May 18, 2011

Hooray for Steven Levitt

The University of Chicago Freakonomist blogs:
It wasn’t until the U.S. government’s crackdown on internet poker last week that I came to realize that the primary determinant of where I stand with respect to government interference in activities comes down to the answer to a simple question: How would I feel if my daughter were engaged in that activity? 
If the answer is that I wouldn’t want my daughter to do it, then I don’t mind the government passing a law against it. I wouldn’t want my daughter to be a cocaine addict or a prostitute, so in spite of the fact that it would probably be more economically efficient to legalize drugs and prostitution subject to heavy regulation/taxation, I don’t mind those activities being illegal.

In other words, Levitt wants some help from his government in keeping his daughter off the pole (to cite Chris Rock's admonition to fathers).

This has led to much tut-tutting about how Levitt's sense of morality isn't sophisticated. It's just so crude for public intellectuals who happen to be fathers of daughters to think more about what's good for their daughters than what's good for random strangers. 

Levitt is being downright discriminatory. Why should the desires of fathers with daughters be privileged in America? What about illegal immigrant day laborers who can't afford long term relationships? Why don't the desire for prostitutes of the guys hanging around the Home Depot parking lot matter as much as those of the desire of American citizen fathers raising daughters to keep them off the pole? Don't the day laborers deserve a large supply of prostitutes to service their needs at low prices? Shouldn't a just, free market morality focus on eliminating friction costs caused by the prostitution market being illegal that keep day laborers from being able to afford as many encounters with prostitutes as they would like if prostitution were legal? Etc etc ...

In reality, we do have a political system in which the views of fathers wanting to keep their daughters off the pole do count more heavily. What we lack is a widely publicized, respectable intellectual system justifying such natural political views. This means that while the public gets its way on a lot of common sense first-order issues -- I don't want my daughter to become a prostitute so I want the government to penalize prostitution -- public intellectuals like Levitt (i.e., the people who are cognitively equipped to think through the impact of public policies several steps down the road) are not supposed to mention in respectable intellectual circles the second and third order effects of policies, such as immigration. 

Personally, I'm all for Levitt's first-order point of view. But, I agree it's not intellectually sophisticated enough, but for the opposite reason than most of the libertarians are up in arms about. I think he should be thinking not only about what's good for his young daughter but what kind of country he'd like his daughter's daughter and his daughter's daughter's daughter to be born into.

And his concerns shouldn't be just first order ones like keeping his daughter and daughter's daughter off the pole, but more sophisticated, second-order ones like what kind of people will there be in America in the future for his descendants to make more descendants for him with. What's really going to matter is not public policies about prostitution or drugs or gambling, but what kind of people live in the America that he's leaving to his descendants.

That's what we need intellectuals to think through, and the vast majority of intellectuals have been flagrantly negligent at that. They are smug about their stupidity on the subject.

The Framers of the Constitution said in the Preamble that the whole point of the Constitution was for the benefit of "ourselves and our posterity." You would think that would be one of those famous "propositions" like "All men are created equal" that everybody goes on and on about today, but "our posterity" seems to have been dropped down the memory hole.

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

Careful here: I doubt he'd like his daughter reading iSteve.

Anonymous said...

Prostitution, NO

Drugs...

some(pot, milder stuff) yes.
some(meth, heroin, etc) no.

I say NO to prostitution cuz it reduces the human body into a commodity. It's radical materialism, and as such dangerous to the soul of any society. And I say shoot the pimps.

As for harder drugs, it is a form of mental/spiritual slavery. Addiction to bad drugs is like chains on the soul.

Anonymous said...

"Our posterity" has changed to "our posteriors".

Anonymous said...

Would he like his daughter to go to jail for selling half an oz of weed to her friend?

The drug war ruins a lot more lives like that than drugs do.

Anonymous said...

"Would he like his daughter to go to jail for selling half an oz of weed to her friend?
The drug war ruins a lot more lives like that than drugs do."

...which is why I say legalize pot but not the harder stuff. Use tax revenues from pot sales to fight the harder stuff. That way, war on drugs will pay for itself.

agnostic said...

Ah c'mon Steve, if the world were ruled by the "father protects daughter" principle, how could fat elderly, uh, "Frenchmen" ever have their way with urban hotel maids?

In that backwards world, there would be the higher friction costs of fathers chasing down the "Frenchman" with a shotgun. The gray-haired slug winds up injured or dead, and the father risks his own life to get revenge. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world BLA bla BLA bla BLA.

