Month: January 2018

Police Union Privileges

Earlier I wrote about how police unions around the country give to every officer dozens of “get out of jail” cards to give to friends, family, politicians, lawyers, judges and other connected people. The cards let police on the street know that the subject is to be given “professional courtesy” and they can be used to get out of speeding tickets and other infractions. Today, drawing on the Police Union Contracting Project, I discuss how union contracts and Law Officer “Bill of Rights” give police legal privileges that regular people don’t get.

In 50 cities and 13 states, for example, union contracts “restrict interrogations by limiting how long an officer can be interrogated, who can interrogate them, the types of questions that can be asked, and when an interrogation can take place.” In Virginia police officers have a right to at least a five-day delay before being interrogated. In Louisiana police officers have up to 30 days during which no questioning is allowed and they cannot be questioned for sustained periods of time or without breaks. In some cities, police officers can only be interrogated during work hours. Regular people do not get these privileges.

The key to a good interrogation is that the suspect doesn’t know what the interrogator knows so the suspect can be caught in a lie which unravels their story. Thus, the Florida Police Bill of Rights is stunning in what it allows police officers:

The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under investigation must be informed of the nature of the investigation before any interrogation begins, and he or she must be informed of the names of all complainants. All identifiable witnesses shall be interviewed, whenever possible, prior to the beginning of the investigative interview of the accused officer. The complaint, all witness statements, including all other existing subject officer statements, and all other existing evidence, including, but not limited to, incident reports, GPS locator information, and audio or video recordings relating to the incident under investigation, must be provided to each officer who is the subject of the complaint before the beginning of any investigative interview of that officer.

By knowing what the interrogators know, the suspect can craft a story that fits the known facts–and the time privilege gives them the opportunity to do so.

Moreover, how do you think complainants feel knowing that the police officer they are complaining about “must be informed of the names of all complainants.” I respect and admire police officers but frankly I think this rule is dangerous. Would you come forward?

How effective would criminal interrogations be if the following rules held for ordinary citizens?

The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under interrogation may not be subjected to offensive language or be threatened with transfer, dismissal, or disciplinary action. A promise or reward may not be made as an inducement to answer any questions.

What does it say about our justice system that the police don’t want their own tactics used against them?

In the United States if you are arrested–even for a misdemeanor or minor crime, even if the charges are dropped, even if you are found not guilty–you will likely be burdened with an arrest record that can increase the difficulty of getting a job, an occupational license, or housing. But even in the unlikely event that a police officer is officially reprimanded many states and cities require that such information is automatically erased after a year or two. The automatic erasure of complaints makes it difficult to identify problem officers or a pattern of abuse.

Louisiana’s Police Officer Bill of Rights is one of the most extreme. It states that police have the right to expunge any violation of criminal battery and assault and any violation of criminal laws involving an “obvious domestic abuse.” Truly this is hard to believe but here is the law (note that sections (2)(a) and (b) do not appear, as I read it, to be limited to anonymous or unsubstantiated complaints).

A law enforcement officer, upon written request, shall have any record of a formal complaint made against the officer for any violation of a municipal or parish ordinance or state criminal statute listed in Paragraph (2) of this Subsection involving domestic violence expunged from his personnel file, if the complaint was made anonymously to the police department and the charges are not substantiated within twelve months of the lodging of the complaint.
(2)(a) Any violation of a municipal or parish ordinance or state statute defining criminal battery and assault.
(b) Any violation of other municipal or parish ordinances or state statutes including criminal trespass, criminal damage to property, or disturbing the peace if the incident occurred at either the home of the victim or the officer or the violation was the result of an obvious domestic dispute.

In an excellent post on get out of free jail cards, Julian Sanchez writes:

…beyond being an affront to the ideal of the rule of law in the abstract, it seems plausible that these “get out of jail free” cards help to reinforce the sort of us-against-them mentality that alienates so many communities from their police forces. Police departments that want to demonstrate they’re serious about the principle of equality under the law shouldn’t be debating how many of these cards an average cop gets to hand out; they should be scrapping them entirely.

