CNN ran an article detailing how student activists “led” the Washington, D.C., March for Our Lives rally on Saturday, downplaying the heavy organizational support they received from adult gun control advocates. Recent survey data show that only 10 percent of rally attendees were under 18 and the average age of the adults present was 49. And while most of the press coverage has implied that young people are overwhelmingly in favor of more gun control, comments from actual young people suggest their views are not quite so monolithic.
…A 2015 Pew poll found that only 49 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds favored an “assault weapons” ban, compared to 55 percent of those aged 30 to 49 and 63 percent of those 65 or older. A March 6 Quinnipiac poll, taken several weeks after the Parkland shooting, found that only 46 percent of 18-to-34 year olds support an assault weapons ban, rising to 51 percent for those aged 35 to 49, 68 percent for those aged 50-to-64, and 80 percent for those over 65.
…Millennials who support the Second Amendment are themselves surprised at the pro-gun leanings of their peers. When an NPR reporter cited polling data indicating that young people tend to be skeptical of gun control, 19-year-old gun rights activist Abigail Kaye responded, “That’s surprising, because I feel like we’re a more progressive generation…We’ve grown up more, I think, with this kind of gun violence, so you’d think maybe we’d push for more regulations.”
No wonder she’s surprised. Contrary to the impression left by most of the press coverage, the gun control battle is being fought within generational cohorts, not just between them.
A slightly different picture than one might suppose given recent events.
My article on the LDS Church and immigration should be out–hopefully by the end of the month–in the next issue of BYU Studies Quarterly. In it, I tackle five common objections to immigration:
Immigrants “steal” native jobs.
Immigrants depress native wages.
Immigrants undermine host country culture and institutions.
Immigrants are a fiscal burden and increase the welfare state.
Immigrants are criminals and terrorists.
But one objection that is gaining more steam is that diversity leads to distrust. This isn’t without some empirical backing (though this is likely unknown to most of those making the argument). According Bloomberg‘s Noah Smith, famed political scientist Robert Putnam found evidence over a decade ago that ethnic diversity via immigration leads to a decrease in trust (social capital). Smith continues,
But this doesn’t mean that it’s a scientific fact that diversity decreases trust. There are plenty of studies that don’t support Putnam’s conclusion — or even find the opposite. For example, another study in the UK found no correlation between diversity and trust, while a third found that the negative relationship disappears after controlling for economic variables. Another Europe-wide study found no correlation, while yet another found that diversity is actually associated with a long-term increase in trust.
A casual look at international survey measures will show that — as [Megan] McArdle notes — ethnic homogeneity is no guarantee of a trusting society. Among rich countries, Scandinavia is the most trusting region, but diverse, immigrant-friendly places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore actually score higher than homogeneous, low-immigration countries like South Korea, Russia, Japan and Poland…What’s more, even if diversity does decrease trust, the effect might not be that strong. Economist Bryan Caplan examined Putnam’s research and found that even if the sociologist’s numbers are completely correct, huge changes in diversity would reduce measures of trust only by a few percent.
An economist would also note that aside from simply asking people survey questions, researchers should look at how people actually behave. Ethnic diversity in Southern California has been linked to lower crime and higher home values. Studies reliably find that immigration reduces crime in the U.S., and this also appears to be true in Canada. Meanwhile, recent evidence on migration patterns show that Americans have tended to move to diverse neighborhoods since around 1990 — voting with their feet rather than their survey answers.
Furthermore, there is “a theory that prolonged, positive contact with people of other races reduces racial tensions. This “contact hypothesis” has plenty of support in the literature — studies show that having college dorm-mates of a different race, or serving in an integrated military, reduces discrimination. This suggests that over the long term, diverse neighborhoods will have a positive impact on society-wide trust. A recent survey of 90 papers found…[that] an increase in diversity might initially cause people to avoid interacting with their strange new neighbors, [but] over the long term it makes them realize that people of other races aren’t so scary after all.” Elsewhere, Smith points to research that
seems to show that Americans are increasingly open to living in diverse neighborhoods. A 2016 paper by the National University of Singapore’s Kwan Ok Lee finds that since 1990, white flight and white avoidance of black neighborhoods has decreased dramatically. In fact, white Americans in recent decades have tended to move toward diversity rather than away from it.
