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Bitcoin Is All that Stands between My Family and Starvation – Article by Anonymous Venezuelan

Bitcoin Is All that Stands between My Family and Starvation – Article by Anonymous Venezuelan

The New Renaissance Hat
Anonymous Venezuelan
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I am writing this post in response to comments I get from people when I try and explain what Bitcoin is. Uneducated people have told me countless times that bitcoins are only used by criminals. I want to debunk that myth and explain how the real potential for bitcoins is so much bigger than the black market can ever be.

Bitcoin is literally saving my family from hunger and giving them the financial freedom to immigrate in the near future. My parents and sister live in Venezuela. A lot of you might not know exactly what’s happening there so here are the cliff notes.

  1. An incredibly incompetent socialist government took power.
  2. They created strict currency controls that made it impossible for people to buy goods in anything other than their local currency. If you owned a business and needed to import something from overseas you needed the government’s approval to exchange the local currency to US dollars
  3. This made running a business almost impossible. To operate you had to buy US dollars on a black market or bribe a government official to exchange currency.
  4. When oil prices dropped the government quickly ran out of money causing an expected inflation of 1800% in 2017.

For more about what’s going on in Venezuela check our www.reddit.com/r/arepas

Things started to get really bad in Venezuela around 2014. My father owned at the time a successful air conditioning repair business but he knew things were about to take a turn for the worse. We came up with a plan to open a US bank account and convert bolívars (Venezuelan currency) into US dollars so we would be protected from inflation. We quickly ran into logistical problems, physically getting and safely transporting the money out of the country.

Caracas is one of the most violent cities in the world. Carjackings are common and people are killed for their cell phones. The airport police are corrupt and just as likely to rob you, and the money can’t be put in the local bank because you aren’t allowed to have dollars.

I’m 2014 Bitcoin was a new technology so we were very skeptical about it but we didn’t have any other options.

Fast forward to 2017. The economy is Venezuela is dead. My father lost his air conditioning business and people like our neighbors that were middle and upper class a few years ago can’t afford food. Thanks to the rising price of Bitcoin and its relative stability (to the Venezuelan economy), my family is part of a very small fortunate minority that can afford to help feed their community and also potentially immigrate to another country.

Now consider how big the Venezuelan economy is and that other countries like Brazil and Argentina are also experiencing similar problems. If citizens converted only a small amount of their savings into bitcoins this would represent an incredible amount of money.

Bitcoin can give anyone the ability to trade freely and protect themselves financially against corrupt and incompetent governments. In a world of 6 billion people, most of whom have no access or are ineligible for basic banking services, and an increasing number of governments opposing free speech and basic human rights, Bitcoin might not be the perfect hero we want but it’s what we need.

So in summary, Bitcoin is used by criminals the same way cash is used by criminals. If you take one step back you’ll realize that the possible legitimate uses for Bitcoin are far greater than the black market can ever be.

Reprinted from Reddit and the Foundation for Economic Education.

The author of this essay requested to remain anonymous.

4 Ways to Misuse Gun Statistics – Article by Daniel Bier

4 Ways to Misuse Gun Statistics – Article by Daniel Bier

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Bier
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There are a lot of false, misleading, or irrelevant numbers being thrown around about guns and crime, so here’s a brief guide to four potentially misleading types of statistics.

1. “The United States has a gun for every person.”

It’s practically a rule that every report about guns has to mention some version of this statistic. There are “300 million guns in the United States,” “one gun for every person,” “more guns than people.”

This number is problematic not just because the estimates are dodgy (nobody really knows how many guns there are — estimates range from 250–350 million) but also because of the way guns per capita is used interchangeably with the rate of gun ownership.

Confusing the two is a common mistake. Reported increases in guns per capita often makes it appear that a tidal wave of guns is washing over the country. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog sounds the alarm that there are now “more guns than people.” Sounds scary — we’re outnumbered!

But the General Social Survey finds that 2014 actually marked an all-time low for gun ownership in the United States. (Gallup finds different numbers, but recent surveys by Pew and YouGov essentially confirm the GSS estimate.)

Yes, maybe if you collected all the guns in the country, you could give one to each man, woman, and child, and maybe there’d even be some left over. But this isn’t how gun ownership works. Just because there’s “one gun for everyone” doesn’t mean everyone has a gun. (Easy way to check this: look around you — see any guns? No? Okay then.)

The “one gun for every person” factoid is ubiquitous because it’s easy to remember and hammers home just how many guns there are. There’s some value in pointing out the huge total number of firearms in the United States — it captures the sheer scale of the issue when people are talking about trying to regulate, control, or confiscate them.

But it’s misleading to use the per capita figure to measure the kind of prevalence of guns that matters: how many people actually have firearms?

According to the GSS, just 31 percent of Americans live in a household with a gun — down from over 50 percent in the late 1970s — and only 22 percent personally own a gun. How can this be? Because most gun owners have more than one (and stores and collectors have a whole bunch).

 2. “The US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.”

Kinda, sorta, probly, maybe? This again is based on the number of guns per capita. This, at least, is unequivocally clear: whatever estimate you use, the United States has more guns per person than anywhere else.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the rate of ownership is higher here than in other countries, even countries with a lot fewer guns per capita.

How could that be? First, survey data for a lot of countries (particularly poor or repressed countries) is dodgy, hard to collect, outdated, and there are lot of unreported or illegal firearms. But more important, again, is the issue with conflating guns per capita with the rate of gun ownership.

Depending on the year and the estimate, the US has between 79 and 113 guns per 100 people. (Note the difficulty of getting an accurate figure, even in a developed country like the United States.)