Equality under the law also requires that privileges and immunities extend to all citizens equally.

Hat tip: Tate Fegley.

Imagine knowing every statistic about yourself

[NBA star John] Wall is shooting 42 percent, his lowest mark since he was a rookie, and he just hasn’t played with enough vigor on either end of the floor. One measure of that: He has spent 76.57 percent of floor time either standing still or walking, the largest such share among all rotation players, according to tracking data from Second Spectrum. Dirk Nowitzki is right behind Wall, and he’s almost 40.

That is from Zack Lowe at ESPN.  By the way, Wall was just named to the NBA All-Star team.

Do Tibetan Buddhists fear death the most?

It is an old philosophical idea that if the future self is literally different from the current self, one should be less concerned with the death of the future self (Parfit, 1984). This paper examines the relation between attitudes about death and the self among Hindus, Westerners, and three Buddhist populations (Lay Tibetan, Lay Bhutanese, and monastic Tibetans). Compared with other groups, monastic Tibetans gave particularly strong denials of the continuity of self, across several measures. We predicted that the denial of self would be associated with a lower fear of death and greater generosity toward others. To our surprise, we found the opposite. Monastic Tibetan Buddhists showed significantly greater fear of death than any other group. The monastics were also less generous than any other group about the prospect of giving up a slightly longer life in order to extend the life of another.

The economist might call this an income vs. substitution effect, the income effect in this case predominating.

That is from “Death and the Self,” by Shaun Nichols,  Nina Strohminger, Arun Rai, and Jay Garfield.  Via Rolf Degen, who in turn notes on Twitter:

I don’t think that the terrible thing about dying is the expiration of the self. The terrible thing is that WE must leave – and the party goes on without us. Social comparison until the end.

There is this famous saying that being ostracized is like death, it is “social death”. But it goes further: Real death IS social death, it is like being ostracized by the living.

The Duke Summer Institute for History of Economic Thought, 2018

You will find below the poster advertising the 2018 Duke Summer Institute on the History of Economics, which will run June 19-24. This year’s Summer Institute differs from those we have offered in the past, in that it is aimed at young scholars who wish to present their own research. Each morning the scholars named in the poster below will present and lead discussions on their own writings. In the afternoons each of the young scholars will have the opportunity to present their research, and the assembled group will workshop it. Double occupancy housing in the J. B. Duke Hotel, a fine hotel on the edge of campus, will be provided free of charge.  We will also offer limited travel support on a case by case basis. More information about the Summer Institute and instructions on how to apply (deadline for application: March 2, 2018) may be found on the Center for the History of Political Economy’s website under “Summer Institutes.” We would greatly appreciate it if you would advertise this on Marginal Revolution.

Link to Website: http://hope.econ.duke.edu/

Wednesday assorted links

Rent Controls and Affordable Housing in Mumbai

The slums are the only free market housing in Mumbai.

That’s me in the latest video from MRUniversity, an on-the-ground look at the consequences and political economy of rent controls and affordable housing in Mumbai, India. Rent controls have been in place for so long in Mumbai that buildings are literally collapsing. Moreover, the approval process is so slow that just about the only new housing being built is condos for the well-off while at the same time a large fraction of the housing stock lies vacant.

Reuben Abraham is very good on how government housing is captured by the rich and why any solution to the affordable housing problem must focus on increasing supply.

Why Housing in California is Unaffordable

It’s interesting how similar land policy is around the world. In the United States today, we don’t have collapsing buildings like they do in Mumbai (see video above) but the fanatical fear of density and the slow approval process are the same. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, for example, says a bill that would allow higher density construction near transit hubs and bus lines is “a declaration of war against our neighborhoods.” And a new report finds that in San Francisco:

in 2000, it cost approximately $265,000 per unit to
build a 100-unit affordable housing building for families in the city, accounting for inflation. In
2016, a similar sized family building cost closer to $425,000 per unit, not taking into account
other development costs (such as fees or the costs of capital) or changes in land values over this
time period.

