by Tyler Cowen
on December 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm
1. The psychology of on-line reviews.
2. Has the rate of mass shootings actually increased? And why is violence declining, yet overall gun violence on the rise?
3. 21 Brilliant British people problems.
4. Shrayana Bhattacharya and Lant Pritchett offer some skepticism about Indian cash transfers.
5. What is the North Korean internet like?
2. 140? That’s almost half the deaths just from the Firestone tire tread separations. Okay, I’ll do the rational thing and get back to my day job research.
With this threat, I don’t know how we sleep at night.
You are about as likely to be killed in a mass shooting as to win a $300,000,000 Powerball jackpot – like 1:309,999,921 vs. 1:175,000,000!
There are liars. There are damned liars. And, there are statisticians.
More kids drown in pickle buckets each year.
And don’t even get me started about the chords for window blinds!
There’s nothing sadder than the window blind chord blues.
“the very addictive nature of firearms”: years ago I sold my rifle and ammunition, and let my licence lapse. I wish I’d kept the licence, but I must say that “very addictive” seems a bit strong. I mean, letting fly with a proper bow and arrow is pretty satisfying, but I’ve only done it twice. Ditto for shooting with a shotgun – all good, clean fun, but a bit less exciting than paint-balling. Which I’ve done only once. Eating liquorice is more addictive.
No kidding. I know plenty of people who bought a few firearms and would go range shooting pretty often. A few years later they had sold most or all of their firearms and had largely lost interest. I do know a few people who have more than a few firearms. I also know at least as many people that have more than a few bicycles, or cars, or golf club sets, or surfboards.
2. I have to buy one of them home drug test kits . . . see if the guns are using,
The guns (I’ve lived with for 46 years) me never hurt anybody, never did anything bad.
The guns I know didn’t kill my mother. Those guns would never kill a six-year-old.
I don’t allow the guns to read/watch CNN, Huffington, Kos, Slate, MSNBC, or MTV.
I don’t let the guns play violent video games.
I don’t let them listen to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I don’t let the guns read liberal media lies.
‘Those guns would never kill a six-year-old.’
You can never know that – even if you keep your guns (and that plural is interesting by itself) in a safe to effectively stop theft, and have no children/grandchildren, those guns can easily outlive you.
This is roughly the same as saying the car you currently own will never plow into a group of people – a statement that is simply not possible to make, as any vehicle can plow into a group of people.
Where is he taking my guns?
What is he going to do to my guns?
2. Any piece that starts with an Aaron Sorkin quote is suspect.
#3 is brilliant!
are you being sarcastic?
My apologies, I’m sorry, yes he is.
Nice one. I came here expressly to write something like that.
I’m sorry I wrote that second sentence.
Most of the attitudes in #3 sound perfectly reasonable to me.
And #21 is real. In fact a British doctor once got sharp with me because I came to see her just because I was sick. I hurriedly explained that I had another problem as well.
“And why is violence declining, yet overall gun violence on the rise?”
Really? The link has statistics for exactly one city, Oakland California. Let’s consider a somewhat larger area… Say the United States of America. The FBI data shows that firearms homicides have been declining for years (see http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8). However, the report to read is “Violent Victimization Committed by Strangers, 1993-2010” (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/vvcs9310.pdf). Don’t worry. It has plenty of data on non-stranger violence as well.
The fall in violence is actually stunning over the period in question. Quote
“From 1993 to 2010, the rate of nonfatal violent victimization committed by strangers declined 81%, from 37.7 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older to 7.1 per 1,000 (figure 1). Similarly, during the 18-year period the rate of violence committed by offenders known to their victims dropped 73%, from 39.4 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older to 10.5 per 1,000. The percentage decline in the rate of violence committed by strangers and the rate committed by offenders known to the victim from 1993 to 2010 was not statistically different.”
The report shows that firearms violence has fallen along with all other types of violence.
Oakland has gone from 837 to 626 police in the past 4 years, which matches the increase in violence there.
“Cocaine, for example, is widely considered the most addictive drug on earth.”
I have no data or germane experience, but ice (freebase meth) and crack (freebase cocaine) are generally regarded as the most addictive drugs. Note that freebasing is common to both. Freebasing makes drugs smoke-able and apparently much more addictive.
By addictive, I mean that they induce a physical / psychological craving quickly with devastating consequence. In raw physical terms, barbiturates probably produce the deepest physical addiction, with withdrawal triggering potentially fatal seizures.
“In this paper, we present new estimates for the risk of becoming cocaine dependent within 24 months after first use of the drug, and study subgroup variation in this risk. The study estimates are based on the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse conducted during 2000–2001, with a representative sample of US residents aged 12 years and older (n=114 241). A total of 1081 respondents were found to have used cocaine for the first time within 24 months prior to assessment. Between 5 and 6% of these recent-onset users had become cocaine dependent since onset of use.”
