Enemies of the truth
I bashed Michael Moore on my personal blog recently for being a lying propagandist. One person defended him for being a liberal antidote to conservative lying propagandists, and I replied that what we needed was more truth and not counterbalancing lies. I detest Moore even when I agree with some of his ideas (the Iraq war is bullshit, health care in the US is screwed up), because of his disregard for the truth. To me, honesty is more important than what your political views happen to be. Which is a good segue to bashing John Lott.
Lott is a good example of how someone can get wrapped up in a set of political ideas to the exclusion of the truth, which I consider a bad thing even when I agree with those ideas. Now, we've all heard about the Mary Rosh incident, but there is more:
Exhibit A: While I haven't read Lott's latest book Freedomnomics, Bryan Caplan's review mentioned the first highlight as "In order to forestall the creation of a secondary market by customers who buy the cats [$3950 + $900 shipping] and then breed them themselves, Allerca simply neuters all the cats it sells." Now, as someone who is terribly allergic to cats, yet has many friends who love them, I have kept tabs on Allerca, and as it turns out, they have never actually shipped any cats, and as far as anyone can tell at this point, their product is vaporware. (See Wikipedia, or Google for [Allerca vaporware]). Citing the economic theories of a vaporware producer w.r.t. their product does not exactly suggest careful scholarship.
Exhibit B: David Friedman tells me that John Lott likes to use, in speeches, a particular stirring story about a horrible crime that would have been averted had there not been gun locks on a family's guns. David investigated that story, and found that while the crime had happened, the part about the gun locks was bogus. He passed his findings on to Lott - who continued to use the story in future speeches.
So, much as I love freedom, I'm staying well away from Freedomnomics. And as for the Lott-Levitt fued, while Steve Levitt may not be a libertarian, at least he's an honest guy. As far as I'm concerned, that means he's on the right side.
I have enough confidence in my ideals that I believe more truth and more honesty will only help them - no matter what political alignment it comes from. And if more truth makes my ideals look worse - well, so much for those ideals.