Ubundling the Police in NYC

In Why Are the Police in Charge of Road Safety? I argued for unbundling the police–i.e. taking some of the tasks traditionally assigned to police such as road safety and turning them over to unarmed agencies more suited to the task. A new report from Transportation Alternatives adds to the case. The report notes that the police in NYC aren’t even doing a good job on road safety.

For example, in 2017, there were 46,000 hit-and-run crashes in New York City. Yet police officers arrested just one percent of all hit-and-run drivers. In the past five years, hit-and-run crashes in New York City have increased by 26 percent. By comparison, DOT infrastructure projects designed to reduce these traffic crashes have proven effective and scalable.

Streetsblog (cited in the report and quoted here) also notes this remarkable fact:

Streetsblog recently reported that of the 440 tickets police issued to people for biking on the sidewalk in 2018 and 2019, 374 — or 86.4 percent — of those where race was listed went to Black and Hispanic New Yorkers. The wildly disproportionate stats followed another report showing that cops issued 99 percent of jaywalking tickets to Black and Hispanic people in the first quarter of this year.

The Gaslighting of Parasite

Amazon.com: Parasite: Kang Ho Song, Sun Kyun Lee, Yeo Jeong Cho ...I am late to this but Parasite, now available on streaming services, is the most willfully misinterpreted movie that I have ever seen. The conventional interpretation is so obviously wrong that I cannot but think that it is anything but a collective gaslighting. The conventional interpretation is that the film is about inequality and on the surface that makes sense. After all, there is a rich family and a poor family, and an upstairs and a downstairs, and everyone knows that inequality is the problem of our age so despite the subtitles this Korean film must be a version of what we expect to see. Hence, Manohla Dargis writing at the New York Times says “The story takes place in South Korea but could easily unfold in Los Angeles or London.” True but not in the way she imagines! Rather than a conventional discourse on “inequality,” Parasite is deeply, shockingly, politically incorrect, even subversive. Mild spoilers.

The Dargis review is spectacularly, hilariously wrong from the very first sentence “a destitute man voices empathy for a family that has shown him none. “They’re rich but still nice,” he says, aglow with good will.” The man is not destitute (his entire family has been raking in the cash by this point), the family has shown him nothing but generosity and respect, and he is not aglow with good will. But what do you expect from a newspaper that rates Parasite an R for “class exploitation”! The Times is leading the cultural revolution.

Indeed, in the entire film the rich family does nothing wrong whatsoever. This is not my judgement it is what the film tells us. The rich family pay their employees generously (the film goes out of its way to note that they pay overtime), the work is not especially hard (English tutor, art therapist, chauffeur, cook and cleaner), and the employees are treated with respect. Moreover, the rich family are kind and loving. The father works hard but he is not absent. The rich family’s wealth is explicitly shown as coming from innovation and entrepreneurship (not say shady deals or stock market manipulation).

Are the poor family destitute? Not really. The son is handsome, he knows English well and he has an exceptional psychological sense which he uses to teach his student and his father; the daughter is gorgeous and skilled with computers. The mother was a champion athlete, the father is intelligent enough. It’s obvious that this family has everything needed for success. Moreover, the family isn’t discriminated against–they aren’t African-American in the 1950s south, they aren’t Dalits, they aren’t even North Koreans. So why aren’t they successful? One reason is because they aren’t willing to do an honest days work for an honest day’s pay. They fail utterly at folding pizza boxes–not because they are stressed or because the job is difficult–but because they are lazy and don’t give a damn. The film also shows that it is other hard-working, honest-people who are harmed by their laziness (not some evil pizza corporation). The fact that the kids are gorgeous, by the way, is important. The director Bong Joon-ho (and writer Han Jin-won) are telling us to look below the superficial. Note that everything the poor family gets they get by lying and stealing–they are grifters. The son even steals his best friend’s girlfriend–whom he doesn’t even especially like. To exploit her further, he steals her diary.

In fact, Bong Joon-ho hits us over the head with his message. In an early scene, for example, we see the poor family being fumigated but this is not played for pathos. Indeed, the family welcomes the fumigation. The director is telling us that this is the family’s natural habitat. Who gets fumigated? Work it out. The title may help.

