Skip to content

“Law professor Alan Dershowitz’s new book claims that political differences have lately been criminalized in the United States. He has it wrong. Instead, the orderly enforcement of the law has, ludicrously, been framed as political.”

This op-ed by Virginia Heffernan is about g=politics, but it reminded me of the politics of science.

Heffernan starts with the background:

This last year has been a crash course in startlingly brutal abuses of power. For decades, it seems, a caste of self-styled overmen has felt liberated to commit misdeeds with impunity: ethical, sexual, financial and otherwise.

There’s hardly room to name them all here, though of course icons of power-madness such as Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein are household names. In plain sight, even more or less regular schmos — including EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, disgraced carnival barker Bill O’Reilly and former New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman — seem to have fancied themselves exempt from the laws that bind the rest of us.

These guys are not exactly men of Nobel-level accomplishment or royal blood. Like the rest of us, they live in a democracy, under rule of law. Still, they like to preen. . . .

On Friday, a legal document surfaced that suggested Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, his erstwhile personal lawyer, might have known about Schneiderman’s propensity for sexual violence as early as 2013, when Trump tweeted menacingly about Schneiderman’s being a crook . . . Cohen’s office also saw big sums from blue-chip companies not known for “Sopranos”-style nonsense, specifically, Novartis and AT&T. . . .

Also this week, the Observer alleged that Trump confederates hired the same gang of former Israeli intelligence officers to frame and intimidate proponents of the Iran deal that Harvey Weinstein once viciously sicced on his victims.

Then, after this overview of the offenders, she discusses their enablers:

Law professor Alan Dershowitz’s new book claims that political differences have lately been criminalized in the United States. He has it wrong. Instead, the orderly enforcement of the law has, ludicrously, been framed as political.

As with politics, so with science: Most people, I think, are bothered by these offenses, and are even more bothered by idea that they have been common practice. And some of us are so bothered that we make a fuss about it. But there are others—Alan Dershowitz types—who are more bothered by those who make the offense public, who have loyalty not to government but to the political establishment. Or, in the science context, have loyalty not to science but to the scientific establishment.

In politics, we say that the consent of the governed is essential to good governance, thus there is an argument that, at least in the short term, it’s better to hush up crimes rather than to let them be known. Similarly, in science, there are those who prefer happy talk and denial, perhaps because they feel that the institution of science is under threat. As James Heathers puts it, these people hype bad science and attack its critics because criticism is bad for business.

Who knows? Maybe Dershowitz and the defenders of junk science are right! Maybe a corrupt establishment is better than the uncertainty of the new.

They might be right, but I wish they’d be honest about what they’re doing.


  1. Jonathan says:

    Your priors got the best of you this post.

    Do you really not understand Dershowitz? He’s the opposite of a defender of any political establishment. He’s literally defended Communists. He was against special prosecutors with the Clintons.

    And you quote an op-ed as though it’s somehow objectively valid. Nowhere near your usual standards.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Who knows? Maybe Dershowitz and the defenders of junk science are right! Maybe a corrupt establishment is better than the uncertainty of the new.

    They might be right, but I wish they’d be honest about what they’re doing.”

    Perhaps the new establishment might be just as, or even more, corrupt.

    Perhaps with the new establishment you might also wish they’d be honest about what they’re doing.

  3. Holy Smokes Andrew.

    Do you Really think the politics of science are comparable as abuses of power? I was taken back with this topic.

  4. HH says:

    This is shockingly uncharitable to Dershowitz and fails to express the core of his argument.

    “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.”

    Over and over again Dershowitz points to this Stalinist mindset as being at the root of the problem he is concerned about. With Weinstein it was his crimes that brought people to hate him and seek to “use the law” against him. With Trump it was his politics, first and foremost, that brought people to hate him and to seek for legal ways to bring him down. You might at least address the actual argument Dershowitz makes rather than put up a crude straw man.

    Disappointing post.

    • Dalton says:

      I fail to see how Dr. Gelman’s blog post is uncharitable to Dershowitz because it’s only obliquely about Dershowitz. He is citing an op-ed, which may or may not be uncharitable, (although, I’m not sure I see a good argument for Dershowitz as a good candidate for charity) and drawing a parallel between the op-ed author’s characterization of Dershowitz and Gelman’s own impression of certain members of the scientific establishment. The key parallel is that in both cases a person misascribes the motives of a fact-based criticism/allegation as arising out of personal animus rather than a concern for the integrity of a societal structure. Perhaps the op-ed author’s criticism is invalid (spoiler alert: it’s not), but that doesn’t make it any less useful as an analogy.