Observational data and simple descriptions are not sufficient to say that some drug is more or less addictive than another. People are self-selecting into “treatment” (i.e., cocaine use) and maybe those people are already more likely to display chemical dependency.
Even if they are not, 5 to 6% at 24 months doesn’t sound like terribly much.
Wow what an interesting stat. You can learn a great deal from the MR comments!
My guess for “most addictive” would be nicotine.
With respect to figures on mass shootings, neither measure (Mother Jones nor Father Reason) seems to attempt to correct for population growth, firearms in circulation, “absolute number of individuals who qualify as five standard deviations insane” or any other number that would all point to falling rates?
Not to mention the “getting people’s heads out of their asses takes about 10 years” corrective
“Single, unarmed civilians have proven most effective at intervening, most likely because they were already on the scene when the attacks started and had the courage to take action. ”
Facts: just another one of my insane hobby horses 😉
It occurred to me that even if you were squeamish about guns in schools you could do a lot of good giving every teacher a Kevlar vest and a Louisville Slugger in a locked box in their classroom with clear instructions that they were expected to die trying to stop an attacker.
The sad part is that while you are probably joking that really is all it would take. UNARMED civilians already stop half of these things. We are just being stupid so that we can stay stubborn. What is so wrong with pepper spray? The Kevlar vests are not necessary.
Btw, your choices are to die trying to stop him or to die not trying to stop him.
I’m not joking about the general idea; I did embellish some details. Frankly I think the instruction is the important part.
Realistically, in most attacks, most teachers will live by cowering in their classroom, but that’s not optimal for the whole school.
“in most attacks, most teachers will live by cowering in their classroom, but that’s not optimal for the whole school.”
You are in charge of 20 to 30 children. You hear what appear to be gunshots coming from inside the school. You have an unknowable amount of time to figure out what to do. Do you barricade the door? Do you try to move the children to safety? Do you tell the children not to leave the classroom before running to the sound of gunfire? I’m not sure that there are easy, obvious answers here.
You lock the door and run to the sound of the gunfire. You intervene to the best of your ability. It would help a lot if all or most teachers did that. My wife, the sexist, pointed out it would help a lot if there were more adult males in the environment.
I agree this is a limited part of the solution. Personally I think lower tolerance for the angry, violent, and not-thinking straight people is the single most important thing. We should be more eager to investigate and confine if necessary. I don’t understand the gun control arguments. I’ve steered away from participating.
Also, this is the sort of thing you could practice in a teaching workshop. Teachers need not invent a plan on the fly. I suggested vests earlier, but a couple of riot shields distributed throughout the school would work better and be cheaper. And they’d do a lot for confidence.
Or you get shot opening the door and the killer proceeds to kill all your students. But yeah, it’s totally obvious.
If you are operating a one-room schoolhouse, this is a reasonable objection.
If there’s time, teachers should lock and barricade the doors and stay inside with the kids (and be ready to respond by throwing heavy objects and rushing the attacker somehow does get through the door). If the attacker is already IN the room — then throw books, chairs, whatever is handy and, say, pick up desks or chairs to use as a shield and rush him. But never leave the safety of a locked classroom, unarmed, to try to chase him down — you’re just going to get killed pointlessly. These guys seem to stop and shoot themselves when they run out of rooms they can get into.
There is no reason someone should be able to shoot their way into the building even with an AR 15. There should probably be a handful of designated people not responsible for full classrooms who have pepper spray (or obviously approved but not required to carry handguns, if we want to be smart about it) who are trained to slow down the attacker and divert their attention away from victims. That is all that is needed for these cases.
Honest-to-goodness terrorists are a different story. We can tackle that one later.
Someone deserves a pay raise then.
For the one in a million chance this will occur in your lifetime? Sure. We can all chip in for the $10 over the course of your career. Or we can grant $10M to your family posthumously. Or both.
I’m sorry, it’s an awful expectation. But I think it’s one a lot of the kind of people who become teachers would take seriously, and one that would drastically reduce the death toll in this sort of thing.
Extremely rare and then a lot less risky than our fear tricks us into thinking. For example, JUST shouting “POLICE!” as you approach will cause many of these people to kill themselves. The first step is to understand how these things actually work. We are still in the mindset analogous to pre 9/11 when we just gave terrorists the cockpit thinking they just wanted to fly to Cuba. Now we know that if you are in the presence of a shooter, after having tried to avoid him to slow him down because he only has ~8 minutes, then you have to gang rush him in some way.
5. “some North Korean “journalists” had found themselves sent to “revolutionisation” camps, simply for a typo in their articles.”
I think we have discovered Peak Orwellian.
No, I think we’ve just found the ZMJnk.
Kin Kong Ill could be very insulting and socially demoralizing.