And in that backwards world, the rancid toad himself would be thinking, "Gee, would I really want some rotten blimp of a banker to force himself on *my* daughter?" Gosh, that costly sense of shame would prevent him from getting off at someone else's expense!

I mean, obviously you never heard of the Coase theorem (try reading Wikipedia sometime instead of reflexively falling back on crude moralizing). Why else would Jabba the Hutt lunge on a hotel maid unless the benefits to him outweighed the costs to her? It's just a costly way of signaling that her body is worth more to him than to her.

It boggles the mind that some people invest so little thought in what the social consequences would be if their so-called philosophy were put into practice. Thankfully, those who actually do manage to rise above their bestial instincts are the ones in power, not you knuckle-dragging apes held slave to your moral instincts.

munch said...

Lots of parents don't want their daughters to drink. Heck, lots of wives dont want their husbands to drink. I most definitely don't want my daughter to get a tramp stamp, that should be illegial. The age of consent and marriage should be around 30 in my book, at least for women.

I think parents romanticise their daughters. I was watching a field hocky game at my daughter's private school and two middle school girls were on the bleachers infront of me and I overheard one say to the other about a certain male student: " I'd really like to ..... HIS ...." And the blanks were pretty graphic. It wasnt generic romantic affection. Pretty lies.

agnostic said...

Whoops, didn't mean to say "apes." My bad. I couldn't help it -- the guy in the next cubicle just came back whining about all the "baboons taking over Wal-Mart," and I must've caught a case of temporary insensitivity.

Really, Wal-Mart -- can you believe where some people shop?

Anonymous said...

There's the small problem of whether the constitution's list of enumerated powers is expansive enough to incorporate prohibiting everything he thinks his daughter shouldn't be doing.

RS said...

Drug laws and their repeal don't seem to alter usage significantly at all - at least in Europe, at least if the books aren't cooked by leftie scientists.

I don't know what kind of penalties they had over there, though, prior to repeal. Probably pretty light. Obviously with a severe enough penalty you could get rid of drugs entirely.

Plus, maybe drugs are still stigmatized in Europe, but the legalizations will over the decades lead to a declining stigma = more use. That's certainly possible.

My instincts run very strongly against prostitution, but I wonder what level of penalty it takes to really make an impact.

Anonymous said...

Japan has very harsh drug laws and (I would guess) not a lot of people in prison, and not a lot of recreational drug usage. The "drug laws are to blame for everything" crowd doesn't seem to think about this too often.

Speaking for myself, I consider that whenever doctors have completely failed a disease sufferer, the disease sufferer should be able to take almost any substance he wants in the name of palliation and remediation. I said almost because I would draw the line at antibiotics, as their overuse is a public health hazard.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with Anon4: the question isn't whether he'd like his daughter to do these acts, the real question is whether he wants her to be imprisoned by the state if she does them.

Freak-a-Sailor said...

Yes, Steven Levitt's sense of morality is indeed unsophisticated. If cocaine and prostitution were legal it wouldn't follow that his daughter would have a higher probability of becoming a coked-out whore, but it would prevent any blemishes on her record for minor indiscretions. That would also save gov't money.

Anonymous said...

"This has led to much tut-tutting about how Levitt's sense of morality isn't sophisticated. It's just so crude for fathers of daughters to think about what's good for their daughters."

The snobbery of the Liberal tribe is new to me, mostly because I'm a reformed member of the tribe. Steve, you've probably written about this before but I am noticing that several of my friends have Spanish speaking nannies, and they send their children to language immersion programs (it was French and German class when I was a kid; how Euro-centric). So, the Liberal Tribe is preparing their kids to compete in a job market where Spanish will be required while leaving low-income whites in the dust, losers who didn't have the resources to hire a nanny. And then they tut-tut the unsophisticated "rubes" who oppose the Mexican invasion of our public schools -- because they are arming their children for the future, while sending their kids to private schools.

Anonymous said...

"Ah c'mon Steve, if the world were ruled by the 'father protects daughter' principle, how could fat elderly, uh, 'Frenchmen' ever have their way with urban hotel maids?"

There are things you don't want your daughter to do and there are things you REALLY REALLY don't want your daughter to do.
There are elements of risk and even shame attached to lots of things, but certain things fundamentally rob us of our humanity. Prostitution and addiction to stuff like meth are two of them.

There are stuff which are borderline, like porn. No self-respecting parent wants his/her daughter to become a porn star, but our laws may still recognize porn as 'art' or 'free expression', though it does come pretty close to prostitution since porn 'actors' are paid to perform sex. But legally, it can still pass
as 'art' or 'acting', though I suppose one could argue porn acting is to acting what snuff films are to movie violence.
Anyway, legality of porn is hazy and can be interpreted either way.