Toilets also play a big role. There are many scenes with the poor family and toilets (and none with the rich family). In one scene the poor family is literally swimming in shit. This is not played for pathos. Bong Joon-ho covers the family in shit because he wants us to know they are a shitty family. (This scene comes immediately after a scene making this clear.) The daughter is so comfortable in the shit she relaxes and smokes a cigarette.

At one point, the rich family is away and the poor family takes over their house. What do they do? They immediately get drunk, including the kids. And not just drunk but slovenly drunk with food and garbage spread all over what had been an immaculate house. The family talks about what it would be like if they lived in this house–the film makes it clear that if they lived in this beautiful house it would soon go to shit.

The shit is not an accident. A key element of the film is that the poor family smells bad. Some people read this as a sign of disrespect but the rich family never demean the poor family or bring it up to their face. Indeed, we know the smell isn’t a class marker because it’s the youngest child of the rich family, a pure innocent, who notes it first. Moreover, even after the poor family know that they smell and make plans to fix the problem their bad smell remains. Why? Because they can’t wipe the shit off–a smell they can’t escape is the director telling us that they are a shitty family. A bad smell is a signal that something is rotten, something is off, something is shitty. It’s an elemental warning to the rich family.

Finally we come to the remarkable climax in which the father does something so stupid, so utterly impulsive, so completely contrary to his interest that we see immediately why he has never been able to hold down a job for very long. (The previous “no plan” scene foreshadows.) The first time I saw this scene I thought it didn’t make sense because the father could be a hero and solve all his problems by attacking the person who has probably just killed his son and daughter. Yet instead of doing the sensible thing he does something quite different. The director then metes out his punishment which is to put the father where he belongs, in a prison where he emerges only at night to scuttle around the floor stealing food like a….parasite.

It’s amazing that a film this politically incorrect, even reactionary, could win multiple awards, it’s as if The Camp of the Saints won best picture. Of course, the message had to be ignored to win but even so. I should emphasize that everything I have said is drawn from very obvious scenes. It doesn’t take Freud to understand the meaning. If you must, cancel Bong Joon-ho not me!

Perhaps readers can tell us whether Korean reviewers saw the obvious and were willing to say so.

A Burning

A Burning, the debut novel by Megha Majumdar, received a very unusual stellar review by James Wood in the New Yorker:

Majumdar marshals a much smaller cast of speakers than Faulkner did, and her spare plot moves with arrowlike determination. It begins with a crime, continues with a false charge and imprisonment, and ends with a trial. The book has some of the elements of a thriller or a police procedural, but one shouldn’t mistake its extraordinary directness and openness to life with the formulaic accelerations of genre: Majumdar’s novel is compelling, yet its compulsions have to do with an immersive present rather than with a skidding sequence. Her characters start telling us about their lives, and those lives are suddenly palpable, vital, voiced. I can’t remember when I last read a novel that so quickly dismantled the ordinary skepticism that attends the reading of made-up stories. Early Naipaul comes to mind as a precursor, and perhaps Akhil Sharma’s stupendously vivid novel “Family Life.” Sharma has spoken of how he avoided using “sticky” words—words involving touch and taste and smell—so as to enable a natural velocity; Majumdar finds her own way of achieving the effect.

“A Burning” is about the fateful interactions of three principal characters, who take turns sharing their narratives. At its center is a young Muslim woman named Jivan, who lives in the slums of Kolkata, and who witnesses a terrorist incident that tips her life into turmoil. A halted train at a nearby station is firebombed, and the ensuing inferno kills more than a hundred people. At home, Jivan makes the mistake of posting a politically risky question on Facebook—“If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?”—which attracts official attention. The police come for her in the middle of the night.

…There are two people whose testimony could save Jivan, and much of the novel turns on their capacity and their willingness to offer it. One is an aspiring actress named Lovely, who also lives in the slum. Lovely—the name she took at eighteen—is a so-called hijra, a designation that affords intersex and transgender people a recognized status, but a perilously ambiguous and marginal one.

…The third protagonist, a physical-education teacher called PT Sir, knew Jivan when she was one of the “charity students” at S. D. Gosh Girls’ School.

I agree, A Burning is very good. I will add only two points. I wrote about the hijra of India when I was living in Mumbai and that post is well worth reading for background. Second, most of the reviews, especially the annoying NYTimes review by Parul Sehgal (compare Wood and Sehgal on Lovely’s voice, Wood is right and obviously so if you are not blinded by political correctness) focus on the Indian setting and contemporary Indian politics. That’s a natural, if superficial, vantage point. What impressed me more was the less obvious commentary on social media which is very relevant to the US. How does the pressure and potential of being seen by many others alter our choices? There are multiple mobs in A Burning; two of the mobs, one virtual, the other not, result in the brutal murders of innocent people, a third mob launches a star.