For simplicity’s sake, let’s use the most commonly cited estimate from the 2007 international Small Arms Survey (SAS): about 88 guns per 100 people.

In the same SAS, Yemen comes second with an average estimate of about 55 guns per 100 people (low estimate: 29; high estimate: 81).

Yet this doesn’t necessarily mean that the US has a higher rate of gun ownership. Remember, in the US, only one third of people live in households with guns, and only about one fifth personally own guns.

There are several ways that Yemen could have a higher rate of gun ownership.

First, guns could be more evenly distributed: Yemen is poor, and guns are expensive, so it might be that in poor countries, more families have guns, but each owns fewer on average. (For instance, some sources claim, even under Saddam Hussein, most Iraqi households had a gun.)

Second, the average American household has 2.6 people; Yemen has 6.7 — meaning that if someone owns a gun, three times more people live in that household in Yemen than in the US, on average, meaning that the household gun ownership rate could be a lot higher.

Third, the median age in Yemen is 18.6 years; in the US, it’s 37.6 years. Relative to population, Yemen has a lot more children than the US, so the rate of gun ownership among adults could be higher than in the US.

Serbia is also sometimes cited as having the second most guns per capita, but it’s hard to know because estimates vary so widely. According a report from Radio Free Europe, “Some 15 percent of Serbia’s citizens legally own firearms.” Serbs have 1.2 million legally registered firearms, but some estimates of illegal firearms more than double that figure to 2.7 million guns.

Assuming that the legal gun owners don’t also own all of the illegal guns, illegal weapons could easily make the actual rate of gun ownership among Serbia’s seven million people higher than the US rate of 22 percent.

The same could also be true in developed countries like Switzerland and Finland (each with an estimated 45 guns per 100 people).

It’s definitely true that the US has the most guns in the world, but it isn’t certain that it has the highest rate of gun ownership.

What does this imply? I suspect it means very little — making uncontrolled international comparisons is generally deceptive — but given the ubiquity of the claim, a lot of people seem to think it matters a great deal to their argument. That it isn’t clear this claim even is a fact should, perhaps, give them pause.

3. Conflating suicides with homicides

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave President Obama “two pinocchios” (signifying “significant omissions and/or exaggerations”) for his claim that “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.”

Setting aside the ambiguity of what it means to have the “most gun laws,” let’s pay attention to that last phrase. You’ll hear “gun deaths” or “gun-related deaths” referenced a lot when discussing statistics on shootings and gun control.

But, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum points out, about two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides.

While suicide is an important issue, it has nothing to do with crime, murder, or mass shootings. (And the research is mixed about whether restricting gun ownership reduces suicide.) Lumping suicide in with murder roughly triples the number of “gun deaths,” but it’s a deceptive way to look at the problem of violence committed with guns.

Both Sullum and WaPo’s fact checkers found that when you only look at states’ rate of gun homicides, excluding suicides, it makes a huge difference:

Alaska, ranked 50th [the highest in rate of gun deaths] … moved up to 25th place. Utah, 31st on the list, jumped to 8th place. Hawaii remains in 1st place, but the top six now include Vermont, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Iowa and Maine. Indeed, half of the 10 states with the lowest gun-death rates turn out to be states with less-restrictive gun laws.

Meanwhile, Maryland — a more urban state — fell from 15th place to 45th, even though it has very tough gun laws. Illinois dropped from 11th place to 38th, and New York fell from 3rd to 15th.

Suicide and murder have very different causes, consequences, and solutions, and they should always be discussed separately. When they aren’t, it’s a good time to be skeptical.

4. Juxtaposing two random numbers

This is a popular genre of pseudo-statistics, in which people throw together two totally unrelated numbers to try to inflate or downplay one of them.

For instance, the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof claims, “In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013).”

This is so irrelevant and so meaningless that I’m at a loss as to how it even occurred to Kristof to make this comparison. It serves no purpose at all but to emotionally rig the conversation.

There are maybe several hundred thousand police officers in the United States. There are 20 million children under age five.

What on earth could it mean that there are more preschoolers who die from guns than police killed in the line of duty? Do we have some reason to expect there should be a relationship, higher or lower or parity, between those numbers?

Or is it just that any number of tragedies above zero is going to churn up people’s emotions?

We’re not even comparing the same things: 27 felony murders of police with 82 gun-related deaths of children under five. According to the CDC, 30 of the gun-related deaths were accidents and one was “undetermined intent,” so there were actually 51 felony shooting deaths (typically, stray bullets from other crimes).

Kristof also used the 2013 figure for police murders, but 2013 was an aberrantly low year for cop killings. In 2014, 51 officers were killed in the line of duty; in 2011, it was 72. Presumably he thought it made a better comparison, but it’s just false to say 27 police are killed “each year.” Since 1980, the average is 64 officers killed each year.

What does this prove about the risk of gun violence? Absolutely nothing. And it is precisely as meaningful as Kristof’s comparison, or the common refrain that “more Americans have been murdered with guns in the last X years than in X wars.” There’s not even a suggestion about how these numbers should be related.

In America today, there are more preschoolers who drown (416 in 2013) than firefighters who die in the line of duty (97 in 2013).

What does this mean for the debate about water-related activities? Less than nothing.

Numbers don’t tell us what to do; at best, they tell us what we can do.

There’s no denying America has a lot of guns and a lot of gun crime (although much less than it used to). But numbers won’t tell us what to make of these facts. First, the raw facts of our situation are not as clear as we think, and to the extent we understand them, they don’t tell us much about our policy options. They won’t tell us what we should do about gun crime, or if there’s anything we constitutionally can do (with respect to gun ownership), or if those things sacrifice other important values.