But prostitution is prostitution. It is not an expression or 'art'. It is commodification of body into a product to trade. We should sell our labor, not our bodies. When we sell our labor, we still own our own bodies. When we sell our bodies, we are products, not people.

Anonymous said...

Japan's drug problem trends more towards speed than weed.
Anyways, it's funny that Steven Levitt brought this up, because I have a slightly different take on laws - "cousin libertarianism", to steal from I think Gene Healy.

Should something be illegal? Well, if my cousin did it, would I want him or her to go to jail?
Drugs? No.
Prostitution? No. The extended family can help them out, and sticking them in prison isn't going to do that.
Abortion? Same, I find it morally distasteful, but I still don't want my cousin dying of a botched illegal abortion or being imprisoned for looking for one.

Burglary, murder? Yep.
Trying to run over a cop in their own cop car, as one of my cousins did? Yeah, prison time.

Hmm, wonder if I'll still feel this way when I have kids.

Svigor said...

Levitt's position is clearly that of a loser who isn't confident in the upbringing he gave his daughter.

Right?

tagalong said...

I wonder how Levitt feels about his daughter having sex before marriage, deciding she's gay, or ending her education after high school to marry a truck driver. Or for that matter, joining a cult, or a commune, or the Army.

munch said...

Oh, and showing her titties to the whole world to get a part in a slasher film. Should be a felony. Actually the age of majority (contract) for daughters ahould be around 45.

On Wall Street, in my time, my office mate has something called a bullett to make consumption of coke possible right at the desk with no outward signs. The highest performers in the most physically demanding and competitive fields have to be randomly drug tested to discover if they are using. If drugs were so distructive you would think at the absolute pinnacle there would be few drug absuers.

It has been shown that heavy socal drinkers make more money than teetolers. When we have doctors over the wine bottles clink into recycling every few minutes; when we have the RN's over no one touches the two sad open bottles on the buffett.

Public morality about controlled substances is as devorced from underlying reality as PC thought. And no one should set the criminal code by what they want for their daughters. If they got what they wanted their daughters, as well as everyone else, would be profoundly disappointed about how little would be permitted.

tagalong said...

So, since we have a massive, expensive, intrusive drug war here in the US, I don't suppose Levitt's daughter will ever be exposed to any drugs. Right?

Dutch Boy said...

Banning things should be up to the states and localities, not the feds (it's called the principle of subsidiarity). The general rule should be that there is no right to do wrong. Wrongs would only be tolerated to the degree that penalizing them would do more harm than good (e.g., jailing people for minor offenses).

hbd chick said...

ot, but this is a good read:

Converting Mamet

Anonymous said...

"If they got what they wanted their daughters, as well as everyone else, would be profoundly disappointed about how little would be permitted."

What's even funnier is that some father thinks a wayward daughter will be deterred from doing something if there's a LAW against it. It's also an insult to a young female that her father thinks she has so little ability to reason that, like a boy of a similar age, the female can't appreciate the larger implications or the long-term consequences of engaging in certain behaviors.

Anonymous said...

"Should something be illegal? Well, if my cousin did it, would I want him or her to go to jail?
Drugs? No.
Prostitution? No. The extended family can help them out, and sticking them in prison isn't going to do that.
Abortion? Same, I find it morally distasteful, but I still don't want my cousin dying of a botched illegal abortion or being imprisoned for looking for one."

Well, if my cousin did drugs or was a prostitute I would want them arrested. Might serve as a wake up call and save their life(if not literally then metaphorically).

But that's not really the sort of calculation that Levitt would reasonably make concerning his daughter. The correct cost/benefit analysis would be, is the reduced risk of her becoming a drug addict/prostitute by making those things illegal worth the added risk of her getting snagged for doing those things? For someone with a daughter the answer is obviously yes.

An arrest probably won't ruin your life but being a drug addict/prostitute will ruin it. And of course getting picked up by the cops for one of those things means your already headed down the path of ruining your life so the experience behind bars aint going to hurt anything at that point.

Anonymous said...

"What's even funnier is that some father thinks a wayward daughter will be deterred from doing something if there's a LAW against it. It's also an insult to a young female that her father thinks she has so little ability to reason that, like a boy of a similar age, the female can't appreciate the larger implications or the long-term consequences of engaging in certain behaviors."

You've really thought this through haven't you?

If there was a legally sanctioned whorehouse in every city and you could buy a crack rock at the quiki mart, that definitely would increase his daughter's chances of either smoking crack or becoming a whore for some extra cash for college.