      The key quote once again: “Law professor Alan Dershowitz’s new book claims that political differences have lately been criminalized in the United States. He has it wrong. Instead, the orderly enforcement of the law has, ludicrously, been framed as political.” In the scientific case, Dr. Gelman is arguing that there exists group of people that are trying to reframe methodological critiques (e.g. p-hacking, self-plagiarism, data manipulation) as being mere fronts for personal attacks. To reframe the quote that could be rendered as “Fusan Siske (an abritrarily chosen straw-man/woman) claims that philosophical differences have lately been proscribed in the scientific community. He/She has it wrong. Instead, the post-publication peer-review of statistical methods has, ludicrously, been framed as personal.”

      In the scientific case, it may be that personal animus motivates closer scrutiny of some person’s body of work. I don’t think this is the case, as Dr. Gelman has frequently pointed out that well-intentioned people walk the garden of forking paths. And that you don’t have to be a bad person to have bad methods. Then again, he does seem to take some amount of glee in pointing out the failings of certain people. (Man, does he have it out for David Brooks.) But even if personal animus motivates closer scrutiny, that doesn’t ipso facto make any criticism arising from that scrutiny invalid. Facts matter. If I’m able to demonstrate your statistical analysis is fundamentally flawed, or your finding is unable to be replicated, then that fact matters. It is irrelevant if I hate you for stealing the last danish everytime there’s an office pastry party.

      In the political case, it may be that personal/political animus motivated (in part) a closer scrutiny of Trump’s potentially illegal actions. But in the event the facts point to illegality, that animosity does not negate the facts. Similar political animus motivated (in part) multiple investigations of Obama and members of his administration (Birtherism, Bengazi, Fast and Furious, BUT HER EMAILS!!) The last entry in that parenthetical set is probably the most apt comparison because it involved a Justice Department investigation of a powerful administration figure. An investigation was probably warranted in this case. However, when no factual evidence of crimes arose that investigation faltered. So greater scrutiny, including criminal investigation of allegations does seem to be one of the side effects of holding political power irrespective of the political party in charge. That’s probably a good thing. That does not invalidate any findings of law breaking. In fact just ask the previous previous administration (Scooter Libby).

      Also, Stalin murdered 20 million people. The trauma of his actions still reverberate across Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Let’s please try to keep a little perspective here. The legal inquires which Dershowitz is criticizing are following the due process laid out under the U.S. Constitution. No one has or will be summarily executed. I know hyperbole is in vogue these days, what with us currently enjoying the administration of GREATEST PRESIDENT OF ALL TIME, but c’mon brother, the Mueller investigation ain’t no Yezhovshchina.

      Lastly, what’s with this sentence “With Weinstein it was his crimes that brought people to hate him and seek to “use the law” against him.”? Are you saying when someone commits a crime we shouldn’t use the law? Or we should use the law but not hate? I’m confused. I’m not sure I see your point. Are you saying that if someone finds a persons actions, especially criminal actions, reprehensible or has any sort of emotional feeling about them at all, that the mere presence of emotions negates the validity of the persecution?

      • gregor says:

        “An investigation was probably warranted in this case. However, when no factual evidence of crimes arose that investigation faltered.”

        As I recall, Comey invented a new legal standard “extreme carelessness,” and then pretended that wasn’t the same as negligence. I believe the crux of his recommendation was that there was no precedent for prosecuting someone in such a high position of authority, i.e, she was too important. At that level you are governed by politics rather than the law.

        • Terry says:

          Good point.

          So the outcome of the Hillary investigation reinforces Dershowitz’s point. When prosecution is a political weapon, it is used against opponents and not used against allies. A hostile investigation would probably have chosen to charge her with something.

        • Jonathan (another one) says:

          Three Felonies A Day — That’s the Silverglate/Dershowitz point. Patrolling *all* forking-paths analysis is fine, if exhausting. Patrolling only the forking analyses which produce results you don’t like for some reason is fine too, so long as you don’t defend the results you do like that commit the same errors. The argument when you have *real* power is that prosecuting only the people you don’t like is *not* fine, not because they haven’t committed the crime, but because evenhanded justice matters for people in power, as it doesn’t for blog writers.

          • Terry says:


            Trump has produced a mountain of appalling behavior while President, but one of the few things I give him credit for is not prosecuting Hillary. Even though she and could have been prosecuted (maybe even convicted), It would have been a terrible precedent.

