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Debunking myths

| Sunday, July 8, 2007

Just in time for the Fourth of July, John Lott, author of the groundbreaking 1998 book "More Guns, Less Crime," has released another amazing book: "Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't." This book provides studies and analysis proving that your every right-wing instinct is based on sound economic analysis:

• Fox News Channel isn't conservative: "Even employees of Fox News, which is widely regarded as a conservative channel, donate 81 percent of their contributions to Democrats."

• Public schools are government re-education camps: "(P)ublic education was actually designed to spread government-approved values."

• Felons vote Democrat: "Remarkably, it looks as if virtually all felons are Democrats."

Lott shows that there are pretty clear answers to what lowers the crime rate, what increases the crime rate and what doesn't have any effect at all. Despite their popularity as explanations for the remarkable drop in crime in the 1990s, the aging of the population and the enforcement of quality-of-life crimes both had virtually no effect.

What did work was higher arrest and conviction rates, concealed-carry laws and the reinstitution of the death penalty.

"Generally, the studies found," Lott writes, "that each execution saved the lives of roughly 15 to 18 potential murder victims."

Meanwhile, gun locks and gun self-storage laws lead to more deaths -- for the obvious reason that if the owner can't get to his gun in time, the beneficial effect of having a gun is lost. Lott also shows that crime skyrocketed in cities that implemented affirmative action policies that lowered allegedly "biased" and "irrelevant" tests for cops.

Lott also says that "when we analyze the overall consequences a criminal faces after conviction, we find a surprising result: Rich criminals face disproportionately high penalties."

The Los Angeles Times recently did an analysis of jail sentences for driving with a suspended license after being arrested for drunken driving. The majority of these offenders served four days, exactly what Paris Hilton got -- until she was returned to prison. By serving her full 23 days, Hilton served more time than 80 percent of people arrested for the same offense.

In addition to losing their reputations, their inheritances and generally their spouses, according to Lott, wealthy felons also earn less money post-conviction than poor defendants. Not relative to their prior salaries, but in direct comparison. "Amazingly," Lott says, "after controlling for a variety of social and demographic factors, wealthier ex-convicts on average earn a lower salary after their conviction than poorer ex-convicts."

Let's hope so. Felons are usually Democrats. As Lott notes: "Michael Milken, Martha Stewart and Leona Helmsley share something in common besides being convicted felons -- they are all Democrats. While their wealth sets them apart from the typical felon, their party registration is the same as most former convicts."

"According to academic studies," Lott says, "from 1972 to 1996, on average, 80 percent of felons would have voted Democratic. An overwhelming 93 percent ostensibly would have voted for Bill Clinton in 1996."

This is not because, as you might imagine, blacks have high crime rates and also happen to be overwhelmingly Democrat. Lott compares the voting patterns of felons and nonfelons, controlling for race, age, education level, religious habits, employment, age and country of residence. Wholly apart from all these factors, felons were still more likely to vote Democrat. Indeed, in the 2004 election, Lott says, felons in Washington state "voted exclusively for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry."

Needless to say, Democrats are neurotically obsessed with restoring the right to vote to felons. But the ex-cons themselves rarely express any interest in regaining this particular right. What ex-cons want is the right to own a gun. "Felons," Lott says, "who frequently live in poor, high-crime neighborhoods, want to be able to defend themselves."

So the evidence is in on that one, too: Preferring the right to bear arms to the right to vote (for choice), convicted felons have a superior value system to liberals.

Ann Coulter, a lawyer and political analyst, is a columnist for Human Events.

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