Pushing those things to the seedier sections of society, reducing their availability to middle class society, is the best detterent around.

RS said...

> Careful here: I doubt he'd like his daughter reading iSteve.

You implicitly make a good general point - a la Blake, Nietzsche, Mencken - about the hidden value of at least some kinds of 'vice', mischief, and intransigence. It's not all that hidden, even. Within certain limits, this insight is true. Blake, being wild and intuitve, recognized especially poorly where those limits lay.

RS said...

> There's the small problem of whether the constitution's list of enumerated powers is expansive enough to incorporate prohibiting everything he thinks his daughter shouldn't be doing.

Most people in government don't seem to find that sort of thing as problematic as you do.

K(yle) said...

Should something be illegal? Well, if my cousin did it, would I want him or her to go to jail?


Cousin Libertarianism? I could get into that. Of course what I think should be illegal for my cousin is dramatically different than what I think should be illegal for your cousin.

Anonymous said...

Would he like his daughter to go to jail for selling half an oz of weed to her friend?

Because American prisons are just overflowing with people arrested for selling half an ounce of weed.

Anonymous said...

There's the small problem of whether the constitution's list of enumerated powers is expansive enough to incorporate prohibiting everything he thinks his daughter shouldn't be doing


The constitution only restricts the federal government. Before the liberal age descended on us all sorts of things, like obscenity laws, were enacted at the state or even local level.

Anonymous said...

think parents romanticise their daughters. I was watching a field hocky game at my daughter's private school and two middle school girls were on the bleachers infront of me and I overheard one say to the other about a certain male student: " I'd really like to ..... HIS ...." And the blanks were pretty graphic. It wasnt generic romantic affection. Pretty lies.

So what? If young women were totally disinterested in sex there would be zero need for laws to deter them from e.g prostitution. Just as if young men were totally disinterested in drugs or fighting there would be zero need for laws against these things.

The points of laws is to deter people from acting as we think they shouldn't, and to encourage them to behave as we think they should.

Black Sea said...

If I wouldn't want my daughter working for Goldman Sachs, then . . . .?

Anonymous said...

Steven Levitt thinks his posterity will all be as smart and privileged as he is. So does Amy Chua. Little do they realize that once their posterity extends to the fifth generation or so, they will have enough direct descendants that one of them will be raped by a black, one will be abducted, tortured and killed by an immigrant from Ghana, another will be trapped in a group home living out a limited life sharing a room with a snoring Mexican, and more than a few will be killed by drunken Hispanics drag racing on some freeway.

Wes said...

I've had to question my views on such things as "universal morality" recently, because of thinking like this. The tribal view, the ethnocentric view, the family-centric view has always been derided and seen as a throwback.

And yet, there is no such thing as abstract morality floating above our heads somewhere in the clouds. Morality is only for the living and for the unborn generations. And ultimately, of course we privilege those in our family,

Anonymous said...

my daughter's private school and two middle school girls girls did not behave liket that at my school or high school -that is a change brought about by the 60s/cultural marxists.

My father went to an ivy league (as in one of the top two) in the 50s - he can remember one guy snug a girl into the dorms - it was considered vulgar, trashy low class behavior.

Things have changed because of the sixties/cultural marxism.
it is sign of a culture on its way to collapse when you hear 14 year old girls (at a private school no less) talking like that.

Thanks Jerry Rubin, Sumer Redstone, Frankfort School, etc..


As for marijuana - Peter Hitchens (the smarter, conservative brother of Christopher) has some pretty strong arguments against the legalization of marijuana you find the in his daily mail column.

kurt9 said...

This society assumes that the individual is competent to manage a million dollar nest-egg if one happens to earn or acquire one. The notion that the individual is assumed to be any less competent in managing, say, what they do in their own bedrooms is absolutely ludicrous.

trebble said...

Drugs...

some(pot, milder stuff) yes.
some(meth, heroin, etc) no.


I worked in a street mission amongst drug addicts in Europe for a while. Almost without exception, the intro drug for heavy addicts was pot. I'm a fan of Ron Paul, but I don't get the legalize drugs part on account of the damage I saw there on the street.

As for Levitt, maybe he is Jewish so he figures Israel will become the dominant nation in about 10 years and so his daughter's daughter can grow up behind that huge fence, protected by the race laws, other discriminatory laws and the military in Israel.

Baloo said...

I like that "radical materialism," Anon. By the way, Steve, your post touched of an elegant rant by blogger Ex-Army on conservatism, libertarianism and liberalism HERE.

Anonymous said...

