The Things That Pass For Knowledge

I can't understand:

  • I commented negatively a few days back about UNH Professor Bruce Mallory's "thoughts" on the Tucson massacre, as reported in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. I'd like to revisit this snippet:

    [Mallory] stressed that it's a possibility that words are being used less and less as a means to tackle an issue because of how heavily armed the United States has become.

    I scoffed at this. But I let the implication that the US has become more "heavily armed" go unchallenged.

    Because I thought that was true. I mean, it's something everyone knows, right?

    Well, apparently not. Shortly afterward, I hit this post at the NYT's Five Thirty Eight blog, which contains this historical graph of US household gun ownership:

    [gun ownership trend]

    I.e., the long-term trend is down, and roughly flat over the last decade. I'm surprised! This data is from the as-far-as-I-know-authoritative General Social Survey carried out by the U of Chicago. Anyone out there have contradictory data?

    Yes, this makes Mallory's thesis even sillier.

  • I have a subscription to the dead-tree National Review, and was mightily impressed with a recent article by Kevin D. Williamson, which they've now had the good sense to put online. It's an open letter to a newly-hired regulator, informing him (among other things) of the difficulty of acting in the "public interest":

    But you have no real idea what the public interest is. Nobody really does. How could you? How would you find out? (No, not rhetorical.) You could take a poll and see what the public says it wants, but what the public says it wants at any particular moment is not identical with the public interest. The public is made up of individuals, most of whom have no better idea what is in the best interest of people they have never met and know nothing about than you do -- and practically all of whom will lie when asked what it is they really want: They'll say they want opera broadcasts and educational programming and organic chard and more foreign news in the newspaper, but in real life their revealed preferences are pretty much classic rock, fantasy-football stats, and those heinous seven-layer burritos from Taco Bell.

    Kevin D. Williamson is perceptive and funny. He has a book coming out: The Politically Incorrect GuideTM to Socialism. And he has his own NRO blog, The Exchequer, which we all should be reading.

  • Your Zodiac sign may have changed. Mine did: after decades of being a Taurus, I now have to think of myself as an Aries. How ever will I cope?

Last Modified 2018-03-20 7:09 AM EDT