August 1, 2007

Does this represent Steven D. Levitt's personal character?

I hadn't been paying much attention to economist John R. Lott's defamation lawsuit against Freakonomist Steven D. Levitt: I don't like lawsuits. But now I've finally read the two 2005 emails at the heart of one count of Lott's suit. I'm sure I don't understand all the details of the situation, but they seem pretty eye-opening.

They were between an economist named John McCall and Levitt, and they touch upon the October 2001 issue of the U. of Chicago's Journal of Law & Economics, which contained a sizable number of articles based on papers given at a conference Lott set up at AEI in 1999 on gun control and crime. (Levitt and Lott, of course, famously disagree about the causes of changes in the crime rate.)


From: John McCall
Subject: Freakonomics note yesterday to you
To: steve levitt

Hi Steve,

I went to the website you recommended -- have not gone after the round table proceedings yet -- I also found the following citations -- have not read any of them yet, but it appears they all replicate Lott's research. The Journal of Law and Economics is not chopped liver.

Have you read through any of these?

http://johnrlott.tripod.com/postsbyday/RTCResearch.html

Cordially,

John McCall PhD


Levitt replied:


From: slevitt@[deleted for anti-spam purposes]
Date: Wed May 25, 2005 9:18:28 PM US/Central
To: John McCall
Subject: Re: Freakonomics note yesterday to you

John,

It was not a peer refereed edition of the Journal. For $15,000 he was able to buy an issue and put in only work that supported him. My best friend was the editor and was outraged the press let Lott do this.

Steve


The Chronicle of Higher Education now writes:


"Mr. Levitt's letter of clarification, which was included in Friday's filing, offers a doozy of a concession. In his 2005 message, Mr. Levitt told Mr. McCall that "it was not a peer-refereed edition of the Journal." But in his letter of clarification, Mr. Levitt writes: "I acknowledge that the articles that were published in the conference issue were reviewed by referees engaged by the editors of the JLE. In fact, I was one of the peer referees."

"Mr. Levitt's letter also concedes that he had been invited to present a paper at the 1999 conference. (He did not do so.) That admission undermines his e-mail message's statement that Mr. Lott had "put in only work that supported him."

"In his letter of clarification to Mr. McCall, Mr. Levitt said, "At the time of my May 2005 e-mails to you, I knew that scholars with varying opinions had been invited to participate in the 1999 conference and had been informed that their papers would be considered for publication in what became the conference issue."

If Dr. Levitt wishes an opportunity to further clarify what has emerged so far of his letter of clarification, he is welcome to post in my comments.



Update: Mario Delgado posts some relevant information in a comment on the Deltoid blog, including a quote from a participant in the conference: "A participant in the conference told The Chronicle last year that Mr. Levitt's characterization of the issue as not peer-refereed was an exaggeration but not an outrageous untruth."


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

16 comments:

Brian said...

Similar to neocon tactics. Very interesting.

dearieme said...

Once upon a time, we'd have said that Mr Levitt's case had been "exploded". This would have been held to reflect badly on Mr Levitt. Some people might have gone so far as to "cut" him, feeling him to have been revealed as a "cad", or even a "bounder". Nowadays, I suppose, it will somehow make him richer.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is interesting. Levitt is a perfect example of the saying: academic battles are so fierce because the stakes are so low.

Anonymous said...

Levitt is a hack, I think, but my major objection is to his "abortion-cut-crime" theory.

Steve already shot the theory full of holes (so did Lott - pun intended). My concern is that the theory will be taken as prescriptive and will thus be dysgenic. No low-IQ black crackhead will have more abortions because of Levitt's (rigged) research. She won't have read Levitt. But an educated White woman might read him, or some pop precis thereof, and would be more than likely to absorb the meme "more abortions lead to a safer society." It's just one more psy-ops weapon against higher birthrates in smart (well - literate) White people.

And I submit that's the purpose of Levitt's theory. Notice not only that he hasn't conceded his case is lost, but also that he rolls on, "moving on." He doesn't care. The damage he wanted to inflict is done, the meme made the headlines: that's all he cared about (that, and making sure the money was deposited in the bank).

The irony is that if White abortion rates increase while black stay the same (leading to a further declining White birthrate relative to black), then society will not grow safer for "Newsweek"-reading soccer moms and their progeny, but will instead grow more crime-ridden and dangerous.