        • Phil says:

          Most legal scholars, including former prosecutors, seem to agree that it would have been a stretch, though not an impossible one, to prosecute Clinton. See here, for example. So it seems that Comey didn’t invent a new legal standard, he just applied an existing one.

      • Andrew says:


        I feel no glee regarding David Brooks’s failings. Each time it makes me sad.

      • Ken Schulz says:

        Well expounded. You could have noted that the attempt to defend an accused by questioning the motive of the accuser is precisely an ad hominem.

  5. Anonymous says:

    For junk science papers, you print the actual claims those papers make… you know — in quotes, and then say why it’s wrong. Here an off-hand claim about Alan Dershowitz being disputed in the MOST GENERAL and unspecific terms is being used to coin “Alan Dershowitz types” who only have loyalty to the political establishment.

    What are you even talking about? Even if the quote has got it correct, it does nothing to support your claim that Alan Dershowitz only has loyalty to the political establishment. Quite the opposite, the book’s title refers to a political outsider.

    Also — talking of junk science — how about you reprinting The Observer’s story about Trump using Black Cube verbatim as if there were any evidence for it at all? This is exactly the sort of thing you ridicule from other sources in the scientific realm. (The Random Daily Newspaper says researchers discovered nanoparticles can cure cancer.)

  6. yyw says:

    To me, the op-ed is full of innuendoes and logical leaps. Could be my own prior showing though.

  7. JimV says:

    I’m not part of any establishment, academic, political, or otherwise, but I don’t understand how anyone who pays attention can’t see that Trump is a lazy, lying, morally-bankrupt, ignorant fool. Even many of the people he appointed to high positions in his administration share that opinion. Yes, I also disagree with his politics and for the same reasons (morally-bankrupt, ignorant), but I knew of many of his flaws long before I knew his politics.

    I don’t know much of Dershowitz, but he was portrayed in a movie based in one of his books as happy and proud to have represented someone whom he believed was guilty of murder; and as someone who enjoys the intellectual challenges of defending the indefensible.

    (Not that my opinions are worth a hill of beans in this crazy world, but I feel Dr. Gelman deserves some support on this issue.)

    • Phil says:

      Dude, have you ever priced a hill of beans? Try it, for even a modest-sized hill (say, 50 feet high). Trust me, your opinions could be worth, like, 1% of a hill of beans, and they’d still be worth a lot!

  8. zbicyclist says:

    The way we attack political enemies shifts over time, and it’s particularly likely to shift at a time of turmoil. This will seem unfair to those caught in the shift.

    Compare, for example, the tolerant attitude toward domestic violence and the demonization of homosexuality one might have seen 60 years ago with attitudes today.

    There’s one constant, though. The rich/powerful will get better treatment.

    Consider today’s story out of the University of Minnesota. On one level, it’s a simple sexual assault allegation — get a woman drunk, refuse to take her back home, and then rape her.

    Seems hardly enough to make the New York Times. But Mr Liu is an internet tycoon.

    “Mr. Liu, who has denied wrongdoing, was in Minnesota for a global business program, aimed at Asian executives, that is on track to generate over $10 million for the school in tuition since starting last year. His accuser, who has not been publicly identified, is a young Chinese student at the university who volunteered for the program.

    The case “puts the university administration in an impossible situation” as it tries to simultaneously protect its students and its reputation”

    As a thought experiment, imagine this had happened in, say 1955.

    We could shift Heffernan’s argument to a different realm and see it more clearly.

    Lynching was always against the law, but for many years in many jurisdictions it was winked at, not prosecuted. Starting the ordinary application of the law (in part by providing more federal oversight) seemed like persecution to many in those jurisdictions.

  9. I read an article where Angus Deaton pointed out that with essentially zero GDP/capita growth, every “good idea” that earns you money is basically a zero-sum way to take assets from someone else.

    Lowrey: You mentioned that in a world without growth things become zero-sum.

    Deaton: It is zero sum! If you have two or three percent of growth a year, there’s not a lot of goodies to be given away without goring someone’s ox. And I think a slow-growth world incentivizes rent-seeking. This rent-seeking didn’t use to take place. NABE would have had its conference in New York, not in Washington! All these business bureaus and trade associations were in New York.

    I think the stuff you’re talking about in terms of scientific establishment digging in is along these lines. Huge quantities of scientific research today are pure rent-seeking, with proposals that have no hope of ever actually improving understanding or creating benefits for society, because they’re not even close to real science, or they’re studying phenomenon that don’t exist (Power Pose, or Sex Selection by beautiful parents are two famous examples you’ve discussed). We have lots of science that is along the lines of studying the properties of powdered unicorn horns… the stuff itself doesn’t exist! (STAP cells, or Tamiflu, or whatever) Even for things that do exist, the thing that makes them get funding is that they further a cottage industry within the scientific establishment: people reviewing grants decide to fund stuff because it’s the kind of stuff that validates the kind of research they themselves do for example.

