Racial bias in police shooting

23 July, 2016 at 18:23 | Posted in Politics & Society, Statistics & Econometrics | 3 Comments

roland-fryerRoland Fryer, an economics professor at Harvard University, recently published a working paper at NBER on the topic of racial bias in police use of force and police shootings. The paper gained substantial media attention – a write-up of it became the top viewed article on the New York Times website. The most notable part of the study was its finding that there was no evidence of racial bias in police shootings, which Fryer called “the most surprising result of [his] career”. In his analysis of shootings in Houston, Texas, black and Hispanic people were no more likely (and perhaps even less likely) to be shot relative to whites.

Fryer’s analysis is highly flawed, however … Fryer was not comparing rates of police shootings by race. Instead, his research asked whether these racial differences were the result of “racial bias” rather than merely “statistical discrimination”. Both terms have specific meanings in economics. Statistical discrimination occurs when an individual or institution treats people differently based on racial stereotypes that ‘truly’ reflect the average behavior of a racial group. For instance, if a city’s black drivers are 50% more likely to possess drugs than white drivers, and police officers are 50% more likely to pull over black drivers, economic theory would hold that this discriminatory policing is rational …

Once explained, it is possible to find the idea of “statistical discrimination” just as abhorrent as “racial bias”. One could point out that the drug laws police enforce were passed with racially discriminatory intent, that collectively punishing black people based on “average behavior” is wrong, or that – as a self-fulfilling prophecy – bias can turn into statistical discrimination (if black people’s cars are searched more thoroughly, for instance, it will appear that their rates of drug possession are higher) …

Even if one accepts the logic of statistical discrimination versus racial bias, it is an inappropriate choice for a study of police shootings. The method that Fryer employs has, for the most part, been used to study traffic stops and stop-and-frisk practices. In those cases, economic theory holds that police want to maximize the number of arrests for the possession of contraband (such as drugs or weapons) while expending the fewest resources. If they are acting in the most cost-efficient, rational manner, the officers may use racial stereotypes to increase the arrest rate per stop. This theory completely falls apart for police shootings, however, because officers are not trying to rationally maximize the number of shootings …

Economic theory aside, there is an even more fundamental problem with the Houston police shooting analysis. In a typical study, a researcher will start with a previously defined population where each individual is at risk of a particular outcome. For instance, a population of drivers stopped by police can have one of two outcomes: they can be arrested, or they can be sent on their way. Instead of following this standard approach, Fryer constructs a fictitious population of people who are shot by police and people who are arrested. The problem here is that these two groups (those shot and those arrested) are, in all likelihood, systematically different from one another in ways that cannot be controlled for statistically … Properly interpreted, the actual result from Fryer’s analysis is that the racial disparity in arrest rates is larger than the racial disparity in police shootings. This is an unsurprising finding, and proves neither a lack of bias nor a lack of systematic discrimination.

Justin Feldman

Rasismens fula tryne

21 July, 2016 at 11:14 | Posted in Politics & Society | Leave a comment


Ja hur ska man reagera på dessa uttryck för oförblommerat svinaktig rasism?

Kanske med att lyssna på Olof Palme

Per Svensson — ännu en av dessa antidemokratiska demokrater

17 July, 2016 at 10:42 | Posted in Politics & Society | Leave a comment

Inför brexit-omröstningen var det få kommentatorer som ondgjorde sig över att man i Storbritannien valt att låta medborgarna i en folkomröstning tala om huruvida man ville stanna kvar i EU eller ej. För de flesta framstod detta lika självklart som att Sverige för lite mer än tio år sedan folkomröstade om vi ville vara med i EMU eller ej.

slide_3Men när väl det — för de flesta — överraskande resultatet av brexit-omröstningen stod klart blev det andra tongångar. När ‘folket’ inte valde som ‘etablissemanget’ var det helt plötsligt sååå fel med folkomröstningar.

En av alla dessa debattörer och kommentatorer som nu förfasar sig över att britterna ‘valde fel’ är Sydsvenskans Per Svensson. I en artikel med rubriken Med folkets stöd mot avgrunden talar Svensson — hedersdoktor vid Malmö högskola — om att folkomröstningar mest är något som ‘karikerar’ demokrati och utnyttjas av ‘populister’ och ‘charlataner’. Tanken att en majoritet av britterna ville lämna EU skulle kunna bero på att för de minst bemedlade och svagaste grupperna har EU och dess åtstramningspolitik inte levererat ett dyft, föresvävar uppenbarligen inte Svensson.