Levitt's work is just another note in the symphony of destruction that tends to push the United States toward the fate of South Africa, or Zimbaubee, or Haiti. That's why I think he's more than just an irresponsible clown. He's an evil clown.

Anonymous said...

Steve, can I ask you something?

Leaving aside all questions of Steven Levitt and whether legalizing abortion reduced the crime rate, what is your position on abortion itself?

Do you think it is morally wrong, to a greater (it's murder!) or lesser (it degrades human dignity!) degree?

If it were your call, would abortion be legal? With what restrictions (if any)?

Do you think that the legalization of abortion has had a significant impact on our society, either positive or negative? If so, what?

I hope you don't mind my asking this. I ask because abortion is such a highly charged issue that whenever someone has a strong opinion on a related issue you want to know that person's position on abortion itself, to see if there might be some prejudice involved. (E.g., if a doctor who is an anti-abortion crusader tells me that RU-486 is a hazardous drug, I weight it differently than I would if a pro-choice doctor tells me the same thing).

Luke said...

Possible psychopathology I would say.

Anonymous said...

The email and subsequent clarification are a smoking gun. There is no explanation other than intentional deception with the goal of undermining a competing scholar with different views. This is the *worst* crime a scholar or researcher can commit -- undermining the search for truth.

Shame on Steve Levitt. I invite him to explain himself and apologize to Lott -- why no commentary on his blog? What does Dubner have to say about this?

There are several posts just *today* (8/02) on the Freakonomics blog:
http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/

Readers here should get on the comments there and demand an explanation.

Let's see if they adopt W's line: "no comment on an ongoing legal matter"

Anonymous said...

I like the fact that he mentions peer review. Like Economics is an actual science.

Anonymous said...

He came across as an ingenue boy wonder when I saw him on Charlie Rose (Dubner was playing his fluffer). Levitt does a convincing job of appearing a serious and decent on camera and his wikipedia entry is idolizing.

It would be interesting to know the history behind this case. It seems Levitt's ego let this thing blow up in public rather than quitely settling it against any commonsense. Many more people now have reason to question his accuracy, competency and honesty.

Do economists like Levitt understand the goodwill value of the brand he created? Lott didn't even appear to want money - just an open apology. Levitt must be one arrogant SOB to bring widespread exposure to his chicanery just to try to continue screwing a collegue.

Bill said...

Well, it's quite clear what this says about Levitt's character: he's a liar.

Steve Sailer said...

On Tim Lambert's obsessively anti-Lott blog, Mario Delgado posts an informative comment that gives some more context

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/08/lott_tries_to_amend_his_compla.php#comment-520876

Here are a couple of excerpts from an earlier article by David Glenn in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Glenn:

The journal sent the guns-and-crime conference papers out for peer review, but -- according to several accounts -- with the understanding that all or nearly all would be approved for publication. By contrast, the journal accepts fewer than 10 percent of the papers that are submitted for publication in its normal issues.

4 Glenn:

A participant in the conference told The Chronicle last year that Mr. Levitt's characterization of the issue as not peer-refereed was an exaggeration but not an outrageous untruth.

Anonymous said...

Well, if it wasn't an "outrageous untruth", I'd be very surprised that an egomaniac like Levitt actually apologized. In any case, lots of "peer review" is garbage and log-rolling anyway (I'm an academic).

At the moment, we can say that Lott's theory about concealed carry reducing crime is unconfirmed while Levitt's abortion cuts crime theory is pretty much refuted. There's little doubt in my mind who is coming out on top in this little academic spat...

Anonymous said...

If you want to see a detailed discussion of some of the things that Lambert has done go to this website: to see Lambert falsely accusing people of being sock puppets and "Irregularities in Lambert's handling of 'information'."

Tim Lambert said...

Gee "anonymous", I see you didn't bother to check to see if that web site was accurate. For example, he accuses me of "adding (and posting on the web) a signature on a review to make the material (incorrectly) appear to be that of Lott".

But if you look at my post, and follow the links, you can see that the signature was there in Lott's Amazon review of Freakonomics. (Lott gave it one star.)

Anonymous said...