    So, if you want scientific productivity, I think we need to start with fixing the lack of general productivity and the excess of rent seeking across all of society. When there are real growth industries within science (ie. we are discovering real things that open up new areas of research with real world usefulness) then all the territory protection can fall away. The same is true generally in society.

    • Terry says:

      Thanks for the Deaton link. A very interesting guy. He seems to be pretty observant and open to all sorts of interesting things.

      I don’t understand Deaton’s zero-sum argument though. I don’t see why growth or the lack of growth should be linked to rent seeking. I can vaguely see the idea that people turn to nefarious activity when there are no good outlets for their efforts (analogous to piracy), but that’s not very convincing.

      Your point seems to be better grounded. You are making the straightforward point that if you increase the number of researchers without a corresponding increase in the number of things to research, then you get a lot of worthless research. Research production is being pushed beyond the point where marginal value is equal to marginal cost. The number of researchers is going up too fast because we are stuck in the mindset that college professors should be researchers, so higher enrollments means more researchers. That made sense when colleges were few, but not anymore.

      • Matt says:

        Does Deaton’s first point not go through mechanically? If the pie is not getting larger (i.e. gdp) then if I a take a larger share of it, this must mean that everybody else’s share has gotten smaller, on average. As for rent-seeking being correlated with low growth, that seems a more tenuous claim. You could argue the causality might flow the opposite direction. That certainly is true at the country-level (Acemoglu and Robinson’s thesis in ‘why nations fail’).

        • Terry says:

          Radford Neal’s post below makes a good point that the fixed-pie argument assumes that the size of the pie is somehow held constant. I don’t see why that would be true. In fact, the opposite seems likely. If more effort is diverted to rent-seeking, then the pie will shrink as fewer people are involved in productive activity.

          A fixed pie assumption is just way too simplistic. There are a lot of moving parts in an economy. And even if the pie is constant, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of things changing. It could just be that positive events are being cancelled by negative ones in the aggregate.

          I would like to see Deaton explain himself more. He is a smart and honest guy, so maybe he actually has a point and I’m not seeing it.

        • I think (some) economists get themselves tied up because they don’t naturally think in terms of processes but in terms of equilibria. Deaton strikes me as someone who understands the concept of process-through-time.

          It’s clearly the case that high levels of rent seeking causes reduced growth, basically when a person goes from doing something productive to working hard at collecting rent, whatever they were producing before they started collecting rent is no longer produced. But, at the same time, low growth causes rent seeking: when few opportunities for useful growth are available, people move to trying to collect rent thereby transferring someone elses wealth into their pocket in exchange for essentially nothing of value.

          Now it seems, if you take an equilibrium perspective, that this is circular causation: Rent seeking causes low growth or decline, and low growth or decline causes rent seeking. Which is it? It can’t be both.

          But if you unroll the loop through time, you solve this apparent circularity. At time t=0 a person looks at the opportunities available to them, and chooses to either try to capture someone elses wealth through the help of government policy etc (rent seeking) or produce something of value and sell it. If they used to be producing something of value and they choose at t=0 to start seeking rent, then future productivity t > 0 declines relative to if they had continued to produce something of value. If they weren’t producing anything of value, then productivity stays stagnant at best, or declines because the person who lost the wealth by paying rent is not using that wealth productively anymore.

          If you start with a few percent per year growth, and get into this cycle, then for the first few years, or decades, you might just see reduced growth rather than decline. If you continue long enough you expect some kind of decline or some change in behavior that enables growth to take hold again (like policy changes, or maybe wars or revolutions leading to new opportunities that are even more attractive than rent-seeking)

          The feedback mechanism is pernicious though, because through time as more and more policy is put into place giving special consideration to rent-seekers, opportunities for useful productivity seem to almost uniformly pay less reward than rent-seeking. At that point, you really do expect people to put their efforts towards rent-seeking and you initiate a decline because people aren’t producing stuff.

