Subtitled “Why the Free Market Works and Half-Baked Theories Don’t,” this book released Monday by John R. Lott, Jr. had a different subtitle in the first catalog I saw it in (tonight): “Why the Free Market Works and Freaky Theories Don’t.”
This second (or, I think, first) version echoes not only what John Lott, the famous gun-control opponent, hopes will happen to the popularity and sales of his book, but may even hark back to a bit of slander against him committed in the pages of “Freakonomics,” the most popular book on the subject of the dismal science that I can recall within my adult life.
The slander concerns the statement in the book that other researchers “haven’t been able to replicate” Lott’s controversial research that suggested that gun deaths decline in states that have adopted policies of licensing ordinary citizens to carry guns. Lott had presented his findings in at least one book previous to Freakonomics, but this is his first since the publication of that book, which I haven’t read and don’t plan to. Lott’s book(s) have sold pretty well in their own right, but not like Freako.
Lott actually sued Steven Levitt for libel for this remark, because researchers seeking to falsify Lott’s conclusions have indeed replicated his findings, in the strict academic (economic) sense of that word. I seem to recall that the remark is absent from editions of Freakonomics subsequent to the first edition.
In any case, Lott’s new book (I haven’t read his earlier works because they were pretty much limited to gun control) looks to me like a must read, so for whoever cares, I promise to read (or listen to, as I often do) this book.