New at Cato Unbound: Lott Replies to Loury

John Lott is unimpressed with Loury's argument. The gist:

Charges of racism flow freely in Professor Loury’s recent book and this essay.  He makes it seem that we lock up blacks because whites are afraid of them or that we simply dislike them and want to keep them locked up and away from the rest of society.  But Loury forgets an important fact: for violent and property crime there is always an individual victim who gets hurt — for black criminals that victim is overwhelmingly black.  Nor does he recognize how extremely progressive criminal penalties are. He also neglects acknowledging that we can’t determine if the number of people in prison is “too high” without discussing the benefit from prison — without discussing how many crimes were deterred.
Many blacks have their lives disrupted by the criminal justice system, but the lives and property of many blacks are also protected by that same system.  Looking at only the cost of imprisonment seems a very strange way to answer the question of whether we should change the current system.

I'm really lookin forward to the rest of the replies, and to the subsequent blog chat. I find myself fairly sympathetic both to Loury and Lott, which gives me the sense that many elements of their positions are not mutually exclusive.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

4 thoughts

  1. ish:
    “The UAW has been intractable and has seemed to not care overmuch if the concessions it demanded drove the automakers into bankruptcy. From a personal, historical, and emotional standpoint, it isn’t hard to understand why the UAW would have felt they were in a highly adversarial position (what with the Battle of the Overpass and such), but by now they certainly should realize they are in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”
    I suspect the UAW’s bargaining stance is driven by the assumption that Washington will always bail out the goose. Do not expect the unions to care about the profitability of their members’ employers until one of the geese actually dies.

  2. Toyota pays for Japanese workers’ heathcare through taxes, directly on itself and indirectly on employees, etc.
    The market failure I see in the financial markets right now is a coordination problem: a lot of investors might well believe that they could earn a sufficiently safe return on investment on a sustainable basis lending money to more borrowers provided everyone else was doing the same thing, but there’s a generalized fear of being the last one out if everyone else quits lending. This sort of coordination problem can be solved by government, with the attendant difficulties that you then have government attempting to discern who is long-term solvent and who isn’t. (Treasury, at least publicly, seems to agree; they’re reserving money for solvent banks, not ones they deem weak.)
    How does this affect the automakers’ destruction of capital? Marginally. They may find it even harder to line up funding than they deserve to. Almost all of their problem, though, is more internal. This does, though, suggest a role for the government in providing DIP lending. I hope we get it; I think the politically likely alternatives are far worse.

  3. Tim, My guess is that ultimately determining which would be worse, the bailout or the bankruptcy, is impossible in any meaningful sense. There are simply two many variables and second order effects to pin down. As that’s a wash, I think it’s fair to say free market principles thus argue for bankruptcy. But I also thought Cohn’s was a good faith effort to explain why those principles don’t apply in this case. (And to my mind Manzi did an impressive job of dispensing with Cohn’s arguments.) So it’s worth noting that even you’re arguing Will didn’t need to respond to Cohn’s piece by… responding to Cohn’s piece.
    Pedro, I stand corrected on “cojones.” Beg your pardon. What I get for trying to be too clever myself.

  4. I don’t agree that US can stop making cars. They should stop making bad decision that what I think. If they plan to make cars for export. The economic may go back to normal.

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