The NY Times offers an interesting profile of economist Steven Levitt. He wants answers to questions not typically asked by economists.

For instance: If drug dealers make so much money, why do they still live with their mothers? Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What really caused crime rates to plunge during the past decade? Do real-estate agents have their clients' best interests at heart? Why do black parents give their children names that may hurt their career prospects? Do schoolteachers cheat to meet high-stakes testing standards? Is sumo wrestling corrupt?

He’s been called “The most brilliant young economist in America”. He is, at 36, a full professor in the University of Chicago's economics department, the American Economic Association recently awarded him its John Bates Clark Medal (given to the country’s best economist under 40), edits The Journal of Political Economy, and is a lightening-rod of controversy. His most widely noted piece ''The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime'' was one of those rare, unifying works that was able to rally conservatives and liberals together (albeit to demonize him and his work).

(H)is paper linking a rise in abortion to a drop in crime has made more noise than the rest combined. Levitt and his co-author, John Donohue of Stanford Law School, argued that as much as 50 percent of the huge drop in crime since the early 1990's can be traced to Roe v. Wade. Their thinking goes like this: the women most likely to seek an abortion -- poor, single, black or teenage mothers -- were the very women whose children, if born, have been shown most likely to become criminals. But since those children weren't born, crime began to decrease during the years they would have entered their criminal prime. In conversation, Levitt reduces the theory to a tidy syllogism: ''Unwantedness leads to high crime; abortion leads to less unwantedness; abortion leads to less crime.''

Whether it’s discussing poor, black, mothers and their impact on crime rates, or the relative dangers of backyard swimming pools to guns, he’s not afraid to look at old problems in new ways. Voltaire said, “Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” It’s clear that Steven Levitt is asking some very intriguing questions. Time will tell what answers we ultimately come up with in response.


The DOJ must be flush with resources. They are reninvigorating their war on Porn.
The folks at Plastic having a good go on my PeterPandemonium sub.


Mike Hawash pleads guilty will get a minimum of seven and up to ten years.
Arnold's in! Pundits atwiter.
Tacos to Trannies at last Craigslist comes to the big screen.
The farther behind I leave the past, the closer I am to forging my own character.
-Isabelle Eberhardt

Frank Furedi writes in Spiked-online that a juvenillation of culture is occurring at an alarming rate. People, in a variety of ways, are holding on to their pasts, (or more likely an idealized version of it) and putting off growing up. The signs are everywhere: living with one’s parents past 30, college kids getting together and watching children’s TV shows, grown men putting off getting married and spending endless hours playing PS2’s, the children’s-book-as-adult-fad trend. As the ad folk try to sell things to actual youngsters to rush them into adulthood they are selling things to “grown-ups” in the hopes of pushing them ever backwards to their youth.

Two US advertisers, Becky Ebenkamp and Jeff Odiorne, have coined the term Peterpandemonium to describe this trend. 'People in their twenties and thirties are clamouring for comfort in purchases and products, and sensory experiences that remind them of a happier, more innocent time - childhood' they observe.

The present-day obsession with childish things may seem like a trivial detail - but the all-pervasive nostalgia for childhood among young adults is symptomatic of a profound insecurity towards the future.

One strategy for dealing with the risks to one's emotions is to distance the self from the potential source of disappointment.

Besides a general fear and dread towards the future, what specifically is causing this growing phenomenon? Earlier generations faced uncertainty with trepidation yet managed to put away their toys, get jobs, and raise families. Is Madison Ave. engaged in unseemly demand creation that fosters this environment or are they simply responding to our desires and doubts? Does this endless cycling of our past(s) serve any larger purpose? Why won’t we grow up?
Edward Said with some stern words.
Reason (yes Reason!) advocates a nationalized healthcare system.
Taranto on blogging politicians. "Blogging, in short, thrives on sarcasm. Politics doesn't. "


Willie Brown is one of the shrewdest politicians currently plying the trade. His announcement that he'll recall the recall winner reflects this on a number of levels.