Smoking bans lead to drunk driving.

Productivity Shock posted a great abstract on this topic. I would guess that any number of the following might be true and also contribute to the phenomenon in question, but might not be detectable by the existing data.
1. Bumming out cigarettes is more likely when you have to go outside to smoke because smokers are put in a more socialized setting — smoker solidarity. Smokers have to stock up mid-way through the night, thus driving is increased.
2. Most cities don’t let you take your drink outside when you go outside for a smoke. This resulted in a date rape drug problem in New York when women left their drinks unattended. Tobacco companies also pushed smokeless tobacco campaigns because it was so inconvenient to go outside of large night clubs. In addition to the above my guess is that smokers are more likely to order shots and hard spirits rather than beer with smoking bans because they can drink their drink go out and smoke, come back and repeat. My guess is that their on average more drunk than they otherwise would be.
3. The costs to leaving a bar in search of another (better) bar are lower with smoking bans. You’ve stepped outside, you don’t have a drink in your hand. The costs of hopping in your car and checking out another bar to inform your social group about once you’re there are lower than if you’d stayed inside. In other words, it’s not just traveling to one bar across the border that’s more likely with smoking bans but also multiple different locations in a single night – again on net more driving.

The scariest paper I read today

As I’m bunkered down in the library this early evening plowing my way through back issues of Crime and Delinquency, I couldn’t help but get sidetracked by reading this paper unrelated to my dissertation.
Jill Leslie Rosenbaum and Lorrain Prinsky (1991). “The Presumption of Influence: Recent Responses to Popular Music Subcultures,” 37(4): 528 – 535.
It definitely has the scariest abstract I’ve read in quite some time:

This article focuses on the juvenile justice system in California and outlines approaches currently taken in response to teenagers who are part of the “punk” and “heavy metal” subculture. Data were collected from hospitals that have adolescent care programs. When these hospitals were given a hypothetical situation in which the parents’ main problem with their child was the music he or she listened to, the clothes he or she wore, and the posters on his or her bedroom wall, 83% of the facilities believed the youth needed hospitalization. These findings were placed within a labeling framework in order to understand the effect of these policies.

Apparently some California courts went so far as to tack on these stipulations to juvenile parole sentences:

1.Not to dress in any style that represents Punk Rock or Heavy Metal.
2.Not to wear hair (dye or cut) in any style that represents Punk Rock or Heavy Metal.
3.Not to associate with known Punk Rockers or Heavy Metalers.
4.Not to wear any Punk Rock or Heavy Metal accessories – earrings, or jewlery, spikes or studs.
5.Not to frequent any place where Punk Rock or Heavy Metal is main interest.
6.Not to listen to Punk rock or Heavy Metal music.
7.Not to write or draw Punk Rock or Heavy Metal.
8.No to tattoo, cut, harm or injure self in any way.
9.To keep parents of whereabouts at all times.

Maybe this explains why west coast punk rock sucks.

How popular music reshaped high school status networks

Tyler Cowen posts to Randall Collins’s, Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory. To sum up; the rise of popular music created new social spaces and opportunities for kids to challenge the traditional social hierarchy awarded by the control of traditional social venues (high school athletics).
It reminded me of this excerpt from McCloskey’s Bourgeois Virtues.

Commercials as art

I’ve been on a kick about the communicative role of prices lately. Prices in the market serve as signals between buyers and sellers about the quality, quantity, and type of goods that should produced and distributed throughout the economy. In this sense the product outputs of a market economy are representative of social preferences, values, and beliefs.
When on a road trip recently, my roommate popped in an old VHS of a movie that he had recorded off TV in the mid 1980s. While listening to the now retro commercial jingles and slogans, I thought about how advertising is also an explicit signal in the market process. I think the old commercials for toys, movies, and other stuff, when interpreted in the correct light could give a richer description of society in that time than could a typical piece of art (novel, painting, music, movie). Even though we often attribute value and quality to art that represents its time and context, on average it seems that commercials are more representative of what society was actually like.
Commercials are specifically trying to appeal to the tastes and preferences of defined customer groups who are most likely to be watching a certain type of program. Something about this made me want to tell Naomi Klein to shove it.

A sensible quote then an oddity

Mathew O’keeffe (1989) wrote in Legal Notes No. 5 for the Libertarian Alliance some sensible conclusions as to the empirical results of the incentives promoted by retribution based criminal sentences:

The increase in criminality was matched by a decrease in apprehension; people were far less willing to “shop” their friends if they thought this would mean certain death. And the criminal himself was naturally far less likely to turn himself in, and, if caught, plead guilty. The juries themselves often chose to acquit a criminal rather than condemn him to an unfair punishment for a petty offense. The very great severity of punishments – in particular the irreversibility of the death sentence – led juries to be very cautious about their verdicts… The message is simple; the greater the punishment (“deterrent?”), the greater the crimes actually committed, the smaller the number of apprehensions, and the smaller the number of convictions.

Later sections of the article make me wonder if Walter Block ever used O’keeffe as a pen name:

[C]onvicted criminals could finance restitution by fighting to the death in televised gladiatorial combat or accepting roles in “snuff movies.” Robert Burrage (A Free Market in Human Organs, Economic Notes No. 10 Libertarian Alliance) has even made the suggestion that after death, the criminal’s body be reduced to spare parts and sold on the market! Perhaps the space age will offer less barbaric options; it could well offer a whole range of high pay, high risk, menial occupations. Criminals could be sent to work in perilous, frontier condition places to repay the more sizable restoration debts. A particularly attractive feature of this option would be that after a certain period away from earth, the effects of gravity on the body would be such that no criminal could ever live on earth again.