Get BARDA More Money!

The NYTimes headline is Coronavirus Attacks the Lungs. A Federal Agency Just Halted Funding for New Lung Treatments and they do try their best to make this a scandal:

When the coronavirus kills, it attacks the lungs, filling them with fluid and robbing the body of oxygen. In chest X-rays, clear lungs turn white, a sign of how dangerously sick patients are.

But earlier this month, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, a federal health agency, abruptly notified companies and researchers that it was halting funding for treatments for this severe form of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The new policy highlights how staunchly the Trump administration has placed its bet on vaccines as the way to return American society and the economy to normal in a presidential election year. BARDA has pledged more than $2.2 billion in deals with five vaccine manufacturers for the coronavirus, compared with about $359 million toward potential Covid-19 treatments.

I think diverting funding from lung treatments to vaccines is the right thing to do. Note that we are not talking about reducing spending on patients. BARDA, as the name suggests, funds advanced research and development. Thus, the administration is diverting funding from advanced research and development for lung treatments to vaccines. What’s better a vaccine that prevents a lung treatment from ever being needed or a lung treatment? A billion dollars spent on vaccines looks a lot more productive right now than a billion dollars spent on investigating new lung treatments.

The real scandal is how little we are spending on advanced research for vaccines–$2.2 billion is a pittance, less than a day’s worth of economic loss caused by COVID. Given their limited budget, BARDA is making good investments. Congress, however, has not allocated enough money to BARDA, one of the few agencies that had the foresight to do the right things, such as investing in emergency vaccine capacity, even before the pandemic hit. Congress’s failure to fund BARDA is why the administration is scraping the bottom of the barrel to get them all the funding they can.

We should go big, really big, on vaccines. But when I talk with people in Congress, I tell them that a big plan is ideal but if we can’t do that then at least GET BARDA MORE MONEY!

Addendum: The fact that BARDA can’t get enough funding from Congress in a pandemic is a good example of why we need a Pandemic Trust Fund.

Juneteenth: Celebrate Freedom!

I have long favored a new national holiday so I am delighted that VA has recognized Juneteenth and I look forward to this being a national holiday. Juneteenth is a good bookend to July 4, a second day of independence that helped to fulfill the promise of the first. The National Museum of African American History and Culture notes:

Although the Emancipation Proclamation officially took effect on January 1, 1863, freedom did not immediately come for all enslaved people because Confederate-controlled states refused to implement it. Freedom finally came nationally on June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved people in the state were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as “Juneteenth” by the newly freed people in Texas.

The museum has an excellent online exhibit and tour.

FDA Allows Pooled Tests and a Call for Prizes

The FDA has announced they will no longer forbid pooled testing:

In order to preserve testing resources, many developers are interested in performing their testing using a technique of “pooling” samples. This technique allows a lab to mix several samples together in a “batch” or pooled sample and then test the pooled sample with a diagnostic test. For example, four samples may be tested together, using only the resources needed for a single test. If the pooled sample is negative, it can be deduced that all patients were negative. If the pooled sample comes back positive, then each sample needs to be tested individually to find out which was positive.

…Today, the FDA is taking another step forward by updating templates for test developers that outline the validation expectations for these testing options to help facilitate the preparation, submission, and authorization under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

This is good and will increase the effective number of tests by at least a factor of 2-3 and perhaps more.

In other news, Representative Beyer (D-VA), Representative Gonzalez (R-OH) and Paul Romer have an op-ed calling for more prizes for testing:

Offering a federal prize solves a critical part of that problem: laboratories lack the incentive and the funds for research and development of a rapid diagnostic test that will, in the best-case scenario, be rendered virtually unnecessary in a year.

…We believe in the ability of the American scientific community and economy to respond to the challenge presented by the coronavirus. Congress just has to give them the incentive.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have already begun a similar strategy with their $1.4 billion “shark tank,” awarding speedy regulatory approval to five companies that can produce these tests. Expanding the concept to academic labs through a National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST)-sponsored competition has the added benefit ultimately funding more groundbreaking research once the prize money has been awarded.