The DPRK doesn’t spend good resources on typing school and tolerate mistakes or misinformation.
I call it autoerror.
It’s my usual excuse, but it’s famous last words in DPRK.
The doublethink involved in DPRK never ceases to amaze me. The UN should impose labeling restrictions and requirements on nations.
The idea that firing guns is addictive does not make any sense. Most criminals almost never fire their guns. In order for something to be addictive it must happen repeatedly. Their are very few places that one can fire guns without attracting attention of the police and firing guns in gun ranges is too expensive and time consuming to happen very often.
This. It’s a goofy argument. Maybe something about the mindset of carrying a firearm is additcitve or something, but shooting people almost can’t be.
Further, I don’t really understand how firearm violence can be increasing inside the well documented 20 year declines in overall violence rates. The FBI data certainly doesn’t show any such thing. Possible I guess, but extremely unlikely to the degree we should all stare very hard at those data sources.
Gun violence is only on the rise since the start of the Great Recession, and it is only on the rise if you count suicides.
Are we done yet? Have we sufficiently demonstrated our capacity for mood affiliation and confirmation bias and emotional arguments on gun violence? Let’s recap from the past few days in the comments: Andrew’ wants to turn elementary schools into high security prisons, Finch wants teachers to be deputized like air marshals, msgkings thinks gun-owning moms have it coming to them, T.Shaw thinks we should embrace the goodness in guns (they don’t play violent video games, you know), and prior_approval griped at his favorite think tank (possibly unrelated). Look I am doing the same thing. I found myself posting a supportive Alice Walker quote on FB today in response to a friend’s call for a week of random acts of kindness. Some people talk defense systems, others talk group hugs…but really would either have spared those children? I don’t think this reaction is surprising or unnatural or wrong…we all have a valid view point. Now it may not make good policy, but it’s still valid. It would be nice if we started looking outside our views and tried to understand (not agree, just understand) the opposing views. But this is an emotional topic and the grieving from it will take time. I guess I am not sure what purpose is served by riling everyone up here with news blurbs (without commentary). Maybe I am missing the deeper lesson.
I too am highly conflicted. I want there to be an in-between answer. I’m not a hunter and have no need for semi-automatic rifles, but I really would like to see some hunters step forward with a solution that would be amicable but does go a way to meet the concerns around these mass shooting type events. I grew up in the country and almost everyone there hunts, both with guns and bows – but I don’t think I knew anyone with a semi-automatic rifle. Maybe I did – but I didn’t know about it if so. But there were lots of guns. Vaults full of guns.
The question to me is whether there’s a different balance between our distrust of government and the seemingly likely need for some oversight/limits to the access to semi-automatic rifles. And if so – will a change help or hurt the situation? I’ll probably never have a semi-automatic rifle, so it’s not an issue I understand – but I’d like the folks that need and want them to help me better understand why, and if there’s a reasonable path to reduce random shootings with these weapons that still addresses other concerns.
I’m a hunter and I have no need for a semi-automatic!
Only goofs hunt with semi-automatics; maybe they want to eat (elk, deer, or moose) ready-made “stew”?!
It would be nice if we could all just agree to get along, but what concerns about these mass shooting type events are there? The first thing that the liberal media does is go for a link to guns. Which is absurd. If there is any cause here, it is deinstitutionalisation. Someone who should have been in a mental facility, or at least not forced to go to school, was not kept away from this school. The fact that he picked up a gun is not the issue. Supposed he had no gun? Breivik built a bomb using fertilizer. So did the Oklahoma bombers. He could have used a knife. Arsonists usually kill more than mass shooters. If someone has a desire to kill (and become famous on CNN) they will find a way to do so.
So what is the need for any sort of over-sight of semi-automatics? Which means an awful lot of pistols by the way.
I am trying to understand, but it’s difficult for me. The answer that I hear is that it’s people that kill people, not guns. And to me I think it reduces to something like people can kill people with their hands too – does that mean we should chop off everybody’s hands – but if we chop off their hands they’ll figure out how to kill people with their feet? (absurd I know, but that’s the extension for me). In the other extreme should everyone have rocket launchers? It’s the middle ground I try to understand, and if the answer from those is that they don’t think further restrictions on semi-automatic rifles will have any impact, the so be it – but I am trying to understand if it’s a more general “guns” issue or a “semi-automatic rifle” issue, and the high value/importance placed on semi-automatic rifles. If it’s fear of the government, I can understand that too – some of the arguments are along those lines also.
“…In the other extreme should everyone have rocket launchers?”
This is an interesting question in light of recent federal policy regarding the government’s use of drone-strikes on american citizens. Basically, the Obama admin has declared it legal for them to compile a “list” of terrorists, and then drone strike them with impunity regardless of their nationality. Do you have the right to protect yourself? Is there an anti-drone weapon that you should be allowed to have?
on a broader point, do you have the right to not be watched by government drones?
