Lott, Levitt and Freedomnomics

David Glenn reports:

The economist Steven D. Levitt’s colleagues at the University of Chicago might be tempted to cancel their classes and wander down to Chicago’s federal courthouse on October 1. That’s the date that has been set for the trial in John R. Lott Jr.’s defamation suit against Mr. Levitt. At a status hearing on Wednesday, a federal judge penciled in the trial date and ordered the parties to complete their discovery process by the end of July.

You’d think that Lott would have given up since all has left is the claim that he was libeled in a private email, but I guess not.


In other Lott news, he has a new cover for Freedomnomics. Instead of an American flag inside an apple, it’s now inside an apple pie. The orange inside an apple skin cover of Freakonomics nicely symbolized the idea of finding a surprise when you look inside. Here we have a symbol of America inside … another symbol of America. No need to open this book folks, you know what’s going to be inside.

Another strange feature is that it is described as “A Rebuttal to Freakonomics” and subtitled “Why the Free Market Works”. Does anyone remember the bit in Freakonomics where Levitt said that the free market doesn’t work? Anyone?

From the inside flap we have

  • How women’s suffrage led to a massive increase in the size of government

  • How secret ballots reduce voter participation

Yes, Lott doesn’t like women’s suffrage or secret ballots.

And this bit seems to be a malicious attempt to damage Levitt’s reputation:

  • Why the controversial assertions made in the trendy book Freakonomics are almost entirely wrong

Maybe Levitt should sue him?

And it seems that Lott has moved to yet another position:

During the 2007-08 academic year, Lott will be a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland Foundation.


  1. #1 Thom
    May 3, 2007

    Gotta’ love that the endorsement on the cover is by the attorney general from four administrations past. It’s like, “Hey, we couldn’t get anyone who is currently relevant, so we figured we’d just get anyone who worked for Reagan.”

  2. #2 aaron
    May 3, 2007

    Bad design to boot. The pie should be shown from a 45 degree angle, not overhead. Lott chintzed on the stock photo.

  3. #3 Brian Thompson
    May 3, 2007

    My only comment is in regards to the women’s suffrage claim. Personally, I don’t care of women’s suffrage was directly and actively responsible for tripling the size of the government. Women still have a right to representation – and thus to vote. The “sacrifice” of increased government size to allow women to vote should seem trivial in the pursuit of liberty and equality.

    Or am I missing something? Maybe he is claiming that women’s suffrage gave some kind of unfair advantage to the democratic party (because, hypothetically, women in the first half of the twentieth century might be more inclined to vote democrat) and thus led to an increase in government size.

  4. #4 Sven
    May 3, 2007

    Here’s Lott’s paper on chicks n’ taxes.

  5. #5 Thom
    May 3, 2007

    Future Lott papers

    1. How freeing the slaves bloated the American government.
    2. How low cost health care increases insurance prices.
    3. How free school lunches raise crime rates.
    4. How low cost pharmaceuticals increase mortality rates.
    5. How high oil prices benefit the poor.

    Blah, blah, blah, etc, etc, etc….

  6. #6 LogicallySpeaking
    May 3, 2007

    Perhaps an academic could answer this for me..

    Isn’t the standard to write Dr. So-and-so if you’re a Ph.D. doctor and So-and-so, M.D. if you’re a medical doctor?

  7. #7 Barry
    May 3, 2007

    Brian, the (undoubted in my mine) subtext is that women’s freedom doesn’t really count. I wonder if Lott has ever made similar comments about the, how should I say it, non-light-skinned folk.

  8. #8 Markk
    May 3, 2007

    “How women’s suffrage led to a massive increase in the size of government”

    In other news, since the metric system was introduced in Australia, crime rates have gone through the roof!

  9. #9 War Department
    May 3, 2007

    Oh man, ed meese.

    I know there is a certain implied respect / competence that comes with the title of former AG, but for anyone who wants a crash course in the stunning intellect of Ed Meese and his view of what America is about, you need to read this interview:

    Ed Meese in GQ

    It is one of the most sickeningly funny things you are ever likely to read in english.

  10. #10 Thom
    May 3, 2007

    Just read the GQ interview with Ed Meese. War Department’s link is not working so see here.


    Keep one thing in mind: while Attorney General, Meese was the top law enforcement officer in the United States. Now look at this exchange where Meese is asked about waterboarding.

