The downside of blogs

To all who enjoy this blog, I apologize for the onslaught of comments from Steve Sailer and the various pseudonyms he operates under. Apparently he believes that if he says the same thing over and over it will turn into the truth, or at least direct some traffic to his website. As far as I can tell he is still making the same arguments I dispatched in 1999 on Slate, and again in this blog in May. If you are interested in what I had to say then, here is a link to my earlier post. (I can’t tell whether every single comment about Sailer is actually posted by him, or maybe there are one or two other people who might have some interest in the subject).

Dubner and I value the free and open discussion that comes with anonymous comments, but at times it has a cost. Once before we had thought seriously about banning anonymous posts, but then our dear Deb Frisch grew kinder and the change didn’t seem necessary. We are open to what people have to say about moving towards a system in which one must be registered to make comments.


Steve Sailer

Indeed, what could possibly be more disturbing than dissent in the Comments section? It just ruins for everybody that nice comfy feeling that everybody agrees with the guru on everything!

So, Dr. Levitt, you seem to have lots of time on your hands these days to deal with such pressing issues as the discomfort caused your True Believers by inconvenient facts popping in your Comments section. Yet, you don't seem to be able to find the time to respond to the on-going national controversy over whether or not your version of your abortion-cut-crime theory has a racial aspect. All you did was issue a misleading response to the Bill Bennett Brouhaha over a week ago, and then when your commenters called you on your falsehood, issue a vague, resentful clarification with ill grace.

So, when will you find the time to clear up all the misstatements in the press over the last 10 days of the Bill Bennett Brouhaha that mistakenly claim that your abortion-cut-crime theory has never had anything to do with race?

When are you going to issue a statement admitting that race was part of your theory from your first draft paper in December 1998 and that your 2001 paper included the following quotation:

"Fertility declines for black women are three times greater than for whites (12 percent compared to 4 percent). Given that homicide rates of black youths are roughly nine times higher than those of white youths, racial differences in the fertility effects of abortion are likely to translate into greater homicide reductions. Under the assumption that those black and white births eliminated by legalized abortion would have experienced the average criminal propensities of their respective races, then the predicted reduction in homicide is 8.9 percent. In other words, taking into account differential abortion rates by race raises the predicted impact of abortion legalization on homicide from 5.4 percent to 8.9 percent."

As for your defense of your theory, my response can be found, along with much else that you don't want readers to think about, at: http://www.iSteve.com/abortion.htm

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Steven D. Levitt

Glad to see the same arguments again, Steve Sailer. Maybe some people missed them the last dozen time you made them.

I have, however, been meaning to respond to the quote from my paper with Donohue you have now posted a half dozen times. Thanks for reminding me. Higher abortion rates for Blacks, do in our simulations account for a 3.5 percent decrease in homicide. If you read on, we suggest that the overall decline should be on the order of 18.5 percent. So the impact of race is a trivial fraction of the overall impact from legalized abortion. And, if you look at crimes other than homicide, the impact of race becomes smaller still.

I'm not sure why you think I need to issue regarding race in the 2001 paper. Anyone who wants to read the paper and make up their mind about where we stand on the issue can find it on my webpage or in the published journal.

Please, for the sake of our sanity, try to limit yourself from now on to saying things that are new.

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Anonymous

Hmm while I do like a public spat as well as the rest of us, one can avoid them by just banning ppl who are unable to have 'reasonable' discourse. The danger is that the blogkeeper's concept of 'reasonable' will be different from most of their reader's idea of reasonable, but in this case, prolly not.

- Factory

bakedgoldfish

Speaking as someone who frequents boards where you can't even read the messages without being registered, much less reply - banning anon. posts won't do much to help. It's not that difficult to register, and if it's possible to ban registered users (I'm not up on Blogger's abilities), folks can easily get a new account as soon as they get a new email addy. Sorry if I sound defeatist, but I haven't seen comment controls like banning anonymous comments work elsewhere, especially when the individual(s) banned have a vested interest in posting as much/as loudly as possible.

Anonymous

Re: the Steve Sailer/Steve Levitt conflict.

If one of you was a girl, people would think you were in love.

ALJ

what I want to know is how do you manage to allow anonymous comments and NOT GET SPAMMED? anyway, anon is better. registered kinda sucks in my opinion. seriously, who set upo this blog? their a genuis in avoiding spam...

peace,
a

Anonymous

Dr. Levitt writes:

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Higher abortion rates for Blacks, do in our simulations account for a 3.5 percent decrease in homicide. If you read on, we suggest that the overall decline should be on the order of 18.5 percent. So the impact of race is a trivial fraction of the overall impact from legalized abortion. And, if you look at crimes other than homicide, the impact of race becomes smaller still.
----------


1) I haven't followed this debate closely enough to know which paper supports this analysis. A link to the precise paper would be appreciated.

2) If the logic for this claim isn't spelled out in the paper itself (which wouldn't be surprising), it would be nice if someone could walk us through the thinking step by step.

3) Is the data behind these "simulations" publically available so that other researchers could replicate the results?