You’re pretty much in the same vein of thought as I am I think. The lines we currently have are arbitrary – or at least based on some cost/benefit analysis – and that’s why it seems the conflict exists between do we move the line a little bit one way or the other. There’s the slippery slope on one side, and on the other side there’s many shrugging shoulders saying why not? I wonder if this may be a situation where the benefits are highly diffuse and the costs are highly concentrated – so that it’s difficult to evaluate in those terms.
The terrorism thing is another issue – and taking and holding people without ever bringing charges needs to be addressed. I’d be fine with an entirely different set of laws and process (including surveillance) for terror type cases – independent and isolated from the normal judicial process. But I would like it to be debated and process codified. It might be fertile ground for the next constitutional amendment.
“The first thing that the liberal media does is go for a link to guns.”
I know- talk about your stretch. The idea of a suburban mom and unbalanced son harboring a mini-arsenal in their upscale suburban home (I heard they went shooting together- awww) is just about the most apple-piey story I can imagine.
Seriously- are MY neighbors armed like this? What exactly is going on in this country? Is 300 million guns enough? Nope- sales are predictably skyrocketing right now. Yay for America!
No way anything meaningful is done here, on accounta the views of the American people- so the nuts can stop all their worrying.
On the plus side, it sounds like we can all come together on some ridiculous new ‘mental health’ boondoggle intitiative, so there’s that.
If you live next to me . . .yes.
I have no handgun, but worse: I am armed with the most dangerous weapon in Creation: a brain.
Loved your commentator summary.
I too like the reader summaries, but I think you are wrong about the rest. We do know what the opposing view is. People who support gun rights hear it all the time. It is virtually the only view in the media except when the occasional spokesperson for the NRA is not being interrupted by the news anchor. We do know what you think about this.
The problem is that the other side is not even remotely interested in understanding the pro-gun view. As Obama showed when he referred to bitter clingers. It is a way of writing off and ignoring the opposing view. By calling everyone else, implicitly or explicitly, ignorant yockel red necks, the anti-gun lobby avoids the need to actually understand the opposite point of view. And you can see this by what the media reports. They report lies that they have been told any number of times are lies. They report smears as if it was news. And they have nothing but contempt for many ordinary Americans.
You can also see this in the cynical exploitation of this issue by the anti-gun lobby. Apparently everyone has to pass Obama’s tax demands because of the Sandy Hook massacre. They call for a debate but they ignore the fact that America had one. They just didn’t win. They are trying to use this incident to rush legislation through that they know they could not get passed any other time. Again, a complete indifference to the other point of view.
By all means, we should all understand each other better. But one side of this argument is not being given air time. One side is not being heard among the powerful. One side is being met with sneers and condescension.
‘the problem is that the other side’ … yes, SMS that is the problem. If we can’t see the world through someone else’s eyes and accept why they hold their vews (they’re stupid, crazy or brainwashed doesn’t count) then there are no steps forward. You did not read what I wrote. It was not an anti gun plea. In fact that friend who called for a group hug has been openly deleting FB friends who post anti gun messages. My views on this issues are complicated and I feel no need to share them (spared from my stupid anecdotes today). I would be happier if I saw more people with complicated views too. If there were easy answers, this would not have happened, period.
Claudia, I stand by my comments. It’s not that ‘gun-owning moms have it coming to them’, it’s irresponsible gun-owning moms (or dads) of unstable children that give them access to their multiple gun arsenals have it coming to them. She was playing in traffic, she got hit by a car, she had it coming. And the fact that her irresponsibility led to the death of 20 children too.,..it’s extremely just that she died along with them. She was a big part of the reason why this happened.
I’m not calling for a gun ban. I’m calling for the gun nuts to acknowledge that this idiot lady was a very irresponsible gun owner. But they won’t because I imagine most of them like T.Shaw here probably handle their arsenals in a similar fashion. And then rhapsodize about how clever they are because their guns don’t watch the liberal media.
I’m not a nut.
My mother (RIP) had me tested.
I appreciate all comments upthread.
What we have here is a classic externalitites problem, caused by technological change. If I had to muzzle load a rifle, I wouldn’t have enough time to kill more than one person, something handled moderately well by the criminal justice system. In the current situation, the Coasian answer is a ban on the high cost externality causer, here, rapid fire weaons and large magazine capacities. Hunters and hobby shooters would be unaffected.
If one took the second amendment seriously, one should organize a Swiss system, where all 18-45 year old males have an assault rifle in their bedroom closets, with ammunition, but are spot checked at least once per year on their ammunition use. The militia is like a toilet, you want to have one, but not be using it all the time.
To adjust to US standards,I suppose females of the corresponding age group would have to be allowed assault rifles uner the same conditions.
For better and for worse, the US has always been a poor regulator.
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