Yet, too often, the debate consists of flinging random numbers and dubious statistics around and then emoting about them. Noting these problematic figures doesn’t prove anything one way or another about any particular policy; instead, let’s first clear out the rubbish so we can actually see the ground we’re fighting over.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of FEE.org. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Banning “Assault Weapons” Will Not Save Lives – Article by Corey Iacono

Banning “Assault Weapons” Will Not Save Lives – Article by Corey Iacono

The New Renaissance HatCorey Iacono
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Last weekend, America regrettably witnessed one of the deadliest mass shootings in the country’s history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were murdered and over 50 injured. The atrocity was carried out by a fanatic who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, using a civilian semi-automatic rifle, the Sig Sauer MCX. (Early reports that it was an AR-15 were mistaken.)

In the wake of this attack, many people have laid the blame on America’s relatively lax gun laws, arguing that so-called “assault weapons” (more appropriately known as semi-automatic rifles) and high-capacity magazines should be banned from civilian use.

They note that many of the deadliest shootings in American history have involved rifles like the AR-15, and they propose that such rifles should be banned to prevent heinous crimes like the Orlando massacre from occurring in the future.

Homicides Dehomogenized

But while it may be true that many mass shootings involved semi-automatic rifles, these events are rare. In fact, the latest data (2014) from the FBI show that all types of rifles were only confirmed to have been used in 248 homicides, down from 351 in 2009. Given the total number of homicides (11,961), rifles were confirmed to have been used in only two percent of murders.

You’re more likely to be stabbed, strangled, or beaten to death with bare hands than killed by someone with a rifle.

It’s impossible to know the true number of murders involving “assault weapons,” because the term is so nebulous, and because the FBI only looks at the categories of rifle, shotgun, and handgun. There are also nearly 2,000 gun murders in which the type of firearm used is unknown. But a rough estimate of 328 homicides with all rifles (extrapolated from rifle’s share of gun murders where the type of weapon is known) is probably close to the truth.

To be very generous to the assault weapon ban argument, let’s assume that all of these 328 murders were done with assault weapons. That would imply that such weapons were involved in less than three percent of all homicides in the United States, at most.

Such deaths are as terrible as any murder, but it is also true that knives, blunt objects, and hands/feet were confirmed to have been used in 1,567, 435, and 660 murders respectively. You are much more likely to be stabbed, strangled, or beaten to death with bare hands than killed by someone with a rifle, and the chances of being killed with an “assault-type rifle” are necessarily lesser still.

Bans Don’t Work

There is also little evidence that these weapons bans have worked in the past. From 1994 to 2004, Congress banned the manufacture, sale, or transfer of a large number of “assault weapons” (including some handguns and high-capacity magazines). An assessment study commissioned by the Department of Justice in 2004 found no evidence that the ban had had any effect on gun violence and concluded that “should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”

Violent ideologues will not be deterred from their paths of destruction by minor inconveniences.

Research by economist Mark Guis of Quinnipiac University revealed no evidence that either state or federal “assault weapons” bans reduced firearm-homicide rates. Carlisle E. Moody of the College of William and Mary found no evidence that the federal ban on high-capacity magazines had any effect on homicide rates.

Regarding terrorist attacks like the one in Orlando, it’s not clear, even in retrospect, that they would be prevented by more restrictive gun control measures. Stringent gun laws in California and France failed to prevent the recent massacres in San Bernardino and Paris. People driven to violence by ideology will not be easily deterred from their paths of destruction by minor inconveniences; it is simply naïve to believe that smaller magazines or not having a folding stock would have stopped them.

In any event, keeping in mind the horrors that mass shootings entail, “assault weapons” are not even connected to a significant amount of crime in the United States. Even if confiscating and banning them completely erased homicides with committed with them, and the perpetrators didn’t substitute them with other legally available firearms, the effect on homicide rates would be statistically very small.

Many Americans simply don’t believe that some of the most popular rifles in America (overwhelmingly owned for legal and peaceful reasons) should be banned or that tens of millions of Americans’ rights should be infringed upon for so little to show for it. If you care about violence in America, you shouldn’t waste your time on the red herring of “assault weapons.”


Corey Iacono

Corey Iacono is a student at the University of Rhode Island majoring in pharmaceutical science and minoring in economics. He is a Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) 2016 Thorpe Fellow.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Does DC’s Curfew Prevent Crime – Or Increase It? – Article by Alex Tabarrok

Does DC’s Curfew Prevent Crime – Or Increase It? – Article by Alex Tabarrok

The New Renaissance HatAlex Tabarrok
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Another for the “unintended consequences” file

Washington, DC, has a juvenile curfew law. Anyone “under the age of 17 cannot remain in or on a street, park or other outdoor public place, in a vehicle or on the premises of any establishment within the District of Columbia during curfew hours.” There are exemptions for juveniles accompanied by a parent and for travel for jobs (no detours allowed.)

Curfew laws keep some juveniles off the streets during curfew hours, but which ones? The criminals seem the least likely to be deterred, and with fewer people on the street, perhaps the criminals are emboldened.

The DC curfew switches from midnight to 11 pm on Sept 1 of every year. In a working paper, Jennifer L. Doleac and Jillian Carr test the effect of DCs juvenile curfew on gun violence by looking at the number of gunshots heard in the 11pm to midnight “switching hour” just before and just after Sept 1. From a summary:

The September 1 change provides a clean natural experiment. If curfews reduce gun violence, then when the curfew shifts to 11:00 p.m. rather than midnight, gunfire between 11:00 p.m. and midnight should go down. Does it?