När resultatet inte gick etablissemangets väg är helt plötsligt folkomröstningsinstitutet inte ett uttryck för ‘verklig’ demokrati.

Får man föreslå herr Svensson en resa till Schweiz? Eller det är kanske också bara ett land där ‘eliten’ utnyttjar ‘folket’ för att driva igenom sina egna intressen?

Demokrati är ingen gottepåse.

Demokrati är inget vi står upp för bara när den resulterar i beslut som vi gillar.

Demokrati och ‘rule of law’ är något vi ska slå vakt om. Överallt. Alltid.

Why Brexit voters ignored the ‘experts’

5 July, 2016 at 15:29 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 1 Comment

By the time British citizens went to the polls on June 23 to decide on their country’s continued membership in the European Union, there had been no shortage of advice in favor of remaining. Foreign leaders and moral authorities had voiced unambiguous concern about the consequences of an exit, and economists had overwhelmingly warned that leaving the EU would entail significant economic costs.

Yet the warnings were ignored. A pre-referendum YouGov opinion poll tells why: “Leave” voters had no trust whatsoever in the advice-givers. They did not want their judgment to rely on politicians, academics, journalists, international organizations, or think tanks …

brexitIt is tempting to dismiss this attitude as a triumph of passion over rationality. Yet the pattern seen in the UK is oddly familiar: in the United States, Republican voters disregarded the pundits and nominated Donald Trump as their party’s presidential candidate; in France, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, elicits little sympathy among experts, but has strong popular support. Everywhere, a significant number of citizens have become hostile to the cognoscenti …

The third and most convincing explanation: while experts emphasize the overall benefits of openness, they tend to disregard or minimize its effects on particular professions or communities. They regard immigration – to which Cameron attributed the Leave campaign’s victory – as a net benefit for the economy; but they fail to pay attention to what it implies for workers who experience downward wage pressure or for communities struggling with a scarcity of affordable housing, crowded schools, and an overwhelmed health system. In other words, they are guilty of indifference.

This criticism is largely correct. As Ravi Kanbur of Cornell University pointed out long ago, economists (and policymakers) tend to look at issues in the aggregate, to take a medium-term perspective, and to assume that markets work well enough to absorb a large part of adverse shocks. Their perspective clashes with that of people who care more about distributional issues, have different (often shorter) time horizons, and are wary of monopolistic behavior.

If economists and other experts want to regain their fellow citizens’ trust, they should not be deaf to these concerns. They should first be humble and avoid lecturing. They should base their policy views on the available evidence, rather than on preconceptions. And they should change their minds if the data do not confirm their beliefs. This largely corresponds to what researchers actually do; but when speaking to the public, experts tend to oversimplify their own views.

Jean Pisani-Ferry

Brexit shows the need for a reformed economics

27 June, 2016 at 23:33 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 2 Comments

Brexit is about much more than frustration about the E.U. and immigration. It is about a shortage of decent and secure jobs; an impossibly precarious labour market; inexplicable inequalities in incomes and wealth; closed access to affordable education, and a terrible deficiency of affordable housing; and it is about British Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne’s single-minded austerity economics and the rule-free and tax-free space created for big banks and corporations.

austerity-george-osborne-desktopThe referendum result reflects a deep-seated anger and anxiety amongst large sections of the population who are disenfranchised and feel ignored, and who can no longer bear the economic burden of living in the Thatcherite free-market wasteland (alternatively known as Cameron’s “Big Society”) that Britain has become – sadly reinforced by the New Labour governments that began with Tony Blair …

It would be a tragic mistake to read this resentment against the E.U. as only anti-migrant, racist or bigoted, because the racism and bigotry have grown in conditions of economic austerity, artificial job scarcity and crisis, rising unemployment, rising job insecurity, and exploding inequalities as social protection for workers, pensioners and families have been scaled down …

The responsibility for the economic and political mess in Britain, the E.U. and beyond weighs heavily on the shoulders of economists who insist there is no alternative to a globalized market economy (TINA!), with freedom for the rich and wealthy and unfreedom for the rest, and who out-of-hand reject serious progressive programmes to reform the system and make it more democratic and humane …

There are no easy answers – but economics urgently needs to start reforming itself, and asking the right questions.