Urban economist Joe Cortright, blogging at City Observatory, summarizes the results. Lee looks at U.S. Census tracts, neighborhoods that on average have about 4,000 residents. In addition to the racial makeup of neighborhoods, she was able to track where individuals moved to and from.
Lee’s first finding is that American neighborhoods are becoming more diverse. Majority-white neighborhoods were about two-thirds of the total from 1970 to 1990, but during the next two decades that number was only 57 percent. The probability of single-race neighborhoods becoming mixed increased substantially. Meanwhile, a small but growing number of neighborhoods have a substantial numbers of whites, blacks and Hispanics or Asians.
…From 1990 to 2010, only one-fifth of mixed black-white neighborhoods became segregated — only half the rate of re-segregation that prevailed in earlier decades. White flight is still happening in some places, but much less than before. Meanwhile, multiracial neighborhoods tend to be the most stable — once a neighborhood becomes multiracial, Lee found that it had a 90 percent chance of remaining that way for at least 20 years.
Lee’s final finding is the most striking. She found that once Americans move to a mixed-race neighborhood, they tend to either stay there, or move to another mixed neighborhood. This is true for both white and black Americans. In other words, neighborhood diversity isn’t just a result of changing demographics, but of Americans choosing to live near people of other races.
Lee’s finding confirms the results of other studies. Despite much alarm over gentrification, it turns out that gentrified neighborhoods don’t lose their poor and minority populations. According to a 2009 study by Columbia University urban planning professor Lance Freeman, gentrification actually tends to increase diversity in the long term.
What about at the state level? There, diversity is increasing as well. Demographer William H. Frey has chronicled how both whites and minorities have been moving to diverse states like Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia and Washington. Texas, a majority-minority state, is still a leading destination for white migration.
Residential diversity isn’t the only kind of integration, of course. On other measures, the evidence is mixed — interracial marriage has climbed dramatically, but public schools have become more segregated by race. Meanwhile, the average numbers described in studies like Lee’s and Freeman’s mask considerable white flight in some areas.
And the most important caveat is the political one. Fear of increasing diversity at the national level was strongly correlated with support for President Donald Trump. Even if a majority of Americans are embracing the country’s increasingly diverse demographics, a strong and vocal minority is resisting the change with every weapon at its disposal.
Regarding this last point, I write in my upcoming paper,
A particularly interesting aspect of public attitudes toward immigration is that of political ignorance. Multiple studies have shown that political ignorance is rampant among average voters, and this holds true when it comes to immigration policy. As legal scholar Ilya Somin explains, “Immigration restriction . . . is one that has long-standing associations with political ignorance. In both the United States and Europe, survey data suggest that it is strongly correlated with overestimation of the proportion of immigrants in the population, lack of sophistication in making judgments about the economic costs and benefits of immigration, and general xenophobic attitudes toward foreigners. By contrast, studies show that there is little correlation between opposition to immigration and exposure to labor market competition from recent immigrants.” One pair of economists found that those voting to leave the European Union in the Brexit referendum, who were motivated largely by a desire to restrict immigration, “were overwhelmingly more likely to live in areas with very low levels of migration.” Similarly, voters who supported Donald Trump during the US election were more likely to oppose liberalizing immigration laws (even compared to other Republicans), but least likely to live in racially diverse neighborhoods. In short, both political ignorance and lack of interaction with foreigners tend to inflame anti-immigration sentiments. These sentiments are what George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan refers to as antiforeign bias: “a tendency to underestimate the economic benefits of interaction with foreigners.” In fact, economists take nearly the opposite view from the general public on immigration.
First, we sought to understand the sources of the decline in teen employment that began around 2000—in particular, the decline in employment among those age 16–17—as well as, more generally, changes in teen employment and school enrollment behavior. Second, we wanted to explore the implications of these changes for human capital, given that the decline in employment consisted of fewer teens in school and employed, and more teens in school exclusively, suggesting a greater focus on schooling. We have considered three explanatory factors: (1) a rising minimum wage that could reduce employment opportunities for teens and potentially also increase the value of investing in schooling; (2) rising returns to schooling; and (3) increasing competition from immigrants that, like the minimum wage, could reduce employment opportunities but also raise the returns to human capital investment.
With respect to the first question, we find some evidence of the expected effects of all three explanatory factors on teen employment and school enrollment—and in particular for those age 16–17. However, in terms of explaining changes in the behavior of teens age 16–17 since 2000, the role of the minimum wage is predominant. Increases in the returns to schooling appear to have played almost no role, and immigrant competition a minor role. In contrast, our simulation results suggest that minimum wages explain about a quarter of the shift, since 2000, from being simultaneously employed and enrolled in school to being exclusively enrolled in school.