          Basically policy that favors rent seeking, self-reinforced by further rent seeking, results in a small number of winners (the rent seekers) and a large number of losers (the people paying the rent to get stuff they used to get free or at competitive prices which are now monopoly/monopsony prices). One of the biggest rent seeking opportunities after all is to get the government to set you up as a monopoly provider of something (local cable companies, ATT, pharma companies, RIAA, Apple vs Samsung billion dollar lawsuits about rounded rectangular corners etc etc)

          I read Deaton’s point as: high levels of rent seeking in the last couple of decades have forced growth down (anyone remember the “1-click patent” issued sept 1999? basically a symbol for the initiation of a massive growth in rent-seeking around dot-com era that never let up), and now that there isn’t much growth at all there’s even more pressure to seek rent and little attractive growth opportunities especially for the people suffering the most: medium to low skilled workers.

          Here is Fred on real GDP/capita continuously compounded annual rate of change:,#0

          This seems like a decline from 3%/yr growth typical in 1960-1980 to about 1% typical 1995-2015, still not zero growth, but a sign of problems in my opinion.

          However, I do also freely admit that there is a *measurement problem* GDP is not a perfect indicator of what we really care about. in particular, if you have growth for large companies and decline for individuals, things could be a lot worse *for people* while not showing up in this data. But also, if you have rapidly changing desire for goods (how many iPhones were sold in 1960?) that also makes it hard to compare different epochs.

          So, hopefully this clarifies the mechanisms that I think Deaton is talking about. I think Radford Neal’s complaint below is a misinterpretation of Deaton’s point (which was off-the-cuff in an interview after all)

          • Phil says:

            Nothing there that I disagree with. On the other hand, some economists blame stagnating wages on rising inequality, which reduces the velocity of money; See Stiglitz, for example. And of course it seems to be generally accepted now, partially thanks to Piketty, that high inequality is a natural or at least common state for generally capitalist societies. (Of course Marx said that too, but nobody wanted to admit to agreeing with him, but now we can ignore Marx and say ‘Piketty’).

            Evidently it’s not enough to ask for one-handed economists: what we need is a single economist, who has only one hand.

            • But what is the source of rising inequality? Certainly the uber-success of high rent-seeking has something to do with it. And what makes very-high inequality the “common state” it’s again most likely the ability of a few to get force (policy) on their side to suck money out of others’ pockets. Or at least, high inequality is only really a major problem if the people getting all the resources are not in fact producing much (say measured by the non-monopsonist prices for the goods/services they sell).

  10. Radford Neal says:

    “with essentially zero GDP/capita growth, every “good idea” that earns you money is basically a zero-sum way to take assets from someone else.”

    This is absurd. It assumes that “zero growth” is somehow imposed, rather than being the result of circumstances. In reality, if you get a good idea, such as rearranging the machinery in the factory so that workers don’t waste as much time walking from one machine to another, that will cause economic growth, to the benefit of almost everyone (possibly excepting competitors of the company with the now-more-efficient factory). It would only be zero-sum if the government was monitoring growth, and deliberately destroying wealth when it saw growth happening. Governments can be stupid and evil, but most of them aren’t THAT bad…

    • “This is absurd. It assumes that “zero growth” is somehow imposed, rather than being the result of circumstances.”

      No, I think it rightly assumes that “circumstances” are in many ways under the control of a group of people who are manipulating them to cause wealth transfers. Certainly the finance industry manipulated government regulation of banking and lending and monetary policy to create the housing boom and bust and the resulting post-bust inflation. Certainly Roche manipulated the governments of several countries to get them to stockpile Tamiflu, a drug that seems to have no net benefit. Certainly people friendly to oil companies have been appointed head of EPA, certainly a lot of stuff has gone on in the last couple of decades along these lines in almost every major industry. (If you’d like a few more examples we can talk about recording industry (copyright), movie industry (copyright), high tech (patents), pharma (patents, import and manufacturing laws, etc), medical industry, insurance.

      It is undoubtedly the case that a lot of wealth-transfer activity is going on right now. It’s also the case that measurement of economic value created is not perfect, maybe even not all that great. I do think there’s something to be said for looking out for how high income industries manipulate “circumstances” in ways that squash economy wide growth while benefiting themselves.

      • Radford Neal says:

        Certainly there is some amount of corruption in current society. I don’t see how that has anything to do with the claim that somebody who gets a good idea that would apparently increase wealth is actually only going to transfer wealth, not create it. That would require that some entity is actively sabotaging wealth creation.

        The only plausible candidates for such entities are central banks, but unless they have been captured by a secret evil cabal, moreover one whose evil would appear to be of no benefit even to the evil-doers, any compensating activities they engage in will be targeting monetary, not real, targets.