Servaas Storm

What Brexit was all about

27 June, 2016 at 18:47 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 1 Comment

Trickle-down-768x1024Societies where we allow the inequality of incomes and wealth to increase without bounds, sooner or later implode.

In a market economy it is money that counts.

In a democracy it is your vote that counts.

If you’ve got money, you vote in.

If you haven’t got money, you vote out.

Brexit — a rejection of mainstream economics

26 June, 2016 at 13:53 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 5 Comments

If, as a result of Brexit, the economy crashes it will not vindicate the economists, it will simply illustrate once more their failure.


We, at Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME) call for an urgent, independent, public inquiry into the economics profession, and its role in precipitating both the financial crisis of 2007-9, the subsequent very slow ‘recovery’; and in the British European referendum campaign …

Economists have once again proved themselves not only irrelevant, but a dangerous irrelevance.

For too long they have resisted call after call for reform. If they will not do it themselves then it is time for others to take control. The profession should be brought to account through a public inquiry into the this failure.

While it is risky to second guess public opinion, it may just be that the prospect of hardship to come might not have been very compelling for those already suffering the hardship of low wages, insecure low-skilled jobs, bad housing, high rents, an under-resourced and increasingly privatised NHS, and other forms of public sector ‘austerity’.

With this historic vote, the British people have not just rejected the EU. They have done something that should worry the British establishment, and their friends in the City of London, and internationally, far more. They have rejected economics – and in particular the dominant economic narrative …

The “experts” and the economic stories they tell, have been well and truly walloped by the result of this referendum. And rightly so, because while there is truth in the story that international co-operation and co-ordination is vital to economic activity and stability, there is no sound basis to the widely espoused economic ‘religion’ that markets – in money, trade and labour – must be unfettered, detached from democratic regulatory oversight, and must be trusted to ‘govern’ whole countries, regions and continents.

The British people have today rejected this mainstream, orthodox economics, a strain of fundamentalism that they may rightly judge has proved deleterious to their own economic interests.

Ann Pettifor

And in case you — like e.g. Simon Wren-Lewis — think this kind of critique is only coming from ‘heterodox’ economists like Ann Pettifor and yours truly — well, then maybe you should read what a former Governor of the Bank of England has to say:

404168975Since the crisis, many have been tempted to play the game of deciding who was to blame for such a disastrous outcome … A generation of the brightest and best were lured into banking, and especially into trading, by the promise of immense financial rewards and by the intellectual challenge of the work that created such rich returns. They were badly misled. The crisis was a failure of a system and the ideas that underpinned it, not of individual policy-makers or bankers, incompetent and greedy though some of them undoubtedly were. There was a general misunderstanding of how the world economy worked …

If we don’t blame the actors, then why not the playwright? Economists have been cast by many as the villain. An abstract and increasingly mathematical discipline, economics is seen as having failed to predict the crisis. This is rather like blaming science for the occasional occurrence of a natural disaster. Yet we would blame scientists if incorrect theories made disasters more likely or created a perception that they could never occur, and one of the arguments of this book is that economics has encouraged ways of thinking that made crises more probable …

Brexit — and its disdain of the establishment — will send well-earned warnings to politicians all over the world …

Brexit has structural similarities with Trump’s rise. It is the logical outcome of the Conservative Party’s political strategy of the past twenty years. Conservatives used the European Union (EU) as a whipping boy to help smuggle in their “Thatcher – Reagan” neoliberal economic policies. The Labor Party spoke out in defense of minorities, but it did not defend the EU and nor did it adequately confront neoliberalism.

trumpIn the US, Trump is the analogue “exit” candidate. His rise is the logical outcome of thirty years, during which Republicans used dog-whistle racism and the culture war to smuggle through their neoliberal economic agenda that has wrought the destruction of shared prosperity. Democrats resisted racism and the culture war, but were complicit in the promotion of neoliberalism.

The lesson for the Clinton campaign is it must move beyond rhetoric criticizing neoliberalism and adopt serious remedies that tackle its legacy of inequality, economic insecurity and loss of hope. Neoliberalism is the ultimate cause of the establishment’s rejection. Racism, immigration and nationalism may be the match for the anti-establishment fire: wage stagnation and off-shoring of jobs are the fuel.