Just the opposite. Using data on gunfire incidents from ShotSpotter (acoustic gunshot sensors that cover the most violent neighborhoods in D.C.), we find that after the curfew switches from midnight to 11:00 p.m., the number of gunshot incidents increases by 150 percent during the 11:00 p.m. hour.

This amounts to 7 additional gunfire incidents city-wide per week, during that hour alone. Jane Jacobs was right: the deterrent effect of having lots of people out on the streets is powerful. This makes juvenile curfew policies counter-productive.

The use of ShotSpotter data is innovative and avoids some problems with issues of police enforcement. Calls to 911, however, don’t show the same pattern as the ShotSpotter data, which is worrying.

I’d also like to see more information on the proposed mechanism. Is it really the case that significantly fewer people are out on the streets at say 11:30 pm after the curfew has been lowered to 11 pm than when the curfew was set at midnight? The curfew only directly affects people under 17 and, as noted above, there are quite a few exemptions. Also what are the ages of those typically arrested on the basis of ShotSpotter alerts?

By the way, on a typical day in DC there are almost 15 gunfire incidents heard by ShotSpotter (data here, the authors report 8 but that may be from a restricted sample). A lot of gunfire is heard around a handful of schools. The ShotSpotter system is quite accurate. Although it misses some shots it distinguishes shots from car backfires better than people do. I also found this note from the Washington Post amusing, in a frightening way:

About a third of detected gunshot incidents in the city happen on New Year’s Eve or around July 4. Officials explain the high rate as celebratory gunfire.

This post first appeared at Marginal Revolution.

Alex Tabarrok is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at Marginal Revolution with Tyler Cowen.

Third Interview of Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club – May 2, 2015

Third Interview of Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club – May 2, 2015

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov
September 6, 2015
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ELFC_DIW_Third_InterviewNote by Mr. Stolyarov: On May 2, 2015, a hot spring day in Roseville, California, Wendy Stolyarov and I visited Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club and had a lengthy discussion with him on a wide variety of subjects: life extension, our illustrated children’s book Death is Wrong, healthcare policy, criminal punishment, and the political prospects of the Transhumanist Party and third parties in general. This was Roen’s third interview with us (watch the first and second interviews as well), and his skillfully edited recording offers a glimpse into its best segments. This conversation occurred approximately four months before Wendy and I took the step to found the Nevada Transhumanist Party, but my comments in this interview are a good example of the evolution of my thinking in this direction, as I was already inclined toward endorsing Zoltan Istvan’s 2016 Presidential run.

Watch the interview here.

Join the Nevada Transhumanist Party here.

Immigration and Crime – What the Research Says – Article by Alex Nowrasteh

Immigration and Crime – What the Research Says – Article by Alex Nowrasteh

The New Renaissance Hat
Alex Nowrasteh
July 17, 2015
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The alleged murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has reignited the debate over the link between immigration and crime. Such debates often call for change in policy regarding the deportation or apprehension of illegal immigrants. However, if policies should change, it should not be in reaction to a single tragic murder.  It should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost the U.S. crime rates.

With few exceptions, immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates.  As described below, the research is fairly one-sided.

There are two broad types of studies that investigate immigrant criminality.  The first type uses Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data from the institutionalized population and broadly concludes that immigrants are less crime prone than the native-born population.  It is important to note that immigrants convicted of crimes serve their sentences before being deported with few exceptions.  However, there are some potential problems with Census-based studies that could lead to inaccurate results.  That’s where the second type of study comes in.  The second type is a macro level analysis to judge the impact of immigration on crime rates, generally finding that increased immigration does not increase crime and sometimes even causes crime rates to fall.

Type 1: Immigrant Crime – Censuses of the Institutionalized Population 

Butcher and Piehl examine the incarceration rates for men aged 18-40 in the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Censuses.  In each year immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than natives with the gap widening each decade.  By 2000, immigrants have incarceration rates that are one-fifth those of the native-born.  Butcher and Piehl wrote another paper focusing on immigrant incarceration in California by looking at both property and violent crimes by city.  Between years 2000 and 2005, California cities with large inflows of recent immigrants tended have lower violent crimes rates and the findings are statistically significant.  During the same time period, there is no statistically significant relationship between immigration and property crime.

Ewing, Martinez, and Rumbaut summarize their findings on criminality and immigration thusly:

“[R]oughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.  The disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades, as evidenced by data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial census.  In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were anywhere from two to five times higher than that of immigrants.”

They continue by focusing on immigrant incarceration rates by country of origin in the 2010 Census.  Less educated young Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men (poorly educated young men are most likely to be incarcerated) make up the bulk of the unlawful immigrant population but have significantly lower incarceration rates than native-born men without a high-school diploma.  In 2010, 10.7 percent of native-born men aged 18-39 without a high school degree were incarcerated compared to 2.8 percent of Mexican immigrants and 1.7 percent of Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrants.  These are similar to Rumbaut’s older research also based on Census data from 2000.  Controlling for relevant observable factors, young uneducated immigrant men from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala are less likely to be incarcerated than similarly situated native-born men.

However, studies of immigrant criminality based on Census data alone could fail to give the full picture.  First, many of the answers given to the Census may have been educated guesses from the Census workers and not the inmates.  Second, the government has done a very poor job of gathering data on the nationality and immigration status of prisoners – even when it has tried.  That biases me against the accuracy of prison surveys by the Census Bureau.  Third, incarceration rates may better reflect the priorities of law enforcement than the true rates of criminal activity among certain populations.

