Lott vs Levitt: update

William Ford has the latest news on Lott’s lawsuit against Levitt: Levitt and HarperCollins have filed motions to dismiss the case. Some new snippets of information(from the Joint Initial Status Report):

Lott wrote Levitt on January 11, 2006 requesting that he correct his claims that Lott
invented some survey data and that other scholars have been unable to replicate Lott’s results. Lott, through his counsel, wrote Defendants on March 17, 2006 and demanded that (i) all future printings of Freakonomics correct the alleged defamatory statement; and (ii) the correction be in the form of a retraction stating that the statement
untrue and that the authors regret the misstatement. There has been no substantive response to either letter. Lott is still willing to settle on the basis of his letter of January 11, 2006 and his counsel’s letter of March 17, 2006.

When Lott filed his lawsuit on April 10 he didn’t object to the claim that he invented some survey data. Gee, I wonder why not?

Update: Heather gets more money from Levitt than Lott ever will.


  1. #1 Jack Strocchi
    June 4, 2006

    This has got to be a third order issue, of interest to only Lott obsessives like Tim L.

    More interesting is why Tim L. has discreetly ignored the driving of yet another nail in the coffin of Levitt’s headline “abortion cuts crime” thesis. This time its Ted Joyce who pumps yet another silver bullet into the jerking carcass of the zombie-like body of this theory.

    I find that the coefficient on the abortion rate in a regression of age-specific homicide or arrest rates has either the wrong sign or is small in magnitude and statistically insignificant when adjusted for serial correlation.

    A convincing test of abortion and crime should be based on an exogenous change in abortion that had a demonstrable effect on fertility. Thus, I analyze changes in abortion rates before and after Roe to identify changes in unwanted fertility.
    I also follow Donohue and Levitt (2004) and average the effects of abortion on crime over 15 to 20 years of the life of a cohort to lessen the impact of the crack epidemic. I find little support for a credible association between legalized abortion and crime.

    Joyce is polite to a fault, especially the bit about following Donohue and Levitt to lessen the impact of the crack “epidemic”. As if voluntarily taking hard drugs until one becomes sick and bad is identitical to catching some kind of virus.

    It must be galling for Tim L. to continually engage in conservatives like Lott and Murray in the Culture War field. He beats them on assumptions, methods and yet is dismayed to find that their conclusions are verified. For his own sake he should be more mindful of Levitt’s more reputable critics.

    It seems politically correct academics have now replaced “No enemies to the Left” by “No friends to the Right”. I guess that is intellectual progress, of a kind.

    Or were they just under-impressed with Murray’s infamy and over impressed with Levitt’s celebrity?

    More importantly, l’affaire Levitt has revealed chinks in the armour of the Crooked Timberites et al. It raises the question of why liberal intellectuals of a scienfific bent, like Tim L., contine to find themselves beaten like a drum in the field of cultural analysis.

    It seems that their committment to the a-Darwinian (Blank Slate) or (anti-Darwinian) Noble Savage philosophy of culture means that they will always be playing catch-up to cultural reality. They dont want to be caught out with the anti-Darwinian Left when it gets swept into the Dustbin of History.

  2. #2 Pinko Punko
    June 4, 2006

    What is Awesome is the Usage of Capitalization to Suggest Big Ideas and Haughty Arrogance. I Wish I could Master the Subject. I’m Certain that people debating Ideas™, when Confronted with Evidence must Certainly be Burned at the Stake for their Heresy, there can be no Back and Forth and Assimilation of New Data. Of couse Coffins will be Nailed (like digby) and Dustbins, into which things shall be Swept, shall Be.

  3. #3 Tim Lambert
    June 4, 2006

    Jack thinks that Lott’s conclusions have been verified. This is a usage of “verified” with which I am unfamiliar.

    Jack, it’s pretty clear to me that you don’t understand the statistics, but you are somehow utterly certain that any critique of Levitt destroys his thesis and the only reason that hardly anyone agrees with you is because of political correctness.

    Here’s a three question quiz for you Jack:

    1. Who was it who debunked the Blank Slate theory?

    2. A is correlated with B, r=+0.7. A is also correlated with C, r=+0.7. Does it follow that B is positively corrrelated with C?

    3. What is a mixed metaphor?

  4. #4 Paul Crowley
    June 4, 2006

    This has got to be a third order issue, of interest to only Lott obsessives like Tim L.

    Tim L is absolutely a Lott obsessive. This blog was started as an anti-Lott blog, and only later broadened its scope, so you can expect to see every last twist and turn of Lott’s dodgy doings chronicled here. And why not? Despite the huge amount of evidence against him that should destroy all his credibility, Lott still seems to be able to get published in the mainstream press and the gun lobby still hasn’t dropped him as the embarrasment he is. So it’s good to know that there’s someone out there doggedly on his tail, recording everything. unearthing the story behind the story.

    I don’t think this is important enough to go on the front page of the New York Times. But it’s important enough to merit a blog entry in a blog that is in part about John Lott.