Thomas Palley

EU after Brexit

26 June, 2016 at 10:57 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 1 Comment

There will be a lot of postmortems for the European Union (EU) after Brexit. Many will suggest that this was a victory against the neoliberal policies of the European Union …

6069_eu_austerity_infographic-oix1000The problem is that while it is true that the EU leaders have been part of the problem and have pursued the neoliberal policies within the framework of the union, sometimes with treaties like the Fiscal Compact, it is far from clear that Brexit and the possible demise of the union, if the fever spreads to France, Germany and other countries with their populations demanding their own referenda, will lead to the abandonment of neoliberal policies. Austerity will most likely continue …

Most of the austerity policies imposed on the peripheral countries are actually the result of the euro, and are to a great extent independent of the existence of a broader political union …

Personally, I cannot see that the disintegration of Europe would lead to a positive outcome. Sure the EU has a significant democratic deficit, and a bureaucracy that is seen as wasteful and inefficient … The same is true of American democracy.

At a minimum the European Union provided an environment in which people could move freely, in which petty nationalism gave way to acceptance of foreigners and immigrants, something particularly relevant with the refugee crisis in the neighboring region. Some may suggest that this was very little to show for. And the alternative, does it have something to show for? If the European Union really collapses, there will be very little for progressives to be happy about.

Matias Vernengo

Why Brexit won

24 June, 2016 at 10:42 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 6 Comments


The EU establishment has been held to account for the euro mess, for austerity policies that turned recession into depression, for the galloping inequality, and for the millions and millions of unemployed.

The EU austerity policies breads understandable and righteous anger — but also ugly far right xenophobic political movements taking advantage of the frustration that austerity policies inevitably produce. Ultimately this underlines the threats to society that austerity policies and mass unemployment are.

The neoliberal austerity policies pursued in the UK and elsewhere is deeply disturbing. When an economy is already hanging on the ropes, you can’t just cut government spendings. Cutting government expenditures reduces the aggregate demand. Lower aggregate demand means lower tax revenues. Lower tax revenues means increased deficits — and calls for even more austerity. And so on, and so on.

Without a conscious effort to counteract the inevitable forces driving our societies towards an extreme income and wealth inequality, our societies crackle. It is crucial to have strong redistributive policies if we want to have stable economies and societies. Redistributive taxes and active fiscal policies are necessary ingredients for building a good society.

Societies where we allow the inequality of incomes and wealth to increase without bounds, sooner or later implode. The cement that keeps us together erodes and in the end we are only left with people dipped in the ice cold water of egoism and greed.

In a society with a huge shortage of homes, a precarious job market, and a marginalized and pressured working class, EU to a large extent becomes a question of class and inequality.

In a market economy it is money that counts.

In a democracy it is your vote that counts.

If you’ve got money, you vote in. If you haven’t got money, you vote out.

Rule of law

21 June, 2016 at 19:09 | Posted in Politics & Society | Leave a comment


Det är nu snart femton år sedan som Fadime Sahindal bestialiskt mördades av anhöriga för att hon själv ville välja hur hon skulle leva sitt liv.

Den typen av hedersrelaterat våld har ibland försvarats med — djupt förfelade — kulturrelativistiska resonemang där kulturella skillnader setts som en i något avseende förmildrande omständighet.

fadimeMen — i Sverige har kvinnor och män samma värde. Och alla som lever i Sverige måste respektera detta.

Sverige ska vara ett öppet land. En del av världssamfundet.

Men det ska också vara ett land som slår fast att de landvinningar i termer av jämlikhet, öppenhet och tolerans som vi tillkämpat oss under sekler inte är förhandlingsbara.

Människor som kommer till vårt land ska åtnjuta dessa rättigheter och friheter.

Men med dessa rättigheter och friheter kommer också en skyldighet. Alla — utan undantag — måste också acceptera att i vårt land gäller en lag — lika för alla.

Rule of law.

En långtgående kulturrelativism har medfört en sorts förvärvad stupiditet, som gör att man hellre söker förtiga kulturrelaterade problem och låtsas som om de inte finns än att åtgärda dem. Alternativt skuldbelägger man sig själv, för att slippa ta i den besvärliga konflikten med Den Andre.

Per Bauhn

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