Friday, March 18, 2016


[The Nobel-Prize-winning authors George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller] “are concerned
about a clever electoral strategy commonly used to hook ‘phishable voters.’ With
this strategy, politicians endorse policies that ‘appeal to the typical voter on issues
that are salient to her, and where she will be informed,’ while also adopting a ‘stance that
appeals to donors’ on issues on which the typical voter is uninformed. Because of the
largely unregulated system for corporate donations, lobbyists can enjoy spectacular
, as when they give money with the hope of extracting votes, or favors, on
high-stakes issues (such as regulation of savings and loan companies or highly
technical tax questions) that are
too complex to attract the attention of most voters.”

Sunstein, Cass R, ‘Why Free Markets Make Fools of Us,’ in The New York Review, October 22, 2015, pp: 40-42, a review of Phishing forPhools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception, by George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller, Princeton University Press, 2015.

[In their book, Akerlof and Shiller use unusual spellings for “fish” and “fished.”]

“In 1993, The New England Journal of Medicine
published a study showing that ‘keeping
a gun in the home
as strongly and independently associated with an increased
sk of homicidein that home. The researchers had been funded
y the C.D.C.'s [National Centers for Disease Control] National
Center for Injury Prevention
, and the N.R.A. [National Rifle
] responded by trying to get the prevention center
defunded. It didn't succeed, but, in 1996, Congress amended
an appropriati
ons bill to the effect that none of the funds made
available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention
may be used to advocate or
promote gun control.It was a little like saying that no research
on the health effects of smoking should be interpretable as
anti-smoking. Congress also removed $2.6 million from the
.D.C.'s budget - the precise amount that had gone to the
prevention center's research - and then restored it, earmarked
for an entirely different purpose
. As a result, one of the
study's authors said in a public-radio interview last spring,
"many, many people stopped doing gun research."

Margaret Talbot, “Obama’s Guns Gambit,”a Talk of the Town
essay in The New Yorker, January 18, 2016, pp: 23-24.


Jay Dickey, the Republican representative and N.R.A. [National
Rifle Association
] member from Arkansas who sponsored the amendment
[in 1996 shifting money away from
National Centers for Disease Control
research on guns in the home] came to regret it. Dismayed by the continuing
toll of gun violence, he was eventually persuaded that firearm deaths could
be reduced
without violating the Second Amendment. He now believes that
arch on gun violence can help prevent it, much as similar work on
ghway safety resulted in innovations like seat belts, air bags, highway
ers, and minimum drinking ages, and prevented hundreds of thousands
f traffic deaths. In December [2015], in a letter to Mike Thompson, the
chairman of the House [of Representatives] Democrats' Gun Violence
Prevention Task Force
, Dickey wrote, ‘Research could have been
continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners,
in th
e same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without
eliminating the autom
obile.’ He added, We should slowly but methodically
such research until a solution is reacheD. Doing nothing is no longer
an acceptable solution.’”

Margaret Talbot, “Obama’s Guns Gambit,”a Talk of the Town
essay in The New Yorker, January 18, 2016, pp: 23-24.