Distinguo: What Levitt said was that if he didn't want his daughter doing it, he wouldn't mind the government passing a law against it, not necessarily that the government ought to pass a law against it. A good healthy dose of stigma might do the trick pretty well, at least in some cases.

For instance: I have a colleague at work, a successful man in his 50s, who recently left his wife of 20+ years and three teenage children, for a female colleague in her late 20s (his direct subordinate, and also married to someone else when the affair began), married the newer model, and now they've got a toddler together. Half a century ago, we would've called that home-wrecking, if not whoredom, and the pair of them wouldn't have been welcome in polite society, even if the whole thing was perfectly legal (which the affair technically wouldn't have been in most states, though nobody enforced the criminal statutes). There's basically no social stigma against it nowadays, though.

RKU said...

Well, it's always seemed to me that our problem was less drugs than drug-addicts. And since drug-addicts greatly desire drugs, perhaps if we just give them what they want under the proper framework, their numbers might diminish to the point where they'd become much less of a problem to everyone else.

Here's an example of a possible framework I've been suggesting to people since at least the beginning of the 1990s. Suppose we set up several very large free-drug houses 20-odd miles outside the boundaries of each of our major cities, fill them with vast quantities of all manner of drugs---crack, heroin, meth, whatever---and then provide free daily (one way) bus transportation to those places from lots of regular urban locations. To avoid charges of false advertising, the facilities would have large signs reading "If you come here and take too many drugs you will probably die!", but I doubt that message would much deter the intended targets.

Now unlimited quantities of extremely potent free drugs would surely be an exceptionally attractive lure, and I suspect a very healthy fraction of our more troublesome urban residents would quickly take their one-way bus-rides there, producing an exceptionally cost-effective means of "urban renewal." The drug centers would certainly provide good free quantities of cheap basic food and simple dormatory-type sleeping facilities, but I'd think the unlimited supply of drugs would still ensure a very high rate of processing-efficiency. And the duties of the staff would be pretty minimal---just come by every day or two to replenish the supply of food, water, and drugs, do a little simple cleaning, and cart off the dead ones for ordinary disposal.

Obviously the Steve Levitts of this world are always concerned about how policies might impact their own (possibly impressionable) young family members, and it would be pretty easy to achieve huge drug-deterrence as a easy byproduct of this approach. If we simply install videocameras in the drug-centers, and broadcast the resulting scenes as exceptionally powerful 24/7 "reality TV," perhaps even including many of the endless "expirations," I suspect that resulting social impact would make "Scared Straight"---or even Dante's Inferno!---seem like "Easy Rider." And it certainly wouldn't be dishonest propaganda---anyone doubting the events could just take a bus ride to one of the centers and confirm the facts to his friends.

An old friend of mine has always called this suggested strategy the "roach motel" approach: drug addicts check in, but they (almost never) check out. It's really hard to imagine too many current drug addicts remaining in our cities after a few years, and once they disappear, much of the entire existing drug/crime industry will disappear with them, whether or not we bother changing our existing drug laws. Absolutely win-win all around...

Svigor said...

RKU, that's a good idea. Then, when as much damage as possible has been done via that strategy, along comes the next wave; dispersing the addicts among the suburban population via subsidized housing as the only way to break up the "concentrated addiction" and give the downtrodden some dignity, bla bla bla.

ben tillman said...

When we have doctors over the wine bottles clink into recycling every few minutes....

Would it kill you to use a comma?

ben tillman said...

I worked in a street mission amongst drug addicts in Europe for a while. Almost without exception, the intro drug for heavy addicts was pot.

Europeans who never tried alcohol or tobacco or coffee/Coca Cola?

Give me a break.

Wandrin said...

"I think he should be thinking not only about what's good for his young daughter but what kind of country he'd like his daughter's daughter and his daughter's daughter's daughter to be born into."

Quite

.
munch,
"I think parents romanticise their daughters. I was watching a field hocky game at my daughter's private school and two middle school girls were on the bleachers infront of me and I overheard one say to the other about a certain male student: " I'd really like to ..... HIS ...." And the blanks were pretty graphic. It wasnt generic romantic affection. Pretty lies."

That's the point. One week every month their body uses mind-altering chemicals to try and force them into getting pregnant.

.

Jim said...

I don't really give a shit what Levitt's concerns are for his daughter. Raising her not to become a coke addict or a prostitute is his problem, not mine, and it doesn't justify locking people up because they like dropping acid or smoking cigarettes or gambling or whatever else. Is he planning on raising a daughter who is only avoiding prostitution because she's afraid she'll get locked up for it? (Further, I bet he's not too keen on his daughter giving blow jobs. So let's ban those too.)

