Last December I examined a posting by John Ray who dismissed ozone depletion as a “Greenie scare” using facts he seemed to have just made up by himself. Now he’s back, attacking gun control. This time he’s not using facts that he made up—he’s using facts that Lott made up. He quotes from a review of More Guns, Less Crime by Thomas Jackson:
“How strange it must be to be a liberal. Driven by slogans, blinded by superstitions, dazzled by fantasies, the liberal stumbles through life oblivious to facts. There is almost nothing the liberal thinks he knows about race, social policy, sex roles, individual differences, and even history that is not some combination of slogan, superstition, and fantasy. John Lott’s soberly brilliant More Guns, Less Crime could not possibly be a more convincing demonstration that what liberals think they know about guns is fantasy, too. The liberal view, of course, is that private citizens should not have guns and that gun control will stop violence. Prof. Lott, who teaches law and economics at the University of Chicago, makes an air-tight case for the opposite view”
And according to Jackson, one element of that “air-tight” case is:
Prof. Lott points out that it is partly due to the quiet, undramatic way in which civilian gun ownership works that makes it easy for liberals to ignore its benefits. He explains that the best survey data suggest that 98 percent of the time, when someone uses a gun to deter crime he doesn’t even have to fire it. All he has to do is show it.
Of course, the best survey data doesn’t say that brandishing a gun is sufficient 98% of the time. When Lott found this fact out, rather than admit to making an error, he fabricated a survey. And the rest of Lott’s “air-tight” case was completely deflated when more data showed that, if anything, carry laws increase crime.
To be fair, Jackson’s was reviewing the 1st edition of More Guns, Less Crime which Lott wrote before he starting claiming to have done a survey. (Though even then, if Jackson had checked the literature on defensive gun use he would have known that the 98% claim was wrong.) John Ray has no such excuse.
Update: I emailed a link to this post to John Ray. He replied:
Will link to your site probably tomorrow.
Instead of linking to my criticism, he has now posted a highly misleading defence of Lott:
John Lott has of course been much criticized by Leftists because he could not produce the original data behind one of the surveys he quoted — a fact originally brought to light by a libertarian blogger. Lott says he lost the data in a computer disk crash. As I have myself lost stuff that way despite being generally very careful about backups, I sympathize with such problems. Conservatives are divided over Lott’s claim but I note that The person who knew Lott’s work best at that time has testified in Lott’s favour and that even the Leftist Mother Jones says that the particular survey concerned “isn’t central to the argument”.
- Lott has not just been criticized by “Leftists”.
- It isn’t just that he can’t produce the data (though that’s bad enough, since even if you buy Lott’s story he continued to cite the number for years even though he knew he had no data to support it). He his being criticized for fabrication of research.
- The fact that he could not produce the data was not brought to light by a libertarian blogger, but by Otis Dudley Duncan, an eminent sociologist from UCSB.
- Mustard has not testified that Lott did a survey, but that Lott told him that he had done a survey.
- The full quote from Mother Jones is
Lott’s defenders rightly point out that the missing survey — which was completely lost in a computer crash, Lott says — isn’t central to the argument of “More Guns, Less Crime”. But as Harvard economist David Hemenway wrote in a recent critique of Lott’s latest book, “The Bias Against Guns”, one must have “faith in Lott’s integrity” before accepting his statistical results. That is because in the dauntingly complex subfield of econometrics, statistical manipulation is a constant concern. In a recent attempt to rescue his beleaguered “More Guns, Less Crime” hypothesis from criticism, Lott has been caught massaging his data to favor his argument. In subsequent exchanges with Mother Jones, he changed his story several times about a key data table that was misleadingly labeled — and then surreptitiously amended — on his website. Nevertheless, most pro-gun scholars and political conservatives have yet to call Lott to account.
Notice how Ray dismisses the survey as not central, but ducks the question of Lott’s cooking his “More Guns, Less Crime” results.