This is all good but frustrating. I made the case for prizes in Grand Innovation Prizes for Pandemics in March and Tyler and I have been pushing for pooled testing since late March. We were by no means the first to promote these ideas. I am grateful things are happening and relative to normal procedure I know this is fast but in pandemic time it is molasses slow.

Comparative Institutional Failure

The common element to our twin crises is that many of the government agencies we thought were keeping us safe and secure—the CDC, the FDA, the Police–have either failed or, worse, have been revealed to be active creators of danger and insecurity. Alex Tabarrok.

Derek Thompson writing at The Atlantic uses my quote as a jumping off point for a good piece on the failure of American institutions. He does a good job of covering the failures of the CDC, the FDA and the police but most interestingly asks why the FED has acted very differently.

While too many American police are escalating encounters like it’s 1990, and the FDA is slow-playing regulatory approval as if these are normal times, and the CDC is somehow still using fax machines, the Federal Reserve has junked old shibboleths about inflation and deficit spending and embraced a policy that might have scandalized mainstream economists in the 1990s. Rejecting the status-quo bias that plagues so many institutions, this 106-year-old is still changing with the world.

Why haven’t other American institutions done the same? Perhaps America’s dependency on old leadership makes our institutions exquisitely responsive to the anxieties and illusions of old Americans. Perhaps the nature of large bureaucracies is to become lost in the labyrinth of mission-creeping path dependency. Perhaps years of political polarization and right-wing anti-science, anti-expertise sentiments have wrung all of the fast-twitch smarts out of the government. Or perhaps we should just blame Trump, that sub-institutional creature summoned from the bilious id of an electorate that lost faith in elites when elites lost their grip on reality.

Whatever the true cause for our failure, when I look at the twin catastrophes of this annus horribilis, the plague and the police protests, what strikes me is that America’s safekeeping institutions have forgotten how to properly see the threats of the 21st century and move quickly to respond to them. Those who deny history may be doomed to repeat it. But those who deny the present are just doomed.

I see three reasons why the FED may have been different. First, the FED is one of the most independent agencies which may help to explain its faster and more adaptive behavior ala Garett Jones’s 10% Less Democracy. Second, and relatedly, the FED pulls a lot of leadership and staff from academia. That gives FED staff an affiliation goal and clique outside of politics which creates mental independence as well as political independence. Third, the FED was also tested in the last crisis and experience with crises helps as we have also seen in Asia tested by H1N1, SARS and MERS more than the US was.

I am not sure which, if any, of these explanations is the most important but I do think that we have a lot more to learn from comparative institutional analysis not just within the US but across countries as well.

Bloody Well Pay Them

The United States is one of the few countries in the world where plasma donors are paid and it is responsible for 70% of the global supply of plasma. If you add in the other countries that allow donors to be paid, including Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Czechia, the paid-donor countries account for nearly 90% of the total supply.

Countries that follow the WHOs guidance to rely exclusively on voluntary, unpaid donors all have shortages of plasma (hmmm…what’s the WHOs track record like?) So what do these countries do? Import plasma from the paid-donor countries. The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and some Canadian provinces, for example, prohibit paid donors and they import a majority of their plasma from paid donor countries. (See chart at right).

As Nobel prize winner Al Roth puts it, in his gentle way:

I find confusing the position of some countries that compensating domestic plasma donors is immoral, but filling the resulting shortage by purchasing plasma from the US is ok.

The UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada can afford their moral hypocrisy but their decision to forbid paid-donors reduces the world supply of plasma driving up the price and harming people in poorer countries.

I have cribbed from an excellent new report by Peter Jaworski, Bloody Well Pay Them: The Case for Voluntary Remunerated Plasma Collections.

Previous MR posts on plasma.

Contingent Wage Subsidies

Robertas Zubricka has a clever idea, Contingent Wage Subsidies. Many macroeconomic problems are caused by a coordination failure–you don’t spend because I’m not spending and vice-versa and so the economy becomes trapped in a low-spending, low-employment equilibrium. Zubrickas shows how to solve these coordination problems. The government announces a contingent wage subsidy, a subsidy that is paid only if hiring is low. If a firm hires and others do not they get the subsidy. If a firm hires and others do hire they get the demand. A no-lose proposition. Hence, all firms hire and the subsidy never has to be paid. Instead of a big push, a zero push! Here’s Zubrickas:

New hiring by one firm is a reason for new hiring by other firms because of employment externalities related to additional aggregate demand, new trading opportunities, or production synergies. Without a coordinated action, however, the virtuous hiring cycle may not start, stranding the economy in a low‐employment, low‐spending equilibrium as in the aftermath of the 2007–2009 financial crisis (OECD, 2016). The traditional approach to this problem emphasizes a “big push,” when one large player like the government spends enough to convince others to spend. In this paper, we show how a “zero push” can achieve the same results.