Anonymous said...

> If there was a legally sanctioned whorehouse in every city ... that definitely would increase his daughter's chances of ... becoming a whore for some extra cash for college.

"increase"? Hard to argue. But by 0.0000001%? Or something meaningful? Is this important, or do you mean a _significant_ increase?

I don't know.

There's a recent fairly test of this. In New Zealand - an English speaking "western" country very much like the U.S. in culture (way more so that the U.K. for example), albeit poorer than the U.S. - commercial prostitution was illegal until 8 years ago. Since then, brothels ("legally sanctioned whorehouses" is I believe the long-winded term) have been legit.

There's certainly been no big cultural change. Government studies show no reliably measurable effect in the overall prostitution rate. But there are counter-arguments. Nevertheless, if you are making a claim that is interestingly testable, here's your test. Love to hear back what you find.

Anonymous said...

Does Levitt want his daughter to be an alcoholic? Should we thus ban alcohol?

Nanonymous said...

@RKU:

So in your opinion the society needs to help drug addicts to die off. The sooner and cheaper, the better. Great thinking here.

But then why not just round 'em all and shoot? Morally, not very different. But even cheaper. And, come think of it, there are other problem groups that can be handled in similar ways. All for the common good.

You do realize that none of it sounds very original, do you? "Since at least the beginning of the 1990s"... sheesh.

Anonymous said...

"I've had to question my views on such things as 'universal morality' recently, because of thinking like this."

What we need is TRUVERSAL morality, i.e. morality based on a truthful assessment of the world. The problem with universalism is begins with the premise that since basic moral rules are the same for all people, all people(s) must therefore be the same. This is flawed. Sure, both smart and dumb people shouldn't steal, cheat, or commit murder, but it doesn't mean there's no IQ difference between smart and dumb people. Both men and women shouldn't commit assault and battery, but that doesn't mean men and women are the same. Since men are stronger, it is necessary to make men more aware of the danger of violence action. If that's sexist, good for sexism.

Also, we need to replace EQUALITY with RE-QUALITY(or REAQUALITY), or a realistic assessment of quality. It should be plain as day or night by now that individuals are not equal--intelligence-wise, emotionally, or physically--and this applies to group differences too.

Just think. NY TIMES MAG runs an article about a yeller feller moaning and groaning about his kind isn't cool cuz of their race, but we're supposed to pretend race is a myth.

Anonymous said...

Just like with the hate speech thing, I really don't understand where you are coming from on this Steve. How does banning prostitution prevent prostitution? How does making stripping only quasi-legal prevent women from becoming strippers? Did banning alcohol for 13 years stop people from drinking? Oh, wait no it didn't, it helped fuel the rise of modern organized crime, made virtually every big city police department corrupt to their core, lead to even greater alcohol consumption and no doubt lead to more deaths from alcohol poisoning because crooks sold doctored up alcohol. Every stripper on a pole is someone's daughter and the uncertain legal status of strip clubs clearly didn't prevent her from becoming one.

The criteria that Levitt uses would lead to virtually everything being banned, because someone somewhere at any given time is worried about his or her kids if fill in the blank is legal. I'm sure there are plenty of Bible Belt Baptists who would like to ban alcohol and dancing, Mormons who would ban smoking, drinking, and caffeinated beverages, Muslims who would like to prevent their daughters from being literate and being allowed to drive cars. That doesn't mean we need laws because a percentage of the population doesn't like the idea of their daughters or sons doing whatever.

Wandrin said...

"The criteria that Levitt uses would lead to virtually everything being banned"

Nope. It just means applying true cost / benefit to everything, including immigration.

Anonymous said...

Nope. It just means applying true cost / benefit to everything, including immigration.

I wasn't referring to some economic model, I was pointing out that some people who have kids want to ban dancing, booze, smoking, coffee, colas, and girls being educated and being allowed to drive. It doesn't necessarily follow that because some people want to ban these things to "protect their kids" that society needs to go ahead and ban them. I was referring to people using government to legislate morality or their version of morality. But thanks for ignoring the rest of the post and inserting an issue I didn't even mention though, what immigration has to do with this I'm sure you'll explain to me.

Anonymous said...

Would it kill you to use a comma?

Well, no, now that you mention it, not really, I wouldn't think.

jack strocchi said...

We need a utilitarian philosophy that somehow imposes a moral inflection on costs and benefits.

Call it Virtulitatianism.

Steve Sailer said...

Virtuilitarianism ...