Type 2: Macro Level Analysis of Immigrant Criminality

To avoid the potential Census data problems, other researchers have looked at crime rates and immigration on a macro scale.  These investigations also capture other avenues through which immigration could cause crimes – for instance, by inducing an increase in native criminality or by being easy targets for native criminals.

The phased rollout of the Secure Communities (S-COMM) immigration enforcement program provided a natural experiment.  A recent paper by Thomas J. Miles and Adam B. Cox used the phased rollout to see how S-COMM affected crime rates per county.  If immigrants were disproportionately criminal, then S-COMM would decrease the crime rates.  They found that S-COMM “led to no meaningful reduction in the FBI index crime rate” including violent crimes.  Relying on similar data with different specifications, Treyger et al. found that S-COMM did not decrease crime rates nor did it lead to an increase in discriminatory policing that some critics were worried about.  According to both reports, the population of immigrants is either not correlated, or negatively correlated, with crime rates.

Ousey and Kubrin looked at 159 cities at three dates between 1980 and 2000 and found that crime rates and levels of immigration are not correlated.  They conclude that “[v]iolent crime is not a deleterious consequence of increased immigration.”  Martinez looked at 111 U.S. cities with at least 5,000 Hispanics and found no statistically significant findings.  Reid et al. looked at a sample of 150 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and found that levels of recent immigration had a statistically significant negative effect on homicide rates but no effect on property crime rates.  They wrote, “[i]t appears that anti-immigrant sentiments that view immigrants as crime prone are not only inaccurate at the micro-level, they are also inaccurate at the macro-level … increased immigration may actually be beneficial in terms of lessening some types of crimes.”  Wadsworth found that cities with greater growth in immigrant or new immigrant populations between 1990 and 2000 tended to have steeper decreases in homicide and robbery rates.

Using panel data on U.S. counties, Spenkuch finds that a 10 percent increase in the share of immigrants increases the property crime rate by 1.2 percent.  In other words, the average immigrant commits roughly 2.5 times as many property crimes as the average native but with no impact on violent crime rates.  He finds that this effect on property crime rates is caused entirely by Mexican immigrants.  Separating Mexicans from other immigrants, the former commit 3.5 to 5 times as many crimes as the average native.  However, all other immigrants commit less than half as many crimes as natives.  This is the most deleterious finding that I discovered.

Stowell et al. looks at 103 different MSAs from 1994-2004 and finds that violent crime rates tended to decrease as the concentration of immigrants increased.  An immigrant concentration two standard deviations above the mean translates into 40.5 fewer violent crimes per 100,000 compared to a decrease of 8.1 violent crimes in areas that experienced a change in immigration concentration two standard deviations below the mean.  It is easy to focus on the horrible tragedies when somebody is murdered by an immigrant but it’s very hard to imagine all of the people who weren’t murdered because of the lower crime rates created by increased immigration.  In their summary of the research on this topic, they write:

“[T]he weight of the evidence suggests that immigration is not associated with increased levels of crime.  To the extent that a relationship does exist, research often finds a negative effect of immigration on levels of crime, in general, and on homicide in particular.

Some immigrants from certain countries of origin may be more crime prone than others, as Spenkuch finds above.  To test this, Chalfin used rainfall patterns in Mexico to estimate inflows of Mexican immigrants.  The idea is that lower rainfall and a decrease in agricultural productivity in Mexico would push marginal Mexican immigrants out of Mexico and into the U.S. labor market.  Mexican rainfall patterns and the subsequent immigration had no effect on violent or property crime rates in major U.S. metropolitan areas.

These trends have also been found on the local level.  Davies and Fagan looked at crime and immigration patterns at the neighborhood level in New York City.  They find that crime rates are not higher in areas with more immigrants.  Sampson looked at Chicago and found that Hispanic immigrants were far less likely to commit a violent criminal act then either black or white native Chicagoans.  Lee et al. found that trends in recent immigration are either not correlated with homicides or are negatively correlated in Miami, San Diego, and El Paso.  The only exception is that there is a positive relationship between immigration and black homicide rates in San Diego.

Numerous studies also conclude that the high immigration rate of the 1990s significantly contributed to the precipitous crime decline of that decade.  According to this theory, immigrants are less crime prone and have positive spillover effects like aiding in community redevelopment, rebuilding of local civil society in formerly decaying urban cores, and contributing to greater economic prosperity through pushing natives up the skills spectrum through complementary task specialization.

Note on Illegal Immigration

The public focus is on the crime rates of unauthorized or illegal immigrants.  The research papers above mostly include all immigrants regardless of legal status.  However, every problem with gathering data on immigrant criminality is multiplied for unauthorized immigrants.  There is some work that can help shed light here.

With particular implications for the murder of Kate Steinle, Hickman et al. look at the recidivism rates of 517 deportable and 780 nondeportable aliens released from the Los Angeles County Jail over a 30-day period in 2002.  They found that there is no difference in the rearrest rate of deportable and nondeportable immigrants released from incarceration at the same place and time.  Their paper is not entirely convincing for several reasons, the most important being that their sample does not include the higher risk inmates who were transferred to state prison and were subsequently released from there.  There are also findings in their paper that seem to contradict their conclusion that aren’t adequately accounted for.  This is only one study of one sample in one city but the results should be incorporated into any argument over sanctuary cities.

Conclusion

Both the Census-data driven studies and macro-level studies find that immigrants are less crime-prone than natives with some small potential exceptions.  There are numerous reasons why immigrant criminality is lower than native criminality.  One explanation is that immigrants who commit crimes can be deported and thus are punished more for criminal behavior, making them less likely to break the law.

