Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Getting It Right about the Patriot Act

Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy responds to a claim by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution about the Patriot Act. In Kerr's words,
Alex has a post suggesting that the Patriot Act is a bad law because it has been used to do some dumb things. Here is the post...:
Yeah, I feel much safer now

The USA Patriot Act has so far been used to fine PayPal $10 million dollars in an effort to crack down on internet gambling, it's been used to intimidate a New York artist's collective, and most recently to shut down a Stargate fan site.
Kerr then assembles the facts, which lead him to this conclusion:
So, at least as I see it: (1) it is true that a provision in the Patriot Act was used to crack down on Internet gambling, leading to a civil settlement; (2) it is not fair to say that the Patriot Act was used to intimidate a group of artists; and (3) the Patriot Act was not used to shut down a fan site.
More importantly, there's a lot we don't know about the effects of the Patriot Act, namely, (1) the extent to which it has deterred terrorism or made it more difficult and (2) the extent to which it has yielded valuable information about terrorist plots that have been thwarted or are being monitored.

Economists are shockingly naive at times. Well, not shockingly to me, because I've worked with so many of them.