Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I'm sure that this book, Freakonomics [the hyperlink takes you to Amazon, which was the cheapest provider of this book new (which didn't require a membership) and which has a good
customer history, that I found on 5/23 using Best Web Buys, a price bot I rely on for books at a good price] will be interesting given the good press its gotten in the NY Times, The Economist, and just recently in last week's U.S. News & World Report, specifically in The dismal science gets its freak on. Now some head scratching tidbits come out of this article, specifically the following:

Levitt analyzes data like other economists but does so to answer obscure but everyday questions. Does reading to your young child make him smarter? Turns out, no. Why do drug dealers live with their mothers? Like in most corporate structures, only the dealers at the top of the food chain make money. Which is more dangerous, a swimming pool or a gun? Your child is 100 times more likely to drown in your pool than die from your gun.

Now to be honest I hadn't given much thought to drug dealers, but the swimming pool vs. gun thing caught my mind. When we learn about a kid who's killed themselves or someone else from a gun kept in the house there's a visceral sense of how obviously dangerous having a gun in the house is and how there should be a law against having guns in a home with kids in it. But then I never really considered pools, and when you look at it, the family with a pool has a 100 times greater chance of killing their kid than the one with a gun --- so are pool owners negligent such as we seem to believe gun owners are in a very near knee jerk fashion? Mind you, I hate guns, I think they should be outlawed or at least very heavily regulated, but using the argument that guns kill kids in their homes, well that may be true but it's put in something of a different light when you consider it relative to pools. Of course a kid can't take your pool to school and shoot his [alas, it's invariably males doing this sort of thing] friends, but then your kid can invite his or her [here it's just as likely to be male or female, so does this increase the odds over gun deaths from weapons taken from home?] friends over to use the pool when you're not around and potentially harm some one that way, so very likely it all evens out.

Here's the book review done by the Times, Everything He Always Wanted to Know, worth perusal if you think you may be interested. Herein is mentioned an issue Levitt gained some notoriety with some years ago regarding abortion:

A FEW years ago, a young economist named Steven D. Levitt became briefly
notorious for collaborating on a research paper that contained a strikingly novel thesis: abortion curbs crime. What Levitt and his co-author claimed, specifically, was that the sharp drop in the United States crime rate during the 1990's -- commonly attributed to factors like better policing, stiffer gun laws and an aging population -- was in fact largely due to the Roe v. Wade decision two decades earlier. The logic was simple: unwanted children are more likely to grow up to become criminals; legalized abortion leads to less unwantedness; therefore, abortion leads to less crime.

Wow ... unwantedness.

I have to say that this all makes sense, but at the same time find myself squirming a bit over the whole thing. But it's not like anyone's using abortion as a social policy with the specific intent of reducing crime in the streets, this is just an unexpected, and one of the few welcome [I support a woman's right to chose, but I am very uncomfortable with the whole idea of abortion as a way of dealing with an unwanted fetus --- bottom line, my belief in a woman's right to do what she wants with her body trumps my discomfort] side effects of this procedure. Now of course I now have to wonder if a similar reduction in crime was noted when birth control in the U.S., specifically the pill, took off in the sixties. Well, whatever, it surely would be grand if we didn't have to worry about "unwantedness", but that'll be a long time in coming I fear.

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