If you call me Eddy, I will call you Nobel.

In honor of Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, I invite everyone to watch “The Great Global Warming Swindle” its a great documentary on climate change. Alongside “Mine your own business” these are a hard hitting duo against the anti-development consequences of the modern environmentalist movement. Hat tip to Michael Thomas for the great reference.

Naomi Who?

When ever I’m in a book store, I spend most of my time in the social science section. Amidst history and current politics, I’ve stumbled across some fantastic authors who I never would have found without thumbing the shelves: Studs Terkel, John McPhee, and many others. But there’s always that abrasive Naomi Klein. Her book No Logo looks so radical and akin to the anarchist cookbook, that I just can’t picking it up and taking a look. Over the years I must have picked it up a dozen times, read a sentence or two, found its contents appalling, and slammed it back onto the shelf. Time goes by and the next time I’m in a book store I repeat the vicious cycle.
Klein has a new book out, Shock Doctrine, which I admit to have not read. But it seems to be getting a lot of attention (Here’s Tyler Cowen’s book review and comments from Pete Boettke 1 and 2).

My first reaction is, why do we (the economics profession) even give this woman the time of day. Here’s how my ideal conversation concerning her work would go. An interested person strikes up a conversation, “Oh you’re an economist, have you read Naomi Klein’s new book?”
The economist responds, “Who?”
“You know it’s like a best seller.”
“Where does she teach, where’s her degree from, what school of thought does she subscribe to?”
“I don’t know but she gives a devastating critique of Capitalism.”
“I guess I should look for a new line of work.”
If there’s no real theory behind the work, it must be riding to success on some alternative content: it’s plea to the public’s bias against capitalism, Klein’s emotional appeals, or her own form of shock doctrine.
Take the interview that I posted above. Klein tells the audience that free-market think tanks actually had a “meeting” after Katrina, to formulate a response plan. Oh no! you mean that the people who consider themselves experts on capitalism, business, production, distribution, development, and growth actually held themselves accountable to be relevant to the problems of the real world. Heaven forbid.
In this interview she spins the story of Katrina to sound like some conspiratorial effort is behind the growth of market institutions in the wake of Katrina. She doesn’t even entertain the fact that the alternative institutions failed at their very intended tasks. The schools, the transportation, the health care, all publicly provided, were bumbling nightmares after the storm, while Wal-Mart, Lowes, and Home Depot had trucks on the move with real productive materials and equipment ready to rebuild. The story is not one where capitalists exploit catastrophic opportunity at the expense of civic society. Instead the story is one where capitalism provides individuals with the durability, strength, and control to rebound and rebuild in ways that central planned institutions could never hope to keep up.
Why does the public like her book? Why are society’s biases aligned in her favor? She makes it sound like the half government, half market hybrid is the natural order, the way things have always and always should be. Nothing can be farther from the truth, the growth and dominance of central-planning and government control over infrastructure institutions like transportation, criminal justice, education, health care, etc., is a very new phenomenon. The alternative arrangements of these institutions evolved over thousands of years, but in the last 75 years or so the hubris of planning has run away with itself and Klein gets to be a best seller.

Do wars increase the anti-foreign bias?

Nick Snow and I have been wanting to write a paper on the skinhead youth movement in England. We are interested in this topic because we’ve read and heard stories that described the first so-called skinheads to have inter-mingled with black Jamaican immigrants in British dance halls during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Jamaican immigrants and white dock workers, worked and played side by side. The popular British soul music of the time matched well with the blue beat ska music that the Jamaicans brought from their home land. The fashion emblems of the skinhead subculture were functional responses to their modes of employment. Dock workers faced a high threat of catching lice while unloading freight so they shaved their heads, and steel-toed boots helped avoid broken toes and foot injuries on the job. The empirical puzzle that remained was, when and why did the image of skinheads come to signify racial hatred, intolerance, national socialism, and fascism?
Our proposed description of this history is inspired by Butler Shaffer’s pamphlet, Violence as a Result of Imposed Order. We guess that governmental policies and economic controls of the time created zero sum games across race lines. Whites were pitted against black and Pakistani immigrants for financial and employment privileges. After reading Thomas Leonard’s paper on eugenic ideology in early unions, we’re suspicious that a similar racial hostility was cultivated in English labor unions during this time.
The newly successful film, This is England shows exactly what we were thinking of elaborating on.

Quasi-spoilers ahead…
A group of young kids including a Jamaican friends identify themselves as “skins” by shaving their heads and dressing alike. This solidarity serves useful at fending off aggression from other gangs of kids. When an older member of the gang gets released from prison he introduces the group to racial intolerance fueled by an dissatisfaction over the economic condition of whites.
In the film, the racist skin heads feel a sense of entitlement to wealth and priveledge above immigrants because they have either served in recent wars or lost family members who served.
This sounded similar to a factoid I heard recently — in WWII more Italian Americans than any other group volunteered for service. Despite being proud of their immigrant parents and grandparents, Italian Americans today appear to me to be more against immigration than the average American. Could this be a similar entitlement phenomenon? If a demographic group disproportionately serves in armed combat during a war, will they be more anti-immigration in upcoming generations? Would this also imply that forced conscriptions invoke anti-foreign bias more than voluntary service?