When he invited me to post about crime and punishment, Eugene suggested that I might want to finish up with a response to comments. That seems like a good idea. So let me offer two general remarks, and some specific responses:
A. I can’t read Eugene’s mind, but I suspect that he invited me to guest-blog (despite our basic disagreements) for the same reason that I regularly follow this blog and other libertarian and conservative information channels. The basic lesson of Bayesian analysis is that you can learn only from information that disconfirms some part of your current belief set. But of course the natural tendency of the mind is to minimize cognitive dissonance by accepting confirming evidence and rejecting disconfirming evidence, and that tendency is emphasized when beliefs get to be badges of group membership.
This is a deeply unhealthy tendency, and it tends to defeat one of the basic evolutionary strategies of homo sapiens, which Karl Popper summed up as “letting our beliefs die in our place.” Unfortunately, it has been on full display in the comment threads to my posts, which consisted (when the comments related to the posts at all rather than merely ranting about unrelated topics) mostly of vigorous attempts to prove that the thoughts offered in the posts were worthless or wicked, and the poster an ill-intentioned idiot.
Eugene no doubt thought he was doing his readers a favor by offering them some reading that might challenge their precoceptions. There is little evidence in the comment thread that the VC readership shares that view, but it’s possible to hope that the comments are not a representative sample of reader reaction.
B. The suggestion that various non-punitive programs might control crime, and that doing so was preferable, ceteris paribus, to [...]