Turning to the second question, our examination of the longer-term effects of these three factors uncovers no evidence that higher minimum wages, which underlie teens shifting from combining work and schooling to being in school exclusively, led to greater human capital investment. If anything, the evidence is in the other direction. Thus, it is more likely that the principal effect of higher minimum wages in the 2000s, in terms of human capital, was to reduce employment opportunities that could enhance labor market experience. Further, we find no evidence of net-positive human capital effects of rising returns to schooling or increased immigration in this period, even though these latter two factors—more so immigration—played at least a minor role in the changes in teen employment and school enrollment.
Based on this evidence, then, it appears that the changes in teen labor market and schooling behavior since 2000—stemming in part from adverse effects of minimum wages on employment opportunities, and to a lesser extent from immigration—did not reflect greater human capital investment that would raise future earnings. It is not clear that immigration delivered any other short-term benefits to teens. In contrast, some teens surely benefited directly in the short run from higher minimum wages. But there appear to have been either no effects or adverse effects on longer-run earnings for those exposed to these higher minimum wages as teenagers (pgs. 47-48).
RAND’s extensive report does not make any sweeping declarations about gun policy. It does, however, make clear that gun control research is very limited, calling on Congress to lift the NRA-backed funding freeze. It argues that this freeze has, by making it difficult to conduct better studies, led to a confusing empirical environment, where it’s easy for groups on both sides of the debate to cite shoddy work that supports their prior beliefs.
“The studies that have been done often reach opposite conclusions to each other,” Andrew Morral, the head of RAND’s gun policy initiative, told me. The lack of thorough research, he added, “creates this kind of fact-free environment in which people can cherry-pick any study that happens to support what their priors are on the effects of the law.”
Morral’s team spent two years reviewing US-based studies published over the past several decades, pulling out the most rigorous to try to find some “incontrovertible truths.” RAND concluded that, first and foremost, far more research is necessary. “Many of the matters that people disagree on when they disagree on gun policy have not been rigorously studied in ways that produce reasonably unambiguous results,” Morral said.
But there were some things that could be gleaned from the available evidence. While RAND as a nonpartisan group avoided any sweeping policy conclusions in its analysis, its review does seem to point in a direction, based on my own reading: More permissive gun policies lead to more gun deaths, while more restrictive policies lead to fewer gun deaths. Coupled with other evidence in this area, that supports the idea that more guns lead to more gun deaths.
On the gun control front, there’s moderate evidence that background checks reduce suicide and violent crime, limited evidence that prohibitions associated with mental illness reduce suicide, moderate evidence that those prohibitions reduce violent crime, and supportive evidence that child-access prevention laws reduce suicides and unintentional injuries and deaths.
Meanwhile, there’s limited evidence that concealed carry laws increase violent crime and unintentional injuries and deaths. And there’s moderate evidence that “stand your ground” laws — NRA-backed measures that expand when someone can use a gun or other weapons to defend himself — increase violent crime.
If you put this all together, it suggests that restrictive laws seem to lead to fewer gun deaths, while the permissive laws seem to lead to more gun deaths.
…The think tank found supportive evidence for child access prevention laws reducing suicide and unintentional injuries and deaths. And Morral agreed that the evidence is stronger on background checks and prohibitions associated with mental illness than other gun policies.
As for the correlation between gun availability and gun deaths, “RAND takes a more skeptical view. The report argued that it can be hard to disentangle the relationship between more guns and more gun deaths: Is it the abundance of guns leading to more gun deaths, or are people seeing a lot of violence in their communities and reacting to it by stocking up on guns to protect themselves? RAND concluded that there’s just not enough in the research it reviewed to solve this chicken-or-egg scenario.” In short, “more research is needed…Federal funding could go to surveys and on-the-ground research that could help address the gaps. The funding is something, however, that pro-gun groups like the NRA have worked against for years. And so far, their tactics have worked — keeping the federal freeze in place. So although there’s evidence that some gun control measures could work, we by and large remain blind to what specific solutions would work best and what all of their effects would be.”
