Links – 01/29/2017

  • In my post on slavery and capitalism, I mention Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman’s view that, despite what some people have claimed, slavery was actually economically efficient and it wasn’t abolished because it was not profitable. A survey of economists show that it’s now a widely accepted view. Note that it could still be that, as some people have also argued, slavery had negative externalities, by making the rest of the economy more backward.
  • You have probably heard that studies have shown that immigration doesn’t result in higher crime rates. The Center for Immigration Studies published a very good report in 2009, which explains why the literature on that issue shows no such thing and that we simply don’t know, because the data are no good. (However, since immigrants are more likely than natives to have characteristics that are statistically associated with a higher propensity to criminal behavior, such as youth and poverty, I think it would be very surprising if immigration didn’t result in higher crime rates.) Hopefully, Trump’s administration will try to change that situation, by making a serious effort to collect data.
  • Heather Mac Donald wrote a good piece in which she criticizes the latest Department Of Justice report on the Chicago Police Department. I’m sure there are real problems with the CPD, but Mac Donald is right to note that, as per usual, the DOJ report is a politically motivated document and not a rigorous assessment of the situation.
  • According to a Morning Consult poll for Politico, the dominant media narrative about Trump’s inaugural speech doesn’t match the perception of most Americans, who actually liked the speech and didn’t find it dark, pessimistic, etc. Having listened to the speech, I don’t find this remotely surprising, but it’s still worth having a look at the crosstabs of that poll.
  • Republicans in Congress are trying to prevent Trump from lifting sanctions against Russia. Of course, all the usual suspects (McCain, Graham, Rubio) are involved, but let’s hope that Trump will manage to pressure Republicans in Congress to prevent them from codifying sanctions against Russia into law. So far, with the exception of the Magnitsky Act and perhaps a few others, most sanctions against Russia were taken by executive order that Trump could in theory get rid of at the stroke of a pen. But he would face a lot of opposition, so I don’t think it would be a smart move. He needs to collaborate with Putin to get something from him that he could use to twist the arms of Republicans in Congress.