Another explanation is that immigrants self-select for those willing to work rather than those willing to commit crimes.  According to this “healthy immigrant thesis,” motivated and ambitious foreigners are more likely to immigrate and those folks are less likely to be criminals. This could explain why immigrants are less likely to engage in “anti-social” behaviors than natives despite having lower incomes.  It’s also possible that more effective interior immigration enforcement is catching and deporting unlawful immigrants who are more likely to be criminals before they have a chance to be incarcerated.

The above research is a vital and missing component in the debate over the supposed links between immigration and crime.

Alex Nowrasteh is the immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. His popular publications have appeared in the Wall Street JournalUSA Today, the Washington PostHouston Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, and elsewhere. His academic publications have appeared in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, the Fletcher Security Review, and Public Choice. Alex has appeared on Fox News, Bloomberg, and numerous television and radio stations across the United States. He is the coauthor, with Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, of the booklet Open Immigration: Yea & Nay (Encounter Broadsides, 2014).

He is a native of Southern California and received his Bachelor of Arts in economics from George Mason University and Master of Science in economic history from the London School of Economics.

This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Internet Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, A Losing Bet for the Rest of Us – Article by Ron Paul

Internet Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, A Losing Bet for the Rest of Us – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 16, 2014
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Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose “crony capitalism” or “cronyism.” Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling. It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.Supporters of an Internet gambling ban publicly deny they are motivated by a desire to curry favor with a wealthy donor. Instead, they give a number of high-minded reasons for wanting to ban this activity. Some claim that legalizing online gambling will enrich criminals and even terrorists! But criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists.

A federal online gambling ban would overturn laws in three states that allow online gambling. It would also end the ongoing debate over legalizing online gambling in many other states. Yet some have claimed that Congress must pass this law in order to protect states rights! Their argument is that citizens of states that ban Internet gambling may easily get around those laws by accessing online casinos operating in states where online gambling is legalized.

Even if the argument had merit that allowing states to legalize online gambling undermines laws in other states, it would not justify federal legislation on the issue. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given any authority to regulate activities such as online gambling. Arguing that “states rights” justifies creating new federal crimes turns the Tenth Amendment, which was intended to limit federal power, on its head.

Many supporters of an Internet gambling ban sincerely believe that gambling is an immoral and destructive activity that should be outlawed. However, the proposed legislation is not at all about the morality of gambling. It is about whether Americans who do gamble should have the choice to do so online, or be forced to visit brick-and-mortar casinos.

Even if there was some moral distinction between gambling online or in a physical casino, prohibiting behavior that does not involve force or fraud has no place in a free society. It is no more appropriate for gambling opponents to use force to stop people from playing poker online than it would be for me to use force to stop people from reading pro-war, neocon writers.

Giving government new powers over the Internet to prevent online gambling will inevitably threaten all of our liberties. Federal bureaucrats will use this new authority to expand their surveillance of the Internet activities of Americans who have no interest in gambling, just as they used the new powers granted by the PATRIOT Act to justify mass surveillance.

The proposed ban on Internet gambling is a blatantly unconstitutional infringement on our liberties that will likely expand the surveillance state. Worst of all, it is all being done for the benefit of one powerful billionaire. Anyone who thinks banning online gambling will not diminish our freedoms while enriching criminals is making a losing bet.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

More Guns Plus Less War Equals Real Security – Article by Ron Paul

More Guns Plus Less War Equals Real Security – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 2, 2014
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Last week’s tragic shootings in Canada and Washington state are certain to lead to new calls for gun control. The media-generated fear over “lone wolf terrorists” will enable the gun control lobby to smear Second Amendment supporters as “pro-terrorist.” Marketing gun control as an anti-terrorist measure will also enable gun control supporters to ally with those who support any infringement on liberty done in the name of “homeland security.”As with most infringements on liberty, gun control will not only make us less free, it will make us less safe. Respecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms is the original and best homeland security policy. Restricting the right of people to arm themselves leaves them with no effective defense against violent criminals or a tyrannical government.

Every year, thousands of Americans use firearms to stop violent criminals. One notable example occurred in September, when Oklahoman Mark Vaughan used a rifle to stop a knife-wielding co-worker who had already killed one person and wounded another. Unfortunately, most of the media coverage focused on speculation that the assailant was motivated by “radical Islam” rather than on Vaughan’s use of a firearm to protect innocent lives.

It is no coincidence that states that pass “concealed carry” laws experience a drop in crime. Since passing concealed carry in Texas in 1995, murder in the state has declined by 52 percent. In comparison, the national murder rate declined by only 33 percent.

Perhaps the best illustration of the dangers of gun control is federal regulations forbidding pilots from having guns in their cockpits. Ironically, this rule went into effect shortly before September 11, 2001. If pilots had the ability to carry guns on 9/11, the hijackers may well have been stopped from attacking the World Trade Center and Pentagon or persuaded to not even try.

Shortly after 9/11, I introduced legislation allowing pilots to carry firearms in the cockpits. Congress eventually passed a bill allowing pilots to carry firearms if they obtain federal certification and obey federal regulations. Aside from the philosophical objection that no one should have to ask government permission before exercising a right, the rules and expensive approval process discourage many pilots from participating in the armed pilots program.

It should not be surprising that the anti-gun Obama Administration wants to eliminate the armed pilots program. I actually agree that the program should be eliminated, so long as pilots who can legally carry a firearm in their states of residence can carry a firearm on the planes they fly. Allowing pilots to carry guns is certainly a more effective way of protecting our security than forcing all airline passengers to endure the TSA.

Both gun control and foreign interventionism disregard the wisdom of the country’s founders.