    Would you call that torture?
    I don’t know. I don’t know about waterboarding.

    It’s putting a wet rag over someone’s mouth and making them think that they’re going to drown.

    Yeah, I don’t know. As I said, I don’t know enough about it to give a firm determination.

    That doesn’t necessarily sound like torture to you?

    I don’t know whether they’re doing that.

    And if they are?

    I don’t know, because I don’t know enough about it.

    I’m asking, if that is what they’re doing, does that sound like torture?

    Well, I’d have to find out how long they do it and whether it does create the impression of drowning. I’ve never heard of this using a washcloth in their mouth before.

  11. #11 Eli Rabett
    May 3, 2007

    VT, the clearest way is to put Ph.D. after one and MD after the other. Using Dr. relies on context to figure it out (most of the time it is clear, otherwise not)

  12. #12 Disinterested Observer
    May 4, 2007

    Well, South Australia was the first place in the world to give women the vote, and the secret ballot is also an Australian invention, but Australia ranks in the bottom 20% of rich countries in total levels of public spending.

    Of course one country anecdote does not disprove the conclusions of multivariate analysis , but a lot of multivariate analysis in the social sciences is very selective in terms of its analysis. What exactly is the relationship between global warming and the size of government, for example?

  13. #13 Valuethinker
    May 4, 2007

    Disinterested Observer

    As I think you are hinting at, one of the first things they teach you in econometrics is that aggregates tend to grow together over time. So we could note the rise in US military spending, alongside say the rise in female votership, and conclude that women’s suffrage has caused increased military spending. (it makes sense: women are more concerned about security, and demand bigger defence budgets).

    Actually working things out where there is genuine causation is much much harder.

    Since Sweden is a relatively low producer of greenhouse gases per capita, and so is France, and they have the largest government sectors in the world, I would conclude that a very large government sector reduced CO2 emissions, over time. By contrast the US has the smallest government sector amongst developed countries, and of course the highest greenhouse gas emissions (pace Australia, Canada and Luxembourg).

    What always amazes me with Levitt is how few people seem to have *read* what he says.

    For example, he says the most likely cause of the crime bust is the liberalisation of abortion, but notes that is an incredibly expensive way to reduce the number of murders (something like half a million additional abortions per annum, to reduce murders by 10,000 or so).

    Or he shows that gun control is less likely to save children’s lives than mandating and enforcing rules about lockable gates and fences around backyard swimming pools.

    This is hardly a ‘liberal icon’ at work.

  14. #14 Ian Gould
    May 4, 2007

    “How freeing the slaves bloated the American government.”

    It’s disgusting how Big Government stripped millions of decent hardworking Americans of their valuable legal property without compensation and then just GAVE said property for free to people who weren’t even citizens.

  15. #15 Valuethinker
    May 5, 2007

    Ian Gould

    As the recent movie ‘Amazing Grace’ would have it:

    ‘the slave faction has over 300 MPs in the Parliament. You cannot win’

    or Elizabeth Kolbert in ‘Field notes from a Catastrophe’


    – After a while, I asked Socolow whether he thought that stabilizing emissions was a politically feasible goal. He frowned.

    – “I’m always being asked, ‘What can you say about the practicability of various targets?’ ” he told me. “I really think that’s the wrong question. These things can all be done.

    – “What kind of issue is like this that we faced in the past?” he continued. “I think it’s the kind of issue where something looked extremely difficult, and not worth it, and then people changed their minds. Take child labor. We decided we would not have child labor and goods would become more expensive. It’s a changed preference system.

    – Slavery also had some of those characteristics a hundred and fifty years ago. Some people thought it was wrong, and they made their arguments, and they didn’t carry the day. And then something happened and all of a sudden it was wrong and we didn’t do it anymore.

    – And there were social costs to that. I suppose cotton was more expensive. We said, ‘That’s the trade-off; we don’t want to do this anymore.’

    – So we may look at this and say, ‘We are tampering with the earth.’ The earth is a twitchy system. It’s clear from the record that it does things that we don’t fully understand. And we’re not going to understand them in the time period we have to make these decisions. We just know they’re there. We may say, ‘We just don’t want to do this to ourselves.’ If it’s a problem like that, then asking whether it’s practical or not is really not going to help very much. Whether it’s practical depends on how much we give a damn.”

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