Unbecoming John Lott

I'm surprised to see that Cato is hosting an event for John Lott.  Contra Henry Farrell, I don't see the sock puppeting as anything other than an embarassing side show--it's something that fairly prominent figures on both left and right seem to have engaged in, and it's stupid and wrong, but I'm hardly willing to say that it should be a career ender in any of the cases that I'm aware of.  The problem with Lott is his data.

Now, I find Lott's thesis ("more guns, less crime") fairly convincing, and I think that he's marshalled some decent data to support it--data that aren't contested by anyone, as far as I know.  But that doesn't really matter, because he also seems to have played games with other parts of his work.  That is like the One Deadly Sin of academia, and once it's happened, there's no going back. Once you know that the researcher was willing to do such things even one time . . . well, how can you trust anything else they write?

I do think that Henry exaggerates the extent to which the left has cast out Michael Bellesiles--he's still teaching, and having another book published.  One liberal castigating Bellesiles is about as much evidence as . . . well, as me saying that I wish Cato weren't featuring the work of one John Lott.  But invidious comparisons aside, I do think that the gun rights side should be more vigorous in distancing ourself from this disgrace.  Embracing Lott just smears the taint of his dishonesty over all of us.

Update:  As one of Henry's commenters notes, "One may also ask what the University of Chicago press is doing reissuing this book".

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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