        • “the claim that somebody who gets a good idea that would apparently increase wealth is actually only going to transfer wealth”

          I don’t think that’s Deaton’s point at all. His point is that *most of the attractive investment opportunities that appear to give a good individual return on investment are wealth-transfer schemes that are not overall productive* and that this has forced real growth down.

          I’ve already posted a longer explanation but it’s waiting in the queue in reply to someone above, I’ll let it percolate onto the blog before elaborating.

          Certainly Deaton isn’t saying that every individual idea is a wealth transfer scheme, it’s just that there’s enough attractiveness to seeking rent that it diverts useful effort enough to limit growth, and once you hit about zero growth, on *average* schemes for wealth transfer destroy productivity as fast as schemes for productivity come along.

          • In other words, it’s not that if someone chooses to do something productive it won’t actual cause production… it’s that relatively few people are finding productive things to do, in part because rent-seeking is so attractive that people with large quantities of money to invest are not bothering with real production.

            I’ll just drop a load of rent-seeking opportunities that are actively being milked right now as evidence that it’s plausible that lots of rent seeking is going on and that it would affect investment choices and decline in productivity of real assets/services.

            1) Ethanol mandated in gasoline propping up corn prices while increasing gasoline prices with little to no improvements vs ethanol free gas.
            2) Sugar tariffs resulting in high corn syrup prices with generally lower quality foods resulting.
            3) Apple computers App store and iTunes monopoly lock-in
            3.5) Google’s similar App store lock in, both lock-ins work by contract law limiting what people who sell smartphones or smartphone apps can offer on their phones if they want to participate in google/apple lock-in app stores (essentially a much more serious version of the Internet Explorer lock in of the 1990’s)
            4) Indonesian/Bangladeshi click farmers faking reviews to drive sales of goods much lower quality than apparent information would indicate.
            5) Chinese Import tariffs + agricultural subsidy offsets = protection for a few industries and decline in overall real productivity particularly in consumer goods.
            6) Tariffs on imported solar cells propping up domestic natural gas and reducing access to cheap electricity, increasing pollution.
            7) EPA changing regulations making fracking and natural gas production more attractive at expense of pollution externality paid by everyday people.
            8) Sending federal law enforcement to force pipelines through Amerindian territories.
            9) Getting govts to stockpile billions in Tamiflu which does basically nothing of value.
            10) The Panama Papers… all of it.
            11) Forcing individuals to purchase health insurance through ACA tax mandate, but giving nothing of value if the tax penalty is chosen rather than a policy, thereby putting a price floor on health insurance policies nationwide. Also, mandating that people buy relatively high levels of coverage, and mandating employer provided coverage for large business continuing to help large companies by locking in their employees and creating tax advantages that smaller competition can’t take advantage of easily due to overhead.
            12) Apple vs Samsung a series of ongoing patent law fights in multiple countries resulting in billions of dollars of churn.
            13) Ajit Pai and the FCC: elimination of net neutrality rules essentially allowing classic rent-seeking of the “put up a chain where before people pass for free” variety for ATT, Verizon, Charter, Comcast, and a small number of other enormous companies.
            14) ATT etc for decades collecting govt mandated fees from every subscriber intended to fund deployment of high speed fiber throughout the country, decades go by without high speed fiber deployment. Laws get changed, money is pocketed.
            15) Google fiber attempts to compete with incumbents, incumbents get laws passed fighting one touch make ready rules on utility poles to increase costs for Google, fiber project dwindles.
            15.5) Across the country states have passed laws making it difficult for local municipalities to provide internet services, even though in places where they do, in general customers are much happier with local municipal results.
            16) Finance industry destabilizes financial markets, forcing The Fed to drive up prices of assets mainly owned by finance industry (government bonds) producing a massive transfer of monetary wealth into hands of small population with no real wealth creation. Uber-wealthy now poised to purchase whatever they want at very high prices pounce on real-estate driving up costs of housing and leading to widespread homelessness.

            I could go on, and since many people may not follow this stuff (it’s often covered mainly in specialty tech news sites) maybe I should, but I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that while we’ve had growth, we’ve also had a LOT of anti-competitive rent-seeking supported by governments that has reduced productivity. If rent seeking is attractive then it diverts from productivity. At near-zero growth, apparently it’s attractive enough to on average destroy almost as much wealth as whatever everyone else is creating.

  11. Terry says:

    What a crock.