An interventionist foreign policy, like gun control, threatens our safety. A hyper-interventionist foreign policy invites blowback from those who resent our government meddling in their countries while gun control leaves people defenseless against violent criminals. Returning to a foreign policy of peace and free trade and repealing all federal infringements on the Second Amendment will help guarantee both liberty and security.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

SWAT’s Military Tactics Put Cops at Risk – Article by Daniel J. Bier

SWAT’s Military Tactics Put Cops at Risk – Article by Daniel J. Bier

The New Renaissance Hat
Daniel J. Bier
October 2, 2014
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“Democracy means that when there’s a knock on the door at 3 a.m., it’s probably the milkman.”
—Winston Churchill (apocryphal)

On the morning of May 5, 2011, a Pima County, Arizona, SWAT team pulled up to the home of Jose Guerena, a Marine veteran who had served in Iraq. Sheriff’s deputies threw flashbang grenades as a diversionary tactic and broke down the door.

Inside, Guerena told his wife and 4-year-old son to hide in the closet and went into his hallway holding a rifle. Officers let loose, firing 70 rounds in 10 seconds, hitting him over 20 times.

From the time of their arrival to the final shot, it was all over in less than a minute. Guerena’s rifle had the safety on; he never fired a shot. Police found no evidence of criminal activity.

Police organizations sometimes defend the prolific use of military equipment and tactics as necessary precautions against criminals arming themselves before cops can arrest them. But the overuse of tactical raids carries its own risks, and not just to citizens (and their dogs) who are subjected to battering rams, flash grenades, and automatic weapon fire.

Although SWAT teams were originally developed to handle rare and violent events, such as bank heists and hostage situations, they are now increasingly deployed to handle routine law enforcement functions. Paramilitary units are often the first point of contact in any investigation, and there are some places where all warrants—regardless of the suspect, evidence, or crime—are served by SWAT.

St. Louis County, Missouri—home of the city of Ferguson—is one such jurisdiction. As the county government explains the reasons for its SWAT team, “The Tactical Operations Unit … is capable of dealing with hostage situations, armed and barricaded subjects, suicidal persons and executes all search warrants issued in St. Louis County” (emphasis added).

One of these things, you may notice, is not like the others.

St. Louis is not alone. In a typical case in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a SWAT team burst into a man’s home, shot his two black Labradors, and left his family handcuffed on the floor. A drug dealer had mailed a box of drugs to his address, intending to intercept it before it was delivered. The man was Cheye Calvo, the town’s mayor.

A subsequent lawsuit by Calvo revealed that Prince George’s County uses its SWAT team to serve every single search warrant, even when the police don’t know who the suspects are, if they might be dangerous, or if there are children present.

Calvo succeeded in lobbying for the nation’s first law to track the use of SWAT teams. The data soon revealed that 94 percent of tactical deployments in Maryland were for ordinary search warrants, not for the kinds of violent situations that might typically justify such aggressive use of force. In Prince George’s County, more than half the raids were for misdemeanors or non-serious felonies.

Statewide, only 60 percent of tactical raids actually resulted in arrests for any crime, and Maryland is far from exceptional in using SWAT for trivial issues. In Florida, paramilitary teams perform business license inspections on black and Hispanic barbershops. Tactical raids have also been conducted for such “crimes” as hosting unlicensed poker games, defaulting on student loans, violating copyrights, and making fun of a politician on Twitter.

But there is a price to be paid for sending masked men crashing unannounced through windows and doors into people’s homes 45,000 times a year, often in the middle of the night. Using SWAT to serve minor warrants introduces violence into otherwise non-violent situations, creating, rather than defusing, volatile and dangerous conditions—the very opposite of what SWAT teams were originally meant to do.

It is not unusual even for innocent people awoken in such circumstances to believe that the police are thieves or violent criminals breaking into their homes. Like anyone else confronted with such a disorienting and frightening situation, they may reach for guns or other weapons to defend their home and their family, sometimes with tragic results for both citizens and officers.

Consider just a few recent examples:

  • Ryan Frederick was charged with first-degree murder after he fired on someone smashing their way through his door one night in 2008. The intruder turned out to be Detective Jarrod Shivers serving a no-knock warrant for a non-existent cannabis farm.
  • Henry Magee was a small-time marijuana grower who in December 2013 awoke in the middle of a no-knock raid on his trailer and opened fire on the intruders, killing Deputy Adam Sowders. A grand jury refused to indict him for capital murder.
  • Marvin Louis Guy opened fire on someone breaking in through his window before dawn on May 9, 2014; the intruders were police serving a no-knock drug warrant. They found no narcotics, and no drug-related charges have been filed, but Guy faces the death penalty for killing Detective Charles Dinwiddie.
  • Aaron Awtry, a 72-year-old South Carolinian, assumed that the SWAT team members battering down his door were criminals trying to rob his small-stakes poker game. He opened fire through the door, hitting Deputy Matthew May in the arm, while vice officers returned fire. Awtry was wounded and charged with attempted murder; the other players each received a $100 fine.

Cases of disastrous raids abound, and they reveal a serious problem with the assumption that paramilitary tactics are always safer for police. Some crazy or desperate suspects may indeed justify such preemptive force. But in many other cases, the dangerous and volatile conditions put officers at risk who otherwise would not be.

If a policeman in a blue uniform had knocked on Frederick’s door in the middle of the day, what are the chances that the innocent man would have shot a cop? And surely there are many others like Magee: guilty of something, but otherwise non-violent—or at least not suicidal enough to intentionally shoot a cop—who could be frightened into using a weapon in self-defense.