Maybe we need to write something aimed at philosophers that argues against Kantian universalism when everybody else doesn't play by the rules of Kantian universalism. Then sit back and wait a couple of generations ...

My natural tendency is to just try to make people aware of the facts and be funny about it and let people derive their own conclusions. But white people seem pretty incapable of grasping reality without a theory, so maybe I need to work top down, wrestle with the big theoreticians like Kant.

Anonymous said...

Does Levitt want his daughter to be an alcoholic? Should we thus ban alcohol?
again, please read up on Peter Hitchens.

Smoking has been substantially reduced by social stigma + limiting access and raising prices.

as for drug laws...
You need a willing society for these laws to work - most post baby boomer selfish assholes would rather have access to their pot than realize the social costs.

Anonymous said...

Steve's analysis overrates Levitt's thinking by misstating the libertarian position and setting up the wrong sides in opposition.

It's not Levitt's desire to keep his daughter off the pole vs. the desire of strangers to pay his daughter for sex. It's Levitt's desire to control his daughter vs. the desire of others to pay her for sex AND the adult daughter's desire to run her own life.

And, yes, it's unsophisticated thinking on Levitt's part. You don't have to be all that sophisticated to realize that parents should not be able to use the force of the law to make kids do what they want after those kids are adults. (Presumably we're not talking about hypothetical laws that would allow 12-year-old daughters on the pole or the crack house.)

If you're to make a good argument for banning either of those activities -- and I think you actually can make a decent case in both cases -- you've got to do better that "I want legal control over my kids forever." How many more nice Jewish boys would be forced into medicine and the law under this nightmare regime? Where would we get our stand-up comedians from?

little suzy said...

"I think parents romanticise their daughters. I was watching a field hocky game at my daughter's private school and two middle school girls..." etc.

Probably not as much as they romanticize their sons, although moms are more guilty of that..."she seduced my innocent boy...the sluttette."
Especially if she has no daughters herself.

No, the reason we need to control adolescents is because both genders horny and curious without the common sense and foresight that is (supposed) to operate with adults. Their brains are still undeveloped and they cannot see consequences so well. Intellectually they may be able to tell you they do, but they don't.
Left to their own devices, they soak up the crudest common denominator because that is the nature of puberty. They need to be protected from themselves. I realize this because I once was a teenaged girl.

Hieronymus Goat said...

If an other person does not believe that even he himself is and ought to be a rational agent of good will, how can that person be a member of the kingdom of ends?

A materialist or a nihilist, does not believe he himself is or ought to be, a rational agent of good will.

If they yet claim to know (how?) that you yourself are only an animal machine, behavior psychologically determined by masses, and that you do not deserve the rights and responsibilities of a free person.

Then how can that person be afforded the universal and identical trust of a rational agent? In deed, in the world, you can predict what a Nazi under orders or a wild lion under instinct will do, only as far as you know who they are.

RKU said...

Svigor: Then...dispersing the addicts among the suburban population via subsidized housing as the only way to break up the "concentrated addiction" and give the downtrodden some dignity...

Well, personally I don't really see the benefits of that. But if you do, I suppose you're free to advocate that policy...

Anonymous said...

I think in the most literal sense, we cannot have laws based on 'what I don't want my daughter to do'. But moral sense is integral to good laws, and thinking about those close to us does highlight certain moral questions.
After all, when a man's daughter is raped or when his mother is stabbed to death, criminal laws are no longer about abstract principles but about REAL people. It comes home. Good laws seek the right balance between personal emotions and rational impersonality.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:31PM:

So, when do you suppose we will be getting a society that will support those laws? And what should we do till then?

I have this really crazy idea. How about if we accept that adults get to make bad decisions about their own lives? And also that while we may try to put a lower bound on just *how* bad the decisions can be, that involves some pretty ugly tradeoffs?

Anonymous said...

"..most post-baby boomers selfish assholes would rather have access to their pot then realize the social costs"...

Yeah like what, Mr reefer madness?

What "social costs"? The worst thing I ever did after smoking pot was get really hungry. I once ate a whole pizza all by myself. I would say the "social costs" of banning Marijuana are far worse then legalizing it - like just for starters making users "criminals" and giving billions to the drug cartels, as we gave billions to the "alcohol cartels" (the mafia) when we stupidly banned booze in the 20's.

Anonymous said...

You idiots [and yes, Komment Kontrol, I meant to use the word IDIOTS] need to google schizophrenia + marijuana.

No one who has had to suffer through any intimate interaction with mental illness could possible be in favor of legalized pot.

It's insanity.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's just not safe.