I’m a big fan of both Anglican New Testament scholar N.T. Wright and Eastern Orthodox theologian David B. Hart and have read a number of books by both. A few years ago, Wright published his translation of the New Testament. Hart recently published his own translation through Yale University. And apparently, the two have been sparring over Hart’s translation. According to Christianity Today,
One notable scholar who does not appear to be particularly impressed by Hart’s translation is Wright, who is probably the closest thing current New Testament scholarship comes to having a celebrity. His review of Hart’s New Testament, published January 15 in The Christian Century, details a lengthy list of disagreements with Hart’s translation choices, and ends with the backhanded compliment that Hart’s translation is “as idiosyncratic as it is bold.”
Wright’s primary concern seems to be Hart’s understanding and use of language—both Greek and English. Hart claims his translation will in many parts be “an almost pitilessly literal translation,” intending to “make the original text visible through as thin a layer of translation as I can contrive to superimpose upon it.”
While Wright seems to respect what Hart is trying to accomplish, he nevertheless argues that instead of making the original text visible, Hart may actually be obscuring it by trying to render Greek syntax and idioms in English. “Greek and English, as Hart knows well, do not work the same way,” Wright argues. “… The strange English here has nothing to do with a cultural clash between the first Christians and ourselves.”
Hart didn’t waste any time in his response:
Hart’s rejoinder is, like Wright’s initial review, full of zingers and jabs and worth a full read. Hart grants Wright a few basic premises, then wades right into the details of Wright’s critique—meeting him point for point, and then some. Hart notes in the comments on the blog post that he was “annoyed … that Wright wrote any review at all … because he has a competing version out there [published in 2011], and it’s an old rule that one doesn’t write reviews—especially caustic reviews—of competing books.”
Hart characterizes Wright’s review as a “catalogue of complaints,” and thinks that Wright’s own work “suffers from a dangerous combination of the conventional and the idiosyncratic, with a few significant historical misconceptions mixed in … imposing meanings on the text that best conform to his own convictions, plausible or not.” Hart concludes one particular point about how to translate a noun in Greek that lacks an article by saying, “Here I am right and Wright is wrong,” but it would not be a stretch to say that this statement characterizes much of Hart’s response.
So what’s the heart of the issue? The article concludes,
Where Wright is trying to translate the Greek of the New Testament (replete with its Greco-Roman and Second Temple Jewish valences) into modern English, Hart instead is attempting to translate the Greek of the New Testament (in all of its original “mysteries and uncertainties and surprises”) in modern English.
For Hart, the focus is communicating the “strangeness” of the Greek words and phrases themselves, which occasionally requires dips into esoteric vocabulary in order to find just the right word and a willingness to forgo normal syntax in order to allow the “Greekness” to come through. By contrast, for Wright the focus is communicating the strangeness of what those Greek words were conveying, meaning removing as many barriers to receiving and understanding the difference between a first-century viewpoint and our contemporary one.
They are both aiming at very similar goals, but their methods are starkly different. They both want the original to shine through as much as possible, to give, as Wright puts it, “a first-hand … understanding of what the New Testament said in its own world.” For Hart, this means making English say things as “Greekly” as he can manage; for Wright, it means making English mean Greek things as much as he can.
The translations of both of these scholars are impressive achievements, and both deserve praise and appreciation for their careful and dedicated work to produce them. Neither is necessarily “better” or “more faithful” than the other; they are simply aimed at different things (as their acrimonious repartee displays). Likewise, as both scholars attest in their introductions, neither of these translations is intended nor fit for regular use in church or for devotion. Rather, they both serve as valuable and faithful opportunities to encounter the text of the Bible anew and afresh.
Last month, Monica had a follow-up post in which she introduced MediaBiasFactCheck.com. Reading these posts piqued my interest in analyzing my own media consumption and, therefore, my own biases. So, in the name of transparency, I have combed through every single one of my blog posts here at Difficult Run. I checked every single link, ran that link by MediaBiasFactCheck, and properly categorized it. I then counted how many times a source was linked.
Now, as fun and insightful as this may be, it’s highly unscientific. Here’s why:
MediaBiasFactCheck.com is not a verified, academic source: It’s simply a useful internet tool with its own biases. For example, it labels the BioLogos Foundation–a Christian group established by Francis Collins, the former Director of the Human Genome Project–as “Conspiracy-Pseudoscience” because “they ascribe evolution to the hand and workings of God, which is not known or provable[.]” The problem with this label is that BioLogos isn’t doing science. It’s doing theology (which is why you have so many articles dedicated to scriptural interpretation by biblical scholars). Or, more accurately, it’s thinking about science theologically. If someone is citing it as a scientific source, they misunderstand the nature of the group.
