Friday, June 17, 2016

Crime Rate after Right-to-Carry Laws

I've been parousing what justfacts has to say about gun control. Based on some of the graphs it seems like right to carry laws are correlated with lowering murder rates.

One obvious interpretation is that right to carry laws cause lower murder rates. I'm skeptical of this interpretation because it's hard to conjure up a realistic theory of how this might be happening. One popular theory is that in a world where everyone has a gun, they're all too afraid to use it. Fear that the victim might have a gun discourages the crime ever taking place. This is probably true sometimes, but I just don't think that the typical American is so old-west that they'll pull out their gun to put a criminal in his place. "Don't be a hero" is a more realistic policy for almost everyone, and probably a better one anyway.

What I notice with each graph is the murder rate dipping before the right-to-carry laws are ever enacted. This indicates that perhaps in places where murder rates are already falling, people feel safe enough to support right-to-carry laws.

I like this interpretation, but I see two problems with it. One is that murder rate within each state seems to decline faster than national rates. Two is that it depends on the population having a clue about what the murder rate even is. And we know how little the population knows about national statistics. If you ask them, the murder rate is always at an all-time high.

Which leaves me at a point where I may have to rethink the whole thing. Out of the forty states where "Shall Issue" right-to-carry laws are enacted, we have graphs for three. Perhaps what we see here is not typical.

I recommend Scott Alexanders post about Guns and States, where he has insights such as these:

The United States’ homicide rate of 3.8 is clearly higher than that of eg France (1.0), Germany (0.8), Australia (1.1), or Canada (1.4). However, as per the FBI, only 11,208 of our 16,121 murders were committed with firearms, eg 69%. By my calculations, that means our nonfirearm murder rate is 1.2. In other words, our non-firearm homicide rate alone is higher than France, Germany, and Australia’s total homicide rate. Nor does this mean that if we banned all guns we would go down to 1.2 – there is likely a substitution effect where some murderers are intent on murdering and would prefer to use convenient firearms but will switch to other methods if they have to. 1.2 should be considered an absolute lower bound. And it is still higher than the countries we want to compare ourselves to.
On the other hand, lives are very valuable. In fact, the statistical value of a human life in the First World – ie the value that groups use to decide whether various life-saving interventions are worth it or not – is $7.4 million. That means that gun control would “save” $22 billion dollars a year. Americans buy about 20 million guns per year (really)! If we were to tax guns to cover the “externality” of gun homicides preventable by Australia-level gun control, we would have to slap a $1000 tax on each gun sold. While I have no doubt that some people, probably including our arsenal collector above, would be willing to pay that, my guess is that most people would not. This suggests that most people probably do not enjoy guns enough to justify keeping them around despite their costs.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

9/11 and the Orlando Shootings

I was 14 when the terrorist attacks on September 11th happened. When I was 19 I wrote an essay for an English class about where I was and how I felt when I first heard about 9/11.

I was honest in my essay.

I wrote that at first I didn't understand the impact of 9/11. People die in tragic events all the time. 30,000 people died in car accidents in 2001, 3,000 people died in 9/11. What's the big deal? If I had ended the essay there I don't know my English teacher would have thought. But I interluded it into my listening to people talk about the event, and after that my young mind began to comprehend the importance of 9/11.

I realize now that I was right the first time. There wasn't something I didn't grasp about 9/11, I knew the damages, I knew the death total, I knew the suffering. Nobody enlightened me on the costs. What they did was show me how important it was that I treat 9/11 like the costs were enormous. I didn't pretend to get it, I really got it, but what I got was self-delusion. I didn't grow in understanding, I had my understanding stripped away from me by social pressure. I regret that.

That's how I feel when I hear people talk about the 50 people who died recently in the Orlando shooting. I can't join in that conversation. And when people talk to me I have to dodge. I can't express my opinion. When people express that this shooting only justifies their policy views, I want to say that the death of 50 people shouldn't implicate anything about national policy. It's just too unimportant. My approach would improve the world a lot, but it's viewed not even as a different opinion, but an evil opinion. To burst people's moralizing bubble looks like evil.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando Shooting Costs

There was a mass shooting recently, so now is the time to remind yourself;

The cost of something does not equal how bad you feel when you think about it.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Why throw away your vote on a third party? Why vote at all?


So some people won't "throw away" their vote for a third-party candidate like Gary Johnson.

Their oh so precious vote that has one in 10,000,000 chance of influencing the election.

So why do they "throw away" their time on a vote that it next to useless?

Because voting is expressive.

So why don't they express themselves by voting for a third-party?

Did Google Manipulate Search for Hillary?

There's no reason to think that this isn't simply demand-driven rather than Google risking their money-making reputation to promote their own personal politics.

The video even says in the very beginning, "based at least, IN PART, on the results of what other people are actually searching for". The rest of the video goes onto assume that the popularity of what other people are searching for is THE ONLY thing that matters.

Facebook does it too by the way.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Liberal Candidates Against Gay Marriage

Here are three links to Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, and hillary Clinton being against gay marriage... back when it was convenient.

It's interesting how they all "evolved" (not flip-flopped) on their view when it became politically convenient.