It's not even safe to go out your front door, and yet you IDIOTS want to allow people to open the doors to their own minds!?

Kylie said...

"Should something be illegal? Well, if my cousin did it, would I want him or her to go to jail?
Drugs? No.
Prostitution? No."


I'm guessing that you've never lived in a neighborhood in which illegal drug use and prostitution are routine features of daily life (for which people are seldom arrested since the police are busy with more serious crimes).

"The extended family can help them out, and sticking them in prison isn't going to do that."

I have never known a drug addict to get cleaned up with help from his or her extended family (including help in the form of paying for rehab). The ones I know who got clean and stayed clean for an appreciable amount of time did so as a result of stints in jail.

I have seen families searching the streets, looking for an addicted family member in order to help him or her. In every case I can recall, the wayward addict actually hid from family because s/he preferred a life of addiction on the streets to a clean life in the bosom of his or her family or defiantly met the family and refused to budge. In every case (involving both blacks and whites), the families seemed genuinely stable and sincerely nice. They were at the very least truly concerned to have left their comfy middle-class environments to search for their kin in such a seedy locale.

Next time, try commenting on something about which you are not entirely ignorant.

Wandrin said...

anon,

"I didn't even mention though, what immigration has to do with this I'm sure you'll explain to me."

Read the original post again.

Anonymous said...

Reply to Kylie:

Your comments about drug abusers are just as true for alcoholics in many cases. You think there are no winos living on our streets with ruined lives. How is banning alcohol the answer? Banning drugs doesn't work. In a free country people are not going to stop doing something just because social engineering zealots like you want them to.

Stan said...

If your descendants are mixed race, would you still consider them part of your "posterity"?

LBK said...

We have legal prostitution now. It's called "marriage".

Jason said...

My wife is a modern, strong, independent woman. She's empowered. Which means I'm not sure if my daughter is really my daughter. Which means I don't care much what she does. Regardless of what I do, she'll probably be a ho like her mother. Oh, well.

LBK said...

We have legalized prostitution already. It's called politics.

Stan said...

I wouldn't want my daughter to become a lawyer or politician, either. Does that mean we should outlaw lawyers and politicians?

Anonymous said...

When prostitution is outlawed, only politicians will have prostitutes.

Kylie said...

"Your comments about drug abusers are just as true for alcoholics in many cases. You think there are no winos living on our streets with ruined lives."

Don't put words in my mouth. Drugs and prostitution were the two examples given in the comment to which I responded. That's why I didn't mention alcohol.

"How is banning alcohol the answer?"

Who said anything about banning alcohol? I certainly didn't. In any case, your dragging alcohol into a discussion of illegal drugs is disingenuous and just plain ignorant. Alcohol in moderate quantities has demonstrable medical benefits. Also, unlike the so-called hard drugs, it's not addictive to most people who consume it regularly. It's actually extremely hard to become physically addicted to alcohol. I forget the exact stats but only about 10% of those who drink alcohol regularly become drunks. That's certainly not true for regular users of heroin, cocaine, etc.

"Banning drugs doesn't work."

If you mean a half-assed "war on drugs", you're right.

"In a free country people are not going to stop doing something just because social engineering zealots like you want them."

I never said they would. In fact, I never said any of the things you ascribe to me.

I don't know if you made that first comment I replied to but your comment is just as ignorant as that one was. Either you're very consistent or you have lots of company.

Frank N. Stein said...

Just because we don't like something doesn't mean it is a good idea to outlaw it. Prohibitory laws tend to backfire. When things like drugs, prostitution, and gambling are made illegal, they do not disappear, they just go underground, which creates worse problems.

Suppose that despite your best parenting efforts your daughter decided to become a prostitute. (Yes, it happens.) Would you rather have her work in a safe, clean legal brothel, or out on the street where she would be exposed to much more danger?

Hard drugs are bad, but banning them leads to worse things: a much higher crime rate, huge profits for criminal cartels, corruption of law enforcement, etc. And the government's efforts to control these secondary problems are turning the country into a police state. A better approach would be to legalize it, and regulate it.

As rational thinkers, we need to realize that we do not live in an ideal world, and that wise policy consists of choosing the least-bad option rather than holding out for an unattainable ideal.

Anonymous said...

My wife is a modern, strong, "independent woman. She's empowered. Which means I'm not sure if my daughter is really my daughter. Which means I don't care much what she does. Regardless of what I do, she'll probably be a ho like her mother. Oh, well."

Strong an empowered equates to "ho" for you? Your daughter (or whoever's she is) is probably better off without your concern.