Did you get that? Inflation adjusted construction costs have increased in San Francisco over the last 16 years by 60% not including changes in land values.

Interviews and focus groups identified four local drivers of
rising construction costs: city permitting processes, design and building code requirements,
workforce regulations and ordinances, procurement (small and local business) requirements,
and environmental regulations.

the most significant and pointless factor driving up construction costs was the length of time it takes
for a project to get through the city permitting and development processes.

Tyler Cowen’s 12 rules for life

After reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules, a few people asked me what my list would look like.  I would stress that what follows is not a universal or eternally valid account, but rather a few ideas that strike me in the here and now, perhaps as the result of recent conversations.  I suspect the same is true for everyone’s rules lists, so please keep this in perspective.  Here goes:

1. Assume your temperament will always be somewhat childish and impatient, and set your rules accordingly, knowing that you cannot abide by rules for rules sake.  Hope to leverage your impatience toward your longer-run advantage.

2. Study the symbolic systems of art, music, literature. and religion, if only to help yourself better understand alternative points of view in political and intellectual discourse.  Don’t just spend time with the creations you like right away.  Avoid “devalue and dismiss.

3. When the price goes up, buy less.  Try to understand what the price really is, however, and good luck with that.

4. Marry well.

5. Organize at least some significant portion of your knowledge of the world in terms of place, whether by country, region, or city.  If you do that, virtually every person will be interesting to you, if only because almost everyone has some valuable knowledge of particular places.

6. When shooting the basketball, give it more arc than you think is necessary.  Consistently.

7. Learn how to learn from those who offend you.

8. Cultivate mentors, and be willing to serve as mentors to others.  This never loses its importance.

9. I don’t know.

10. Heed Cowen’s Three Laws.

11. Do not heed Cowen’s Three Laws.

12. Every now and then read or reread Erasmus, Montaigne, Homer, Shakespeare, or Joyce’s Ulysses, so that you do not take any rules too seriously.  The human condition seems to defeat our attempts to order it.

Why Amazon will and should choose Montgomery County, MD, and *also* Northern Virginia

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit about why they might not:

In any of these Washington area locations, Amazon is taking an implicit stance on the nature of talent and education. It’s well known that the D.C. area has high education levels, including in science and technology fields. At the same time, it has not bred a lot of rapidly scaling, dynamic startups comparable to, say, Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas. The work ethic and competition here are strong, but the orientation is too much toward the government as customer and arbiter. If Amazon settles in or near Washington, the company is betting that educated human beings are flexible and can reorient their priorities and ethos to a changing business environment. If there is any argument against Amazon picking the D.C. area, it’s this one.

There are many more points at the link.

Why are professors poorly paid?

From Daniel S. Hamermesh:

Using Current Population Survey data, I demonstrate a 15-percentage point wage disadvantage among academics compared to all other doctorate-holders with the same demographics. Time-diary data show that academics’ work hours are distributed more evenly over the week and day, although their total workweeks are equally long. This smoother distribution of work time accounts for as much as one-third of the wage disadvantage. Survey data (of economists only) indicate that flexible scheduling is an attraction, but only fourth among the characteristics of academic life.

Hamermesh then speculates the remaining difference may result from selection, namely that some people enjoy being less accountable to their superiors than do others.

Housing Hypergamy

NYTimes: Thanks to the now-abandoned one-child policy, China has more young men than young women, setting off a male-led surge to buy homes to make themselves more appealing husbands. Shang-Jin Wei, a Columbia University business professor, found that rising real estate price increases in 35 big cities were strongly correlated with lopsided gender ratios.

CNN tells us that “When it comes to dating, homeownership can be the ultimate aphrodisiac,” so the effect may not be confined to China.