Every link is counted equally: I could be trashing a Washington Post article, praising one by Vox, and having a good-natured debate with the National Review. The content could also be very different. One could be reporting a new scientific study, while the other provides an opinion on the current political climate. Doesn’t matter. Every link counts the same.
Oft-cited sources tend to be a handful of authors: For example, the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) makes it into my top 10 cited sources (see below). However, this consists of largely three authors: James Pethokoukis, Mark Perry, and W. Braford Wilcox. While not always the case with Reason, the bulk of my citations come from their science correspondent Ronald Bailey. This means a good chunk of the Reason citations are summaries of new scientific studies rather than libertarian screeds. Finally, some citations of partisan sources feature their token other partisan (e.g., Megan McArdle or Tyler Cowen in Bloomberg). So the partisanship of some sources may only be surface level.
Links/quotations are incestuous: I use a lot of quotes in my posts. These quotations are often self-referential. Washington Post articles link to other Washington Post articles. Same with the New York Times. Same with Reason. Even though I may be quoting only one article, those quotations may have five other links to the same source. And those links get counted (see above).
The Left/Right dichotomy is flawed: I read a lot of what would be considered libertarian material (e.g., Reason). Libertarians are often seen as conservatives, yet libertarians tend to oppose conservatives on issues like immigration, trade, same-sex marriage, drug laws, military intervention, etc. This makes the lumping of libertarian sources with “the Right” problematic.
So, after all those caveats, here is what my blogging at Difficult Run looks like:
If Left-Center, Least, and Right-Center are considered “Centrist,” then 80.88% of my links are Centrist with only 9.2% being Leftist and 10% being to the Right. However, if I consider Left-Center as part of the Left and Right-Center as part of the Right, then 45.62% of my links are Leftist, 21.61% are Centrist, and 32.77% are to the Right.
The WaPo has an article claiming that there is no free-speech crisis, and providing stats to back up the claim. The article did not convince me. Here’s why.
It’s Not Just About Free Speech
The decline of free speech on college campuses is not the root problem; it’s a concerning symptom of a broader malady. In particular, the folks who are concerned about this issue posit that there’s a tendency of a radical minority to shut down political discourse as a political tactic. Although a lot of problems in the country are bipartisan, this one isn’t. It’s a peculiarly left-wing malady that reflects a growing contempt by many on the modern left for the values of liberalism that once defined it. I mean liberal in the old sense of the word, as in emphasizing individualism.
This isn’t an accusation from the outside, by the way, it’s an avowed element of one of the core intellectual components of Critical Race Theory. One definition states flatly that “CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy.”
So it’s not that there’s this explicitly anti-free speech trend in college campuses. It’s that there’s a virulent new ideology that uses attacks on free speech as a first resort.
Not All Speech is Equal
This being the case, looking for general survey results that attack free speech is misguided on multiple levels. First, it’s possible that the anti-free speech crowd are too small to register much in surveys but still powerful enough to create a climate of fear. In fact, that’s basically exactly what people concerned about this issue are saying. Second, even if you can get a survey with enough granularity to pick up on this minority, they aren’t opposed to free speech in all cases, but only in some cases. If you ask them about the wrong cases, you won’t measure anything at all.
Bearing that in mind, what kind of survey does the WaPo piece rely on? One that asks whether or not gay people should be allowed to give a speech. I kid you not. That, and an example about an anti-American Muslim cleric, are the leading examples. If you wanted to design survey results to be willfully blind to the actual concern, you couldn’t do better than this.
What are We Trying to Measure?
Speaking of willfully blind, the last section cites research by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that there were only 35 no-platforming attempts in 2017 with only 19 being successful. So, “In a country with over 4,700 schools, that hardly constitutes a crisis.”
The meaningless of this statistic is impressive, given that Jeffrey Adam Sachs went to the trouble of finding and citing a dataset, but apparently not copy-pasting it into Excel to do some super-basic charting. Your first question might be, “Well, 35 attempts in 2017 doesn’t sound too bad, but is there a trend?” That would be anybody’s first question, I’d think, and here’s what that chart looks like:
Well, gee. There’s an upward trend if ever I saw one. And remember, we said that this was an ideologically-biased trend. FIRE helpfully sorts the no-platforming attempts into left and right, so what does that breakdown look like?
