enough to appear in the AER. If he is a hack, I don't think that the AER would publish him. And btw, he has a vitae that is pretty impressive...

Gary Kleck was decidedly anti-gun before his research agenda (and probably could be considered "liberal" in a broad sense) but no one accuses him of being a hack because of his political views.

I agree that Steve Levitt should be on the board, even if he is biased against guns. An academic of his caliber can separate the normative from the positive.

Posted by: EcoDude on September 19, 2002 09:13 AM

>>John Lott may not be the nicest person in the world (attend a seminar with him in the audience) but his work with Steven Bronars was good enough to appear in the AER. If he is a hack, I don't think that the AER would publish him.

Stop, please, you're killing me.

Posted by: dsquared on September 19, 2002 10:01 AM

Brad:

Had you linked to this post, you would have seen a link to a post I made in August of last year repeating Levitt's denial that he's anti-gun. You also would have seen a link to comments about anti-gun politician Ben Civiletti, who's no scholar, being on the same allegedly scholarly panel. Your readers would have seen that as well.

Instead, you link only to the NRO piece. That may be because you missed the update to my original post, which I made in response to an email from Mark Kleiman -- but again, had you included the link, everyone could have seen the update.

Posted by: Glenn Reynolds on September 19, 2002 12:12 PM

And this addresses the substantive point of Brad's post in precisely which way, 'Professor'? And in any case, why should we pay attention to your compendious archives, when you have a long tradition of showing no such concern with your own links?

Posted by: on September 19, 2002 01:23 PM

Glenn, I think you missed it on this one. You seriously equate the views of Steven Levitt himself that he's not "anti-gun" with.....just some guy who you don't identify. Might actual evidence that's he's anti-gun be too much to ask?

Posted by: Jason McCullough on September 19, 2002 01:25 PM

Jason: Well, Levitt asked me to post his denial on my blog, which I did, and he seemed happy at the time. (Uh, you guys *do* realize that this article is over a year old, right?) I should have linked to that post when I posted the link, but I forgot, and added it when I was reminded. And, as bloggers do, I added updates when new information became available, all of which are on my site in the post that Brad didn't link to.

Nameless anonymous guy: The point of the original NRO piece wasn't Steven Levitt, but the panel. DeLong's making a big issue of Levitt rather than the panel, but Levitt wasn't the main point of the piece.

Posted by: Glenn Reynolds on September 19, 2002 01:36 PM

Jason: Well, Levitt asked me to post his denial on my blog, which I did, and he seemed happy at the time. (Uh, you guys *do* realize that this article is over a year old, right?) I should have linked to that post when I posted the link, but I forgot, and added it when I was reminded. And, as bloggers do, I added updates when new information became available, all of which are on my site in the post that Brad didn't link to.

Nameless anonymous guy: The point of the original NRO piece wasn't Steven Levitt, but the panel. DeLong's making a big issue of Levitt rather than the panel, but Levitt wasn't the main point of the piece.

Posted by: Glenn Reynolds on September 19, 2002 01:36 PM

I realize you added a line indicting Levitt denies he's anti-gun to the recent post, but isn't linking to an unsubstantiated slam of someone, and then adding in a denial of the slam by the principal, kind of wierd?

Posted by: Jason McCullough on September 19, 2002 03:55 PM

Jason: Well, the piece isn't about Levitt, who plays a much bigger role in Brad DeLong's post than he does in the actual article.

Posted by: Glenn Reynolds on September 19, 2002 05:11 PM

Steven D. Levitt, a professor at the University of Chicago, was awarded the John Bates Clark medal by the American Economic Association yesterday. The prize, which is given every two years, recognizes him as the leading economist under age 40 in the United States.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/26/business/26AWAR.html

Posted by: Bruce Ferguson on April 26, 2003 06:58 AM
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