With the economy in a low‐employment equilibrium, we propose a policy that offers firms wage subsidies for new hires payable only if the total number of new hires made in the economy does not exceed a prespecified threshold. An example would be a promise to cover all new labor costs contingent on that less than, say, 100,000 new jobs are created in total. From a firm’s perspective two outcomes can occur from this policy. One outcome is when the number of new jobs is less than the threshold, in which case the firm has its additional labor costs covered while keeping all the additional revenue. The second outcome is when the threshold is met and no subsidies are paid. The firm then benefits from employment spillovers generated by a substantial increase in total employment which makes hiring profitable even without any subsidies. With hiring profitable in both scenarios and, thus, all firms hiring, the threshold for new hires is reached, bringing the economy to high‐employment equilibrium without any subsidies paid.

Attentive readers will note that the idea has the same structure as my dominant assurance contract (which Zubrickas notes was an inspiration).

Read the whole thing.

Tim Harford on Catastrophe and Innovation

Tim Harford has an excellent piece in the Financial Times that covers my work with the Kremer team on accelerating vaccines but weaves it into a larger panorama on the innovation slowdown and how barriers to innovation can sometimes break down with catastrophes.

There is no guarantee that a crisis always brings fresh ideas; sometimes a catastrophe is just a catastrophe. Still, there is no shortage of examples for when necessity proved the mother of invention, sometimes many times over.

The Economist points to the case of Karl von Drais, who invented an early model of the bicycle in the shadow of “the year without a summer” — when in 1816 European harvests were devastated by the after-effects of the gargantuan eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. Horses were starved of oats; von Drais’s “mechanical horse” needed no food. It is a good example. But one might equally point to infant formula and beef extract, both developed by Justus von Liebig in response to the horrifying hunger he had witnessed in Germany as a teenager in 1816.

Read the whole thing. I also highly recommend, Tim’s new book, The Next Fifty on how seemingly simple things like the brick changed the world.

Not From the Onion: Grenade Launchers for School Police

LATimes: Los Angeles Unified school police officials said Tuesday that the department will relinquish some of the military weaponry it acquired through a federal program that furnishes local law enforcement with surplus equipment. The move comes as education and civil rights groups have called on the U.S. Department of Defense to halt the practice for schools.

The Los Angeles School Police Department, which serves the nation’s second-largest school system, will return three grenade launchers but intends to keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle it received through the program.

A school police department with grenade launchers and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle! Only in America.

The article is from 2014 but relevant to current discussions of militarized police.

Hat tip: Noah Smith.

L.A. Unified's police department received a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle like this one through a federal program.

The NIH Should Run Human Challenge Trials for COVID

As I have been warning, social distancing measures are making it more difficult to test COVID vaccines even as the cost of COVID remains very high.

WashPost: The Oxford group earlier boasted that it had an 80 percent chance of developing an effective vaccine by September. Hill said the difficulty of testing the vaccine in Britain may mean there’s only a 50 percent chance of success within that time frame now.

The probability of an Oxford vaccine by September has fallen by 30 percentage points. Oxford isn’t the only vaccine and we may be able to find clinical trial candidates in Brazil and the United States where infections continue to occur. So let’s be generous and convert this into say a 10% increase in a one month’s delay of any vaccine. The world economy is losing $375 billion a month so this means we have lost an expected $37.5 billion. That number highlights why we should be willing to pay large sums to speed vaccines and it also indicates the immense value of human challenge trials.

More than 28,000 people have already volunteered to be part of a challenge trial and if we paid a few hundred volunteers a million dollars each it would be worthwhile (and would surely increase the number of volunteers).

The main impediment to human challenge trials appears to be skittish firms rather than bureaucratic governments which is why challenge trials should test multiple vaccines under the auspices of the NIH. The NIH umbrella can protect the firms and increase the efficiency of the trials.

Addendum: China is adopting a bold approach. We used to be bold. Apathy is killing us.