We’ve got a more or less flat line from the right, and a pronounced, multi-year upward trend for the left starting a little less than 10 years ago. It’s almost as though all those people who are worried about a disturbing new anti-free speech trend coming from the political left might have something in the data to substantiate their concerns! Again: the same dataset that Sachs cited (but apparently didn’t really look at).
This doesn’t go directly to Sachs’ claim that 35 incidents out of 4,900 universities isn’t enough to care about, but that’s a questionable assumption if ever there was one. First of all, I’m curious as to what Sachs’ threshold is. How many times do left-wing radical have to shut-up speakers they don’t like in specifically the places ostensibly designated for discussing controversial, diverse ideas before it becomes a problem?
And then there’s the fact that this doesn’t reveal anything about how many controversial speakers never get invited at all because administrators don’t want to deal with protests? Counting free speech in terms of protests is fundamentally a strange concept. I would expect both a libertarian utopia and an Orwellian dystopia to have essentially zero protests, so what does the absence of protests say about free speech? Only that it’s not an issue. When it’s as prevalent as the air we breath, no one protests. And when it’s completely repressed, no one protests.
But when free speech is in a transitional period–away from or towards repression–wellthat’s when I’d expect to see a spike.
And keep in mind: there’s a lot more going on than just no-platforming. One of the most important functions of no-platforming is not only to dissuade controversial speakers from visiting the campus, but to create a climate of ideological intolerance and intimidation that keeps ordinary students from speaking their minds, something that is going on, as Sachs concedes: “Very conservative students also tend to report that they are less comfortable expressing themselves in the classroom than very liberal students.”
Some folks might not like that I’ve singled out the left in this piece, especially when I try to be even-handed. I get that. I do try to be even-handed. That’s not going to change. This post doesn’t represent a new, angrier, more partisan turn for me. This just happens to be one, specific, exceptional case where the cards don’t break evenly. The left has a bigger problem here.
But that doesn’t mean the right doesn’t have one! You could easily say that Trump’s populism and the entire Alt-Right is nothing but the right’s attempt to catch up with the left’s new-found identical politics. And you’d be right. And, lamentably, the right is a fast learner in this regard. It could very well be that–shortly–the right will have caught up with its own radical fringe of anti-free speech zealots.
Whether or not you call this a “crisis” is just semantics. What does seem evident is that there is a rise in no-platforming protests, that it is stemming primarily from the left, and that it is happening at the same time as a tide of research indicates ideological discrimination on campuses is widespread and pernicious for both students, professors, and research. For more on that, just check up on the Heterodox Academy’s problem statement.
Democrats “do not do well with white men, and we don’t do well with married, white women,” she said. “And part of that is an identification with the Republican Party and a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.”
Maybe insulting the demographics you can’t win over will improve your odds in the future.
Shortly after the election, I wrote a much more detailed explanation of why white women may have rejected Clinton. Check it out here.
In an interview in the Regional Economist, St. Louis Fed Assistant Vice President Bill Dupor lays out the competing views of economists:
According to one view, purchases by the government cause a chain reaction of spending. That is, when the government buys $1 worth of goods and services, people who receive that $1 will save some of the money and spend the rest, and so on. This theory suggests that the “government spending multiplier” is greater than 1, meaning that the government’s spending of $1 leads to an increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $1.
The other view suggests that government spending may “crowd out” economic activity in the private sector. For example, government spending might be used to hire workers who would otherwise be employed in the private sector. As another example, if the government pays for its purchases by issuing debt, that debt could lead to a reduction in private investment (due to an increase in interest rates). In this case, the $1 increase in government spending leads to an increase in GDP of less than $1 because of the decline in private investment. Therefore, the government spending multiplier is less than 1.
His own research
examined the impact of defense spending on the U.S. economy in the post-World War II period. Our results suggest that the multiplier is less than 1, meaning that the government spending causes some crowding out of private economic activity. In particular, we found that an additional $1 in defense spending leads to a reduction of about 50 cents from some other part of the economy.
He also “studied the effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, with a primary focus on employment. My general finding is that the government was able to create jobs but at a fairly expensive cost. For example, in one study I worked on, I found that creating a job lasting one year cost the government about $100,000, whereas the median compensation for a U.S. worker was roughly $40,000.” In short, “government spending does not seem to be a very cost-effective way to stimulate the economy and create jobs. However, economists have a lot more to learn on this topic.”