    All the author’s examples are of alleged misconduct by Trump and his associates. (And many are based on flimsy or non-existent evidence.) The author can’t come up with a single example of misconduct by the left? Disruption of Trump rallies (a federal offense)? Harassment of Tucker Carlson? FISA warrants? Disruption of a Senate hearing and the Senate itself? Domestic violence and anti-semitism by Keith Ellison? Corruption and allegation of underage sex by Menendez? The “hands up don’t shoot” hoax abetted by the White House? Julie Swetnick’s fabrications abetted by Avenetti? Hundreds of hate hoaxes? Chappaquiddick? The Russian dossier? LBJ’s corruption and vote stealing?

    With a straight face, the author talks about “the Russia-aligned Trump syndicate”? Really? Really???

    I don’t see how a serious person can take this rant seriously.

    • Buster Friendly says:

      LBJ? The Internet Research Agency is reaching pretty deep into history to go with LBJ. Also I’m pretty surprised the influence campaign has gone as far as a somewhat obscure statistics blog and to a blog post that, again, is more so about drawing an analogy to attitudes in the scientific community about the statistics crisis is social science. Do you guys use Stan over there in St. Petersburg? It’d be pretty cool to see some good Bayesian models on the effectiveness of troll campaigns on increasing conflict in western democracies. What do you measure and how do you model it?

      Also, dude, for having English as a second-language, I gotta give kudos for the “hundreds of hate hoaxes.” Killer alliteration.

    • otherguy says:

      BusterFriendly appears to imply that people who disagree with anti-Trump propaganda are paid by Russian government. BusterFriendly appears to be unaware that a lot of actual Americans, people who grew up speaking English, voted for Trump.

      Concerning “divisiveness”, one could say that “wage gap” and Black Lives Matter propaganda sponsored by Obama’s White House (not to mention the flood of refugees and illegals Obama’s Arab Spring is indirectly responsible for) did a much better job dividing Western societies than anyone in Russia could dream of

  12. gregor says:

    Concern for rule of law is completely valid and it is unfair to conflate this with “covering up crimes,” as that framing presupposes that we can reliably determine whether crimes have taken place outside of the legal process. “Allegedly” people “connected” to Trump were “involved” with someone that “has ties” to Putin/Weinstein/whomever. Yeah, those kinds of weasely allegations don’t cut it. The Democrats started talking about impeaching Trump BEFORE he even entered office. They want him deposed and any pretext will do. They aren’t quite sure what he did, but they know he did SOMETHING. Hence, we must investigate until we discover the crimes that he surely committed, based on the circular reasoning that Trump is guilty. Dershowitz to his credit is pointing out that this is a complete inversion of American legal standards which require you to investigate the crime, not the man.

    It’s easy to be cynical about lawyers because they argue opposite sides for money (seemingly a perversion of “truth”). But if you view these players as fulfilling necessary roles in the larger system, the law as a whole tends toward truth. Law and science are ultimately on the same side as both are concerned with rigorous consideration of evidence and truth.

    • Dale Lehman says:

      The “theory” of law and the “theory” of science are both on the same side. But the practice may not be. We’ve seen myriad examples of poor and fraudulent scientific practice exposed on this blog. The discussion eventually comes down to poor incentives, greed, lack of ethics, and incompetence (the last is excusable, absent the first 3). Law – and its extension in politics – shows the same. I would like evidence rather than assertions and agree with the condemnation of double standards and trial of Trump and Associates without evidence. But, for me, the evidence that I can personally attest to is Trump’s manner. He is a bully, a narcissist, and does not care about truth or evidence. That’s plenty for me. In fact, I’m not sure why we need to worry so much about whether there was collusion with Russia or criminal business acts, or whatever.

      I’m not saying these things are unimportant. And, they should require evidence and not just assertions. But I’ve seen enough personally to conclude that this administration is an abomination.

      One other thing – too many people now equate the performance of politicians with whether or not they have been made better off (or worse – whether they perceive themselves to be better off). What happened to the idea of public service? The notion that politics involves things bigger than ourselves? I’m sorry to see that language having left our reality entirely – as long as we’re talking theory, here.

      • Buster Friendly says:

        Dale, don’t we need an investigation to get evidence? I think the issue is that Dershowitz is conflating an investigation (with clearly sufficient cause given that number of indictments and convictions already establish) with a conviction sans evidence. Plenty of administrations have been investigated both by Congress and by the Justice department. Every administration since Nixon except Obama’s has had at least one special counsel/independent prosecutor investigation. The theory of law in the United States is that an investigation follows an allegation and if that investigation yields enough evidence THEN we proceed to prosecution. That process appears to be playing out.

        As for your last paragraph: amen, brother.

