Freedomnomics by John R. Lott, Jr.

This certainly isn't a politically correct book. Many of the things related in the book will upset people, but the truth often upsets people. I found the book very well written and researched. I want to quote just a few examples of the kinds of things you will find in the book:

Another important and particularly heart-breaking case involved an eight-month-old girl, Anita Reyes. She was diagnosed with polio two weeks after receiving a polio vaccine made by Wyeth Laboratories. In 1970, Anita's father sued Wyeth, claiming Reyes contracted the disease from the vaccine. The court understood that Anita clearly had contracted the disease before she was vaccinated, as the strain she contracted differed from the strain used to make the vaccine. But it wanted to hold someone liable for the suffering of this poor little girl, so it ordered Wyeth to pay what amounted to over $850,000 in today's dollars.

The court argued that someone had to be compelled to assist families such as Anita's "until Americans have a comprehensive scheme of social insurance," and that this someone should be the vaccine manufacturers. Judgments like this established a precedent that companies can be held liable for problems for which they are in no way responsible, just so that someone will pay for whatever problem has arisen.

The court's desire to help out Anita's family was fully understandable. But once again, the decision had larger economic effects that harmed other disadvantaged people. When the courts began holding vaccine companies liable for large judgments unrelated to their products, the firms had to raise prices on their vaccines in order to cover these higher costs. And these liability costs are now enormous, accounting for over 90 percent of the price of childhood vaccines.

The unfortunate economic reality is that by improperly favoring individual children like Anita, courts have forced the price of vaccines high enough that some poor families can no longer afford them; liability rule changes decreased the number of children getting vaccinated by an estimated 1 million. Anita's family got paid, but other poor children are forced to go without vaccinations and are more likely to get the very disease that afflicted Anita. (page 45-46)

There are almost endless examples of predatory practices by state-owned companies and services. One peculiar predator is the U.S. Forest Service, which requires lumber companies to bid on lumber that is profitable to cut as well as lumber that is unprofitable. Making companies bid on lumber that includes unprofitable trees reduces the amount the firms will pay and lowers the forest service's income. Why would the forest service do that? The key, once again, is that we're dealing with a state company that does not operate on the profit motive - the forest service's revenue must be turned over to the Treasury Department. But requiring that unprofitable lumber and profitable lumber be bid on together increases the total amount cut. This, in turn increases the demand for the forest service to build more roads and provide other services - activities that justify the forest service's budget. (page 100)

The implementation of consent decrees - agreements by local police departments to use affirmative action in hiring and promotions - increases the rate of murder, other violent crimes, and property crimes. Overall, using affirmative action to achieve a one percentage point increase in African American officers on the force is associated with an increase in murders of at least 2 percent, violent crime of almost 5 percent, and property crimes of 4 percent.

But it is misleading simply to compare increases in African American officers with crime rates. When testing standards are lowered, the increase in the percentage of African American officers is associated with more crime, not the cause of it. The problem is not the presence of more African American officers per se, but rather the quality of all officers in departments that implement these methods. Most of the increased crime cannot even be attributed to more unqualified African American officers, but rather the hiring of unqualified officers of all races. This is because the replacement of intelligence exams with psychological tests makes it more difficult to separate out high and low-quality white, Asian, and other recruits just as it does with African American ones. (page 131)

It is also clear that legally owning a gun makes a person less likely to get hurt by a criminal. While police are, of course, extremely important in fighting crime, officers almost always arrive at the scene only after a crime has been committed. So what can individuals themselves do to deter criminals? Having a gun, in fact, is by far the most effective course of action. This is the finding of the U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey, an annual survey conducted since 1973 of about 77,000 households comprising nearly 134,000 people. This holds true whether the criminal is armed or unarmed and regardless of the location of the attack.

During the 1990s, for example, assault victims who used a gun for self-protection were injured 3.6 percent of the time. This contrasts with 5.4 percent of those who ran or drove away, 12.6 percent of those who screamed, and 13.6 percent of those who threatened the attacker without a weapon. Those who took no self-protective action at all fared the worst - 55.2 percent of them were injured. (page 141)

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