Tim, you seem to have forgotten what you were originally caught doing. This is from the original blog posting:
No one disputes that John R. Lott was the original author of the Freakonomics review, which first ran in the April 21, 2005 Wall Street Journal, and was later posted on his web site. All that proves is that Economist123 copied and pasted John Lott’s book review. It doesn’t say a f’n thing about who Economist123 is. It only looked that way when Lambert dishonestly snipped the review to make the name “John R. Lott” look like a signature to the Economist123 review, rather than the tail end of what he had copied and pasted from Lott’s web site.

In your previous comment, you referred to the Freakonomics review as “another” Economist123 review, despite the fact that this is the one we were discussing all along. If in your mind Freakonomics was “another” review, what did you think the original one was?


For those who are interested, here is Lambert's track record on correctly identifying Lott as posting something:

Purtilo While Purtilo has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott over 20 times in different places, Jim Purtilo is actually a computer science professor at the University of Maryland.
Stotts While Stotts has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott several times, he is a Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
HenryBowman While HenryBowman has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott several times, he is a professor at a small midwestern university. He was accused of being a sockpuppet for just pointing out that this page was contentious.
Cbaus While CBaus has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott at least four times in different places, Chad Baus lives in Ohio.
Gordinier While Gordinier has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott four times, Michael Gordinier teaches at the Washington University Business School in St. Louis, Missouri .
Henry1776 While Henry1776 has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott, he is Henry Schaffer, at NC State.
Sniper1 While Sniper1has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott four times, he is Mike Fleisher, a resident of suburban MD.
Serinity Serinity was accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott four times before people stopped claiming that he was a sockpuppet in November, 2005.
66.92.151.249 (Washington, DC,, Speakeasy, Inc.) While 66.92.151.249 has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott several times, Jeff Koch lives in the same city as Lott, but he is not John Lott.

Even those posting from places where Lott is unlikely to be located are accused of being him.

137.216.209.23 (South Dakota)

66.190.73.64 (Fort Worth, Texas)

128.8.128.182 (Hyattsville, MD)


Is this zero for a couple hundred claims on this webpage? Is that a good batting average for Cricket?

Anonymous said...

Tim, you seem to have forgotten what you were originally caught doing. This is from the original blog posting:
No one disputes that John R. Lott was the original author of the Freakonomics review, which first ran in the April 21, 2005 Wall Street Journal, and was later posted on his web site. All that proves is that Economist123 copied and pasted John Lott’s book review. It doesn’t say a f’n thing about who Economist123 is. It only looked that way when Lambert dishonestly snipped the review to make the name “John R. Lott” look like a signature to the Economist123 review, rather than the tail end of what he had copied and pasted from Lott’s web site.

In your previous comment, you referred to the Freakonomics review as “another” Economist123 review, despite the fact that this is the one we were discussing all along. If in your mind Freakonomics was “another” review, what did you think the original one was?


For those who are interested, here is Lambert's track record on correctly identifying Lott as posting something:

Purtilo While Purtilo has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott over 20 times in different places, Jim Purtilo is actually a computer science professor at the University of Maryland.
Stotts While Stotts has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott several times, he is a Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
HenryBowman While HenryBowman has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott several times, he is a professor at a small midwestern university. He was accused of being a sockpuppet for just pointing out that this page was contentious.
Cbaus While CBaus has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott at least four times in different places, Chad Baus lives in Ohio.
Gordinier While Gordinier has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott four times, Michael Gordinier teaches at the Washington University Business School in St. Louis, Missouri .
Henry1776 While Henry1776 has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott, he is Henry Schaffer, at NC State.
Sniper1 While Sniper1has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott four times, he is Mike Fleisher, a resident of suburban MD.
Serinity Serinity was accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott four times before people stopped claiming that he was a sockpuppet in November, 2005.
66.92.151.249 (Washington, DC,, Speakeasy, Inc.) While 66.92.151.249 has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott several times, Jeff Koch lives in the same city as Lott, but he is not John Lott.

Even those posting from places where Lott is unlikely to be located are accused of being him.

137.216.209.23 (South Dakota)

66.190.73.64 (Fort Worth, Texas)

128.8.128.182 (Hyattsville, MD)


Is this zero for a couple hundred claims on this webpage? Is that a good batting average for Cricket?