The most serious problem with the overuse of aggressive, militarized raids is one of information: Residents of the home don’t know who is breaking in, and police officers often don’t know who is inside, so both sides assume the worst and act accordingly. From the perspective of a sleeping homeowner, a no-knock SWAT raid is indistinguishable from an armed robbery. And as Guerena’s case shows, these events can escalate to lethal force in the blink of an eye. It is no exaggeration to say that lives have been ruined and ended because of unnecessary and violent tactics for petty and non-violent offenses.

Before we can address such problems as the use of military equipment by local law enforcement, we must first understand what is driving their demand for armored vehicles and high-powered weapons. The overuse of SWAT and the associated overuse of military gear in civilian policing are in part a result of overblown fears about police safety. But they are also based on a false dilemma between keeping cops unsafe and turning them into an army.

Officer safety is a legitimate problem, but that does not mean more force is always a legitimate answer. The best way to keep officers safe is to try to de-escalate conflicts—reserving SWAT for only the worst situations—and to end the War on Drugs that is at the heart of the breakdown of trust in law enforcement. When that’s done, Americans may once again go to sleep knowing that if you hear a bang on your door at 3 a.m., it’s probably just the newspaper.

Daniel Bier is the executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian. He writes on issues relating to science, skepticism, and economic freedom, focusing on the role of evolution in social and economic development.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

By the Numbers: Is Private Gun Ownership Responsible for Police Militarization? – Article by Daniel J. Bier

By the Numbers: Is Private Gun Ownership Responsible for Police Militarization? – Article by Daniel J. Bier

The New Renaissance Hat
Daniel J. Bier
September 3, 2014
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Are private guns to blame for police militarization and racial tensions with cops? That’s the conclusion of Adam Winkler, a Huffington Post blogger and law professor at UCLA. In the wake of a police officer shooting an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, Winkler argues that private gun ownership is a major culprit for the tensions between citizens and cops.

The problems of racial harassment and police militarization are exacerbated by the fact that America has a heavily-armed civilian population. … Whatever one’s personal views about guns, there is no denying their presence in every American city, from Philadelphia to Ferguson. Nor should we fail to recognize the profound impact this has on law enforcement.

Because there are so many guns out there, police officers are trained to live in fear of the very people they are supposed to protect and serve. … At training academies throughout the nation, new recruits are taught that cop-killers need two things: a will to kill and an opportunity to act. There’s little an officer can do about will … Officers can, however, limit the opportunities for a cop-killer to act by being prepared and quick to defend themselves.

He further contends that police militarization is actually in part the result of private gun ownership: “The Brown protests have also set off a debate about militarization of the police since 9/11. That militarization is partially a result of our heavily-armed civilian population. The armored vehicles that have become the symbol of militarization are being purchased by law enforcement agencies to protect officers against gunfire.”

There are many problems with this argument, but first let me note that the armored vehicles Winkler mentions, such as MRAPs, are designed to protect soldiers from landmines and IEDs in wartime, not to protect peace officers from gunfire. They are mine-resistant, not bullet-resistant, vehicles. If guns are really the concern, “overkill” just doesn’t even cut it here.

But the biggest issue with Winkler’s claim is that widespread private gun ownership far predated police militarization. Large numbers of private citizens have owned firearms throughout American history.

Moreover, gun ownership in the United States has been declining, both before and throughout the process of militarizing law enforcement. The 1980s saw early stirrings of it, with the spread of SWAT teams and Reagan-era “tough on crime” policies. It grew in the mid-1990s under the Clinton administration, which authorized the DoD’s 1033 program, expanding and formalizing the process for giving military gear to police. Finally, after 9/11, militarization took off in earnest, with two wars, paranoia about terrorism, a booming defense industry, and billions of dollars in Homeland Security money to drive it.

Meanwhile, rates of gun ownership through the U.S. dropped or stagnated. Winkler drops the oft-quoted and often misunderstood statistic that there are “320 million guns in the United States, approximately one per person,” but apparently doesn’t recognize that this stat doesn’t mean everyone gets a gun. (A good way to check: Look around you. Do you see any guns? No? Okay, myth busted.) Today, the actual rate of gun ownership is just 34 percent, down from an average of over 52 percent in the 1970s.

Not only is gun ownership down, so is crime—dramatically so. Starting in 1990, and continuing through recessions, terrorist attacks, and wars, crime has fallen. Murder, rape, robbery, assault—even property crimes—are all down. Cops toting .50 caliber machine guns and driving landmine-resistant vehicles cannot be responding to an epidemic of violence, because one simply doesn’t exist.

But even if far fewer people own guns and commit crimes than did so in the past, it’s still possible that police officers are uniquely under threat in recent years. Maybe killings, assaults, and injuries of police are on the rise. But they’re not.

In every way, this theory fails to align with the facts. Not only is gun ownership down, but so are crime and attacks on police. Private gun ownership is not responsible for militarization, racial profiling, or tensions with police.

But Winkler is right about one thing: Police officers are being taught to be paranoid about citizens and guns, and that fear is being channeled against minorities, from ATF stings targeted at poor blacks and Hispanics, to New York’s racist stop-and-frisk program, to New Jersey’s felony prosecution of a single mom who tried to do the right thing.

But the reason isn’t that there is more of a threat than there used to be. It’s that people are being systematically misinformed—by reporting like Winkler’s—about the risks they actually face. Telling poor minorities that hostilities with police are really partly their fault—and that if they would just give up their guns, everything would be okay—is not just absurd, it’s actively harmful.

Daniel Bier is the executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian. He writes on issues relating to science, skepticism, and economic freedom, focusing on the role of evolution in social and economic development.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.