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Freedomnomics

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Controversial economist John Lott has released a new book titled "Freedomnomics," apparently a takeoff on Steven Levitt's "Freakonomics." The Amazon page is here. All the press on the book so far seems to be from conservative media sources.

Catherine Herridge of Fox News has an interview with Lott here (halfway down), focusing on his criticisms of a report by the Police Executive Research Foundation. Lott says PERF engaged in data "cherry picking" to produce misleadingly high crime numbers.

Then there is this column by Ann Coulter. Even taking Ms. Coulter with the requisite grain of salt, it appears there are some crime-related nuggets in the book. Perhaps the real reason that Democrats are so enthused about giving felons the right to vote is not a high-minded concern for the disparate impact of disenfranchisement laws, but rather because felons vote overwhelming for Democrats.

It looks like an interesting book, and I'll have to pick one up before my next long plane trip.

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Conversely, maybe the reason Republicans have been so keen to disenfranchise felons is not because of a high-minded belief that the loss of suffrage teaches a lesson to felons but rather because it's been politically easy to accomplish and has done a marvelous job of taking the vote away from minorities who otherwise would have voted Democratic.

There's politics on both sides of that question, in other words, and not a whole lot of high-mindedness on anybody's part.

I gather from the article (although I will have to get the book to be sure) that Lott's data indicate that criminals as a group vote Democratic in a greater percentage than racial minorities as a group.

I do not dispute that many Republican politicians want to keep felons off the voting rolls for the same reason Democrats want to get them on, but criminality is the defining characteristic here, not race.

For those interested, a more detailed discussion of the crime issue can be found here. The book has a chapter on crime related issues and discusses everything from the death penalty to abortion and crime to right to carry laws to affirmative action in police departments. Comparisons are also made between changes in crime rates in the US and Canada.

As to the issue of felons voting, 20 states have made it easier for felons to vote since 2000 and it has generally gotten a lot of bi-partisan support (just look at Florida). Generally, the issue to me is whether felons have revealed something about their altruism towards others. There are reasons given for why we don't trust even nonviolent felons with guns and even misdemeanor offenses can ban someone for life from having a gun, but the arguments don't seem to apply to the behavior of felons. Do you want multiple rapists voting on social policy that will impact women? How about murders or multiple time robbers? The loss of voting rights is one of many types of long term loses imposed on felons (e.g., professional and business licenses, government and union jobs, retirement benefits, there 30 of these), but voting is the only one where there is a push to restore the ability to do it.

As usual, the spin is thick, "but criminality is the defining characteristic here, not race."

Oh, yeah? What if they are not still criminal? Is that possible in your world?

"Do you want multiple rapists voting on social policy that will impact women?"

This is the typical neocon fallacy, the part equals the whole, and the worst part equals the whole. The same logic was used to keep blacks from voting for hundreds of years, and now it will keep mostly blacks from voting. The majority has no reason to fear the vote of someone who completed their sentence, and even if such a someone voted selfishly, it would not jeopardize the majority vote. If the "tuff on crime" meme is falling apart, these "criminality" voters could not bring it down themselves, no matter their party affiliation. This little spin reeks of fear, fear of losing the stranglehold on the minds of the public who now realize what the spin was all about.

The fallacies are as transparent as a dirty window. Can't blame the neocons though. They are going down and are grasping for air. They know every single vote counts, but even this will be too little too late. They're melting, melting!

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