Underpoliced and Overprisoned, revisited

I’ve been writing for years that the United States is underpoliced and overprisoned. Time for a review:

NYTimes: “The United States today is the only country I know of that spends more on prisons than police,” said Lawrence W. Sherman, an American criminologist on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Cambridge University in Britain. “In England and Wales, the spending on police is twice as high as on corrections. In Australia it’s more than three times higher. In Japan it’s seven times higher. Only in the United States is it lower, and only in our recent history.”

…Dr. Ludwig and Philip J. Cook, a Duke University economist, calculate that nationwide, money diverted from prison to policing would buy at least four times as much reduction in crime. They suggest shrinking the prison population by a quarter and using the savings to hire another 100,000 police officers.

Here’s a graph from Daniel Bier on the ratio of police to prison spending comparing the United States to Europe. The US spends relatively less on police and more on prisons than any European country.

And here’s a graph from President Obama’s CEA report on incarceration and the criminal justice system. The graph shows that the United States employs many more prison guards per-capita than does the rest of the world. Given our prison population that isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that on a per-capita basis we employ 35% fewer police than the world average. That’s crazy.

polce v prison

Our focus on prisons over police may be crazy but it is consistent with what I called Gary Becker’s Greatest Mistake, the idea that an optimal punishment system combines a low probability of being punished with a harsh punishment if caught. That theory runs counter to what I have called the good parenting theory of punishment in which optimal punishments are quick, clear, and consistent and because of that, need not be harsh.

Increasing the number of police on the street, for example, would increase capture rates and deter crime and by doing so it would also reduce the prison population. Indeed, in a survey of crime and policing that Jon Klick and I wrote in 2010 we found that a cost-benefit analysis would justify doubling the number of police on the street. We based our calculation not only on our own research from Washington DC but also on the research of many other economists which together provide a remarkably consistent estimate that a 10% increase in policing would reduce crime by 3 to 5%. Using our estimates, as well as those of some more recent papers, the Council of Economic Advisers also estimates big benefits (somewhat larger than ours) from an increase in policing. Moreover, what the CEA makes clear is that a dollar spent on policing is more effective at reducing crime than a dollar spent on imprisoning.

Can we increase the number of police? Not today but in recent years large majorities of blacks, hispanics and whites have said that they support hiring more police. It is true that blacks are more skeptical than whites of police and have every reason to be. Some of the communities most in need of more police are also communities with some of the worst policing problems. Better policing and more policing, however, complement one another. Demilitarize the police, end the war drugs, regulate people less, restrain police unions and eliminate qualified immunity so that police brutality can be punished and the bad apples removed and the demand for police will soar.

As we reform and unbundle policing let us remember that lower crime has been one of the greatest benefits to African American men over the past 30 years.

…the most disadvantaged people have gained the most from the reduction in violent crime.

Though homicide is not a common cause of death for most of the United States population, for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34 it is the leading cause, which means that any change in the homicide rate has a disproportionate impact on them. The sociologist Michael Friedson and I calculated what the life expectancy would be today for blacks and whites had the homicide rate never shifted from its level in 1991. We found that the national decline in the homicide rate since then has increased the life expectancy of black men by roughly nine months.

…The everyday lived experience of urban poverty has also been transformed. Analyzing rates of violent victimization over time, I found that the poorest Americans today are victimized at about the same rate as the richest Americans were at the start of the 1990s. That means that a poor, unemployed city resident walking the streets of an average city today has about the same chance of being robbed, beaten up, stabbed or shot as a well-off urbanite in 1993. Living in poverty used to mean living with the constant threat of violence. In most of the country, that is no longer true.

More police on the street is one cause, among many, of lower crime. Chicago just had a horrendous day with 18 innocent people murdered in mostly random drive-by shootings, in part because the police were occupied with protests and riots. As we reform, unbundle, and reimagine, let’s be careful not to reverse nearly thirty years of falling crime which has produced a tremendous increase in the standard of living of the poorest Americans.

We need better policing so that we can all be comfortable with more policing.

Colin Camerer: Economist in the Wild

The latest video in the MRU series, Economists in the Wild, features the excellent Colin Camerer talking about his research comparing what people say they will do with what they actually do and then asking whether you can use brain imaging to better predict what people will actually do. Very cool.

Each of these videos also includes a teacher’s resource, a set of questions that teachers can assign to students.