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March 2005

I give Glenn Reynolds the last word on my blog about the Schiavo case:

Unlike Andrew, I don't think that America is in danger of being taken over by religious Zealots, constituting an American Taliban and bent on establishing theocracy. I think that -- despite their occasionally abusive emails (and most aren't abusive, just upset) -- the people that Mickey Kaus is calling "pro-tubists" are well-meaning, sincere, and possessed of an earnest desire to do good. I don't think that they're nascent Mullah Omars, and I think that calling them that just makes the problem worse. This is a tragedy, and it's become a circus. Name-calling just makes you one of the clowns.

But I do think that process, and the Constitution, matter. Trampling the Constitution in an earnest desire to do good in high-profile cases has been a hallmark of a certain sort of liberalism, and it's the sort of thing that I thought conservatives eschewed. If I were in charge of making the decision, I might well put the tube back and turn Terri Schiavo over to her family. But I'm not, and the Florida courts are, and they seem to have done a conscientious job. Maybe they came to the right decision, and maybe they didn't. But respecting their role in the system, and not rushing to overturn all the rules because we don't like the outcome, seems to me to be part of being a member of civilized society rather than a mob. As I say, I thought conservatives knew this.

More ace reporting from the "we're much more thorough than those amateur bloggers" Mainstream Media:


Published: March 27, 2005

The Week Ahead column last Sunday misstated the screen size of Sony's new PlayStation Portable, which was introduced on Thursday. It is 4 inches by 3 inches, not 4 foot 3 inches.

(Via Gawker.)

Notes toward a review of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's forthcoming economics book, Freakonomics. I thank Julia Bannon, Online Marketing Manager for HarperCollins Publishers, for sending me a proof copy.

For the most part, the book succeeds. It is interesting, useful, and, in spots, entertaining. But it is also frustrating. (I concede that the book is not intended for professional economists.)

First, the good news.

1. Economics is based on a handful of simple, even obvious, ideas. What distinguishes economists is the single-mindedness and depth with which they pursue those ideas to their logical conclusions. Consider, for example, one of the most basic ideas: economists believe that people tend to respond to incentives. This seems reasonable, but it doesn’t seem surprising or terribly useful.

But Levitt and Dubner push this assumption to its limits and in so doing produce some impressive insights. We find out that, contrary to what at least some criminologists once believed, if criminals are punished more severely, they definitely commit fewer crimes (p. 121). We learn whatever merits high-stakes educational tests have, they also clearly have at least one cost: teachers affected by them will cheat. Cheating was occurring in at least 5% of Chicago’s public school classrooms (p. 32). Not only did economics suggest to Levitt that teachers would cheat, it provided the strategy for detecting it. Levitt also found evidence that sumo wrestlers in Japan cheat (pp. 36-42).

Continue reading "" »

ESPN's Jim Caple visits NC State:

State is easily the largest of the three schools in the Triangle, but it never gets any respect. When I visited Chapel Hill and Duke, students at both schools belittled the university, retelling the old joke, "If you can't go to college, go to N.C. State," and telling me that the Wolfpack campus doesn't have much to offer.

This is exceptionally unfair. Granted, there are no chocolate fountains or hot air balloons on N.C. State's brick-lined campus. And its many brick buildings are not especially pretty. In fact, walking across campus, the thought that comes to mind is: "Wow, they must have gotten a really good deal on bricks."