      • gregor says:

        Even in practice, there are not many arenas that are as strongly biased toward truth as the legal system. Depositions, testimony under penalty of perjury, cross examination, etc. What other domains are subject to such rigors? Certainly not academia. Hard science is the exception because the validity of the scholarship is more objectively apparent.

        Social science has problems because success is determined entirely by the opinion of other academics in the field with no other correcting feedback mechanisms. We’ve accordingly seen politically sensitive areas like psychology, sociology, anthropology, and history degenerate into apologetic disciplines that are more preoccupied with suppressing truth than advancing it. Bad statistical methods are a very secondary matter (as much as I do enjoy Andrew’s critiques).

  13. Terry says:

    There is an important difference between Dershowitz and the people trying to cover up bad research.

    Dershowitz is saying there are so many laws and prosecutors are so powerful that with enough investigation almost anyone can be crushed if law enforcement is used as a weapon against political opponents. Indeed, even a completely innocent person can be crushed by the financial burden of a legal defense. Poor criminal defendants in particular have little chance to prove their innocence against an unethical prosecutor. (I have long found this to be believable and was appalled by the investigations of the Clintons in the nineties.)

    But the same isn’t true in academic research. A lot of research is solid and withstands scrutiny. Solid research can’t be crushed by simply looking at it closely enough, and academic critics are nowhere near as powerful as criminal prosecutors. The people trying to cover up bad research are implying that bad research is so widespread that it is rude to single them out. This, I don’t agree with.

  14. Tom says:

    I’m troubled how the op-ed is quoted uncritically as “the orderly enforcement of the law.” The examples given are exemplary and confined to #metoo. Harvey Weinstein is hardly a political reckoning. The op-ed (more of a polemic) author then asserts without evidence that the #metoo investigation led to Russia meddling/collusion information.

    Dershowitz’s book (which is never quoted or summarized in the op-ed) based on Amazon appears to talk about criminal prosecution of political opponents, specifically the special counsel. This episode is more about the capriciousness of law enforcement regarding political differences. The many irregularities regarding Clinton’s email investigation (no grand jury, immunity without conditions, letting her co-defendant counsel be in the same interview) vs the DOJ’s aggressiveness with respect to the Trump investigation (which hasn’t indicted any Trump associate with respect to the central purpose of the investigation – Russian collusion or interference).

    • Bob says:

      Amazon allows one to preview some books. Here’s a clip from Dershowitz’s “Trumped Up . . .”, which I believe is the relevant book, that puts the op-ed in perspective:

      Despite my long non-political history of demanding the depoliticization of criminal justice and the de-criminalization of political disagreements, I am attacked by each side when my civil liberties position is seen as supporting their opponents. So be it. At a time when civil liberties have become one of the first casualties of hyper-partisanship, and when the ACLU has succumbed to this malady. I see little choice but to stand by my principles, as I did when President Clinton was unfairly subjected to a violation of his civil liberties, as well as when President Nixon was unfairly named as an unindicted coconspirator, thus denying him the opportunity to defend himself in court. Being a principled civil libertarian is like being a criminal defense lawyer: people love you when you defend their friends and hate you when you defend their enemies. Most Americans like most people in the world, believe in free speech for me but not for thee, due process for political allies but not for enemies, objectivity about one’s cause but not about other people’s causes, especially when they conflict with one’s own. Few live by Voltaire’s reputed dictum: “I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it,” or to paraphrase it in the current context, “I disagree with your politics and your actions, but will defend your right to due process, fairness and civil liberties.”



  15. yyw says:

    Another point worth noting is that even whether Weinstein did something criminal is no longer a slam dunk at this point and the conduct of law enforcement in his case might have been influenced by the politics of Me Too.

  16. otherguy says:

    Not so long ago Andrew refused to evaluate or comment on Amy Cuddy’s scientific accomplishments because he is “not an expert in her field” (I am semi-quoting).

    Selective, politically motivated law enforcement is an old and widely documented phenomenon, it takes an experienced lawyer to decide whether it is in fact being used and abused more. When did Andrew become an expert in these matters?

  17. If Alan Dershowitz is “more bothered by those who make the offense public” and has “loyalty not to government but to the political establishment”, then it shouldn’t be hard to find (indeed, you should already have found) some Alan Dershowitz quotes demonstrating this.

  18. StephenLaudig says:

    Assume for purposes of argument that the or one “Event Zero” is Ford’s pardon of Nixon in terms of encouraging contempt of law or the rise of impunity based upon perceptions of immunity. just thinking aloud.

Leave a Reply