Thanks

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NotSteveSailer

You first say:

"To all who enjoy this blog, I apologize for the onslaught of comments from Steve Sailer and the various pseudonyms he operates under."

You then say:

"I can't tell whether every single comment about Sailer is actually posted by him..."

So Sailer is using "various pseudonyms," but in fact you can't tell that he is.

Maybe Sailer is on to something after all.

Anonymous

That Sailer guy is a clown. Just have a registered system, and get rid of the idiots who cannot act civil.

Richard

Yes of course you should ban anonymous comments. Registration is free and easy, and it ensures the legitimacy of anyone motivated enough to respond.

You might check into the "trackback" feature available on many blog sites. People's comments appear on their own sites, not yours, but anyone can still read and respond by doing a simple search for links to your original post. That way you can still get the feedback you want from the world at large while ignoring the obnoxious posters.

Anonymous

Totally lame, Dr. Levitt. Why go after someone who actually engages your arguments in a meaningful way and then accuse them of simply trying to direct traffic to his site?

Let's see, your last three posts include two about all the amazing attention you are getting and one faux apologetic attempt to stifle questions that might diminish your popularity.

Sailer actually brings truth, not arguments that caress the sensibilities of the media.

Anonymous

Dr. Levitt, are you not in the business of being thought provoking? What is a comment section for if not to provide a forum for those whose thoughts you have provoked and who wish to challenge you? You may have heard their arguments before, but many of us have not. Those you challenge you are not "site pests", they are a necessary ingredient in stirring up the debates that make sites like this more interesting.

Roland Patrick

I hope we're not seeing creeping DeLongism.

Luke

Dear sir:

In the interests of transparency and a more effective blog, it would be better if you answered Mr. Sailer's seemingly cogent criticisms of your work each time he makes them, rather than referring to previous refutations. Nothing beats an obvious and well-documented refutation on a point of fact which the reader can judge post haste. Also, in those perhaps rare instances in which Mr. Sailer makes a valid point, a graceful admission on your part might be a more effective debating strategy than stonewalling. There is no shame in occassionally being wrong, on in admitting error, even (or perhaps especially) for a winner of the John Bates Clark award. Mr. Sailer is not a credentialled economist, but he is a clear writer, intelligent, honest, with a clear committment to the well-being of all Americans of all races, genders, and social classes. Please engage him on the merits, and eschew ad hominem remarks.

Respectfully,

Luke Lea
Reed College class of 1966

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Anonymous

I'd switch from Blogger to a much more full featured CMS like WordPress. Then you could allow people to use their name, without registering and you could ban the IP of anyone who makes a complete ass of themselves.

Mike

daveg

Steve has demonstrated that the crime rate went starting at the higher age bracket and moving to the lower age bracket much later. This is the reverse of what one would expect if abortion caused the decrease crime, as the "wave of the wanted" would propagate from young to old, not old to young.

This is just one of his points, but an important one.

Can this point be addressed concisely?

Bogarde

In the interests of transparency and a more effective blog, it would be better if you answered Mr. Sailer's seemingly cogent criticisms of your work each time he makes them, rather than referring to previous refutations.

The problem is that Sailer's objections have been addressed many times - on Slate.com and on a previous post here. But Sailer keeps repeating the same arguments again and again, giving the false impression that he's a lone martyr for truth. Sailer is nothing but a self-propagandising kook. He is using this fake controversy as his way of Sailing (er...selling) his name. A few weeks reading his blog will make this clear to almost anyone.

Andy_Martini

I agree in letting people have their freedom to be anonymous or public. It's their choice. HOWEVER, I do agree that people should respect other people's blog's. If you feels that strongly about a topic, say your piece and then direct people to your blog. If they agree they will go. If not, accept it!

Say it once and then move on.

Honestly, I think Steve Saller/Sailer/Whatever must have been one of those kids that was given too many swirlies and wedgies in high school, and didn't grow stronger, only angrier.

From everything I have read on the abortion paper and the book, I think it is important to note that Leavitt has never said his was the definitive answer. Additionally, his results came from numbers, not opinions. I don't recall Leavitt ever saying his was the only solution. I do think a lot of that opinion has come from the media.

Andy Martini
Anonymously Famous since...what time is it now?

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Anonymous

Steve Sailer is just jealous that he no win Bates Clark medal or bestselling author. Enough of your sour grapes, batty boy!

Anonymous

"So, Dr. Levitt, you seem to have lots of time on your hands these days to deal with such pressing issues as the discomfort caused your True Believers by inconvenient facts popping in your Comments section."

"Re: the Steve Sailer/Steve Levitt conflict. If one of you was a girl, people would think you were in love."

Steve Sailer mistakenly believes the purpose of this blog is to foster conversation and debate about issues related to Freakonomics. Silly Sailer. The purpose of this blog is to allow Levitt and Dubner to sublimate their attraction in order to avoid the stressful decision of whether to act on it.

One day, Dubner will come out (and write a book about it, no doubt, called Boys Just Want to Have Fun!). But until then, this blog will serve as a celibate/exhibitionist manifestation of the love that dare not speak its name and thus, must blather incessantly and inanely about everything else.

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