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About Those "Studies"

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Academia, think tanks and "public interest groups" are forever producing "studies" about criminal law issues.  The "studies" almost always have one thing in common: They favor the defendant.  Whether it's imprisonment, rehabilitation, police work, prosecution practices, brain imaging or what have you, the "findings" inevitably are that we're being too tough.  Instead of being tough, we should be "smart."

Being "smart" always-and-ever turns out to mean that we should stop doing what we know succeeded over the last 25 years (more prison and more police, as Steven Levitt has found) and renew doing what we know failed in the 25 years before that (rehabilitation and the medical model of criminology).

So what's up with these "studies?"

There's a clue today in a column written by my friend, Professor Nelson Lund of George Mason Law School.  He quotes the wily but brilliant social scientist-turned-Senator, Patrick Moynihan:

"Social science is rarely dispassionate, and social scientists are frequently caught up in the politics which their work necessarily involves . . . [T]he pronounced 'liberal' orientation of sociology, psychology, political science, and similar fields is well established."

This is a really good thing to remember the next time one of our adversaries starts going on and on about the latest agenda-driven "study."  Much of the time, it's just PR impersonating scholarship.

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Prof. Marks's study should be read be anyone interested in the issue.


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