Each time our country focuses on the gun debate, a lot of proponents of gun control accuse gun rights advocates of not caring whether people die. It’s my impression that gun control proponents believe gun rights advocates disagree with gun control legislation because we are selfish, insane, and possibly sociopathic. If we cared about saving innocent lives, especially those of school children, why would we fight against common sense gun reform? I’d like to offer a few thoughts on how about half of America could disagree with certain gun control proposals for reasons other than mental or moral defect.
1) Gun rights advocates think of each gun policy in terms of a cost benefit analysis. Is there evidence that Policy X will decrease the frequency or lethality of mass shootings or of gun crime in general? How will the policy affect citizens’ abilities to defend themselves? Is it Constitutional?
It’s my impression that many gun control advocates don’t view policy proposals the same way. I’ve seen a lot to suggest gun control advocates believe (a) few or no people really use their guns in self defense and (b) either the Constitution has been interpreted incorrectly by SCOTUS or, even if the Founders did intend personal gun ownership, their views were borne of circumstances that no longer apply today. And I expect that if I too thought the factors of self-defense and Constitutionality were greatly exaggerated or even made up, I would view certain gun policies very differently. If you don’t believe the policy will cost anything substantial, you don’t really need to do a cost benefit analysis (and therefore you will have a very different idea of which reforms are “common sense”). I think, generally, that’s how most gun control advocates see this, but I’m open to correction there.
2) There seems to be an asymmetry of knowledge about guns between the gun control and gun rights sides, and it influences whether each side thinks a given policy will be effective or have undesirable side effects.
I get how gun rights advocates come off as pedantic when correcting terminology, and it’s easy for me to believe that there are people who really are just trying to feel superior or make the other side feel foolish. But I think the terminology and concepts are a lot more than semantics: they are directly relevant to the effects a given policy will have.
And from the gun rights side, it appears that the people most passionate and insistent on certain policies have little understanding of what those policies would mean. I’m really not trying to be rude and I’m sorry if it comes off that way. But the same side posting memes like this…
The bill prohibits the “sale, transfer, production, and importation” of semi-automatic rifles and pistols that can hold a detachable magazine, as well as semi-automatic rifles with a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds. Additionally, the legislation bans the sale, transfer, production, and importation of semi-automatic shotguns with features such as a pistol grip or detachable stock, and ammunition feeding devices that can hold more than 10 rounds.
For reference, many of the most recommended pistols bought for home defense and as concealed carry firearms are semi-automatic and can hold more than 10 rounds; it’s also standard for pistols to have detachable magazines.
I think for the most part the people who support that legislation don’t even realize that’s what the legislation would do. They believe it would ban only the so-called assault weapons that they further believe are used in most mass shootings. Neither of those beliefs are true.
3) I recognize some gun rights advocates have a knee jerk reaction against any limitation on guns; I think this reaction is primarily due to believing both that the legislation will make no positive difference and that it will be a slippery slope. The general impression from the gun rights side is that the gun control side neither understands guns nor cares how legislation would affect general gun ownership because they don’t believe people should have guns in any case. It’s not so much “We want to take your guns” as “we don’t know or care if the proposals we’re pushing will result in taking your guns.”
4) That said, there are proposals that even most gun owners would be fine with. Proposals focusing on who can have guns rather than which guns they can have seem to get pretty broad support. For example, Pew Research has found that most gun owners and non-gun owners alike support proposals focused on background checks, mental health issues, and no-fly lists.
More recently there seems to be momentum behind “red flag” measures which would allow authorities to temporarily take guns from people deemed dangerous. Such bills are primarily sponsored by Democrats but are seeing some Republican support too. I think the gun rights side generally believes that proposals that focus on the people rather than the guns are more likely to be both effective and Constitutional.
So why do gun rights advocates fight common sense gun reform? To summarize:
We don’t believe many of these policies would accomplish what proponents claim.
We’re worried about inhibiting citizen self-defense.
We’re concerned about the Constitutionality of some of these policies.
We suspect the people pushing for these reforms don’t understand or care about the full effects of these policies.
None of this means we don’t care if innocent people are hurt. That’s why we do support some gun reforms: specifically the policies we believe will best ensure the safety of ourselves and others while respecting Constitutional rights.