  5. #5 dsquared
    June 4, 2006

    Jack, this surely can’t be the first time in three or four years of commenting on this blog that you’ve noticed it has quite a lot of material on John Lott. If I were you I’d try to get used to it since it’s unlikely to go away in the near term.

  6. #6 Mark Shapiro
    June 4, 2006

    Your link to Wiliam Ford at elsblog leads quickly indeed to evidence that Mr. Lott himself has used the term “replicate” in the broader sense that exonerates Levitt. This of course supports Levitt’s statement and makes Lott’s claim of defamation look not only silly but almost defamatory itself. Lott’s suit leans heavily on a very thin reed that he himself has undermined.

    Ironically, the evidence comes from another fraud which Mr. Lott commited, namely his work for the dissenters on the 2000 Florida Elction Report. This fraud deserves at least as much infamy. Lott not only varied the specifications for his analysis, which weakens his case about replication, but:
    “His analysis found little relationship between racial population change and ballot spoilage” (from page 1 of the [dissenting report](http://www.thernstrom.com/pdf/FLelec8-17-01.pdf).

    But racial population was the issue at hand, not racial population change. This was obfuscation by Lott, pure and simple. He used more sophisticated analysis, but it was a red herring.

  7. #7 CD318
    June 7, 2006

    Just for the record, I’m a serious 2nd Amendment type, and I sure as hell am embarassed by Lott. Of course, my reasons for supporting gun rights are ethical and ideological. I recognize that most courses of action have both benefits and costs. Lott is a doofus because his entire schtick is to make up “evidence” that contradicts real and measurable costs. People who are still supporting Lott are also doofuses because they think that supporting a dishonest crank will help our case. Fools.

  8. #8 z
    June 8, 2006

    “Of course, my reasons for supporting gun rights are ethical and ideological.”

    Lott may not have demonstrated conclusively that More Guns = Less Crime, but to my satisfaction he demonstrated that More CCW Permits do not generally equal a bloodbath. Which also seems pretty clear from other evidence. And to my thinking, that ought to be enough support for a pro-Second Amendment argument.

    But the debate rages on, fueled by those who, ironically, do NOT seem to believe that that is sufficient, and for murky reasons require it to be true that without adequate firepower they will be sitting ducks for the vast slaughter that surrounds them. Too much TV? As that does not seem to be true, adopting it as an argument for the Second Amendment seems foolish. And of course it leads to embracing all sorts of crappy science in order to prove what is pretty obviously not true. Which leads the easily tempted to not be satisfied with their solid and reliable contributions to the sociological analysis of firearms, but to stretch veracity in order to curry favor with the audience. When that succeeds with no repercussions, the next attempt gets worse, and so on.

  9. #9 wcw
    June 8, 2006

    Lott doesn’t get concealed-carry laws passed by testifying that they need not necessarily lead to a bloodbath. Do I have to remind you that the headline is more guns, less crime? Nobody in politics argues for more guns, same crime.

    I’m one of those crazy far-left types who tends ideologically to prefer not to regulate anything, whether drugs or political speech or firearms possession, and you two just put me off my supper and into the arms-control camp.

    On the subject of Lott and the FL-2000 dissenters, that makes me giggle. My wife works in the field. She read his paper, which by torturing the data in ways I’ve never seen before or since found the disenfranchised population was black Republicans. I think she used the adjective “hallucinatory” and moved on.

  10. #10 Paul Crowley
    June 11, 2006

    to my satisfaction he demonstrated that More CCW Permits do not generally equal a bloodbath

    I would say that Lott’s scientific credibility is now such that I don’t think it serves anyone to be quoting anything he has published as useful research. If Lott had done what seemed to me a good solid piece of work which backed up one of my most cherished beliefs, I’d wait for someone who did not have his reputation for scientific dishonesty to replicate it and quote that.

  11. #11 Ted
    June 12, 2006

    Legally, there would have been a very good reason for Lott not to sue Levitt for defamation over whether Lott invented survey data: “Freakonomics” very carefully treads the libel line to avoid saying that Lott invented survey data, and never actually accuses Lott of doing so; it just says there were “troubling allegations” of doing so, without weighing on the allegations. One cannot infer anything from Lott’s failure to sue on that particular remark.

  12. #12 Tim Lambert
    June 12, 2006

    Well, Levitt doesn’t say that Lott invented his other results either. If Lott can construe Levitt’s statement about replication as claiming fraud, then he could (and did in his Jan letter) interpret Levitt’s mention of troubling allegations as asserting that the allegations were true.

  13. #13 Brett Bellmore
    June 12, 2006

    “Lott doesn’t get concealed-carry laws passed by testifying that they need not necessarily lead to a bloodbath. Do I have to remind you that the headline is more guns, less crime? Nobody in politics argues for more guns, same crime.”

    It is, none the less, a valid argument: If a change in the law that increases liberty demonstrates no real harm, then it should happen. And when your foes spend a lot of time predicting bloodbaths, proving that they’ve been wrong over and over IS advantageous.

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