Roger Koppl on the Limits of (State) Forensics

Roger Koppl writes in Forbes on the surprisingly low accuracy of crime labs. Some scary stuff in there.

BTW here is my comment on the MR post from which I stole this link:

I loved the article, but I think Koppl doesn't push it far enough when he says the problem is monopoly, and therefore we need the government to require multiple tests, etc. That's like saying the problem with oil prices is OPEC, and that's why we need to ask Saudi Arabia to pump more.

Case in point: Koppl discusses a guy who was wrongly convicted of rape and held for four years. His compensation? $118,000. If those are the penalties the government faces for mistakes, no wonder they are so sloppy. In a voluntary system where people could patronize different legal frameworks (and yes we can argue about how/whether that would work), I think the fines might be such that the agencies that survived the competition fixed the leaky roofs over their crime labs.

Holy cow! I see now that someone responded to this brilliant comment, and actually called it "stupid." !!!! Out of the way, lads, I must fly!


  1. If Mike Huben Didn't Exist, Would Libertarians Have to Invent Him?

    For those who may not be familiar, Huben is an old-skool anti-libertarian troll from Usenet days, who frequently spars with David Friedman. The intelligence displayed in this instance is typical Huben.

  2. Dang, I hate when I respond to trolls. I think I often fall into these traps because I don't believe in trolls.

    Does a troll have to know he's a troll to be a troll? E.g. suppose someone is just a moron and really thinks he is blowing people up. And then they stop responding because "he's just a troll."

  3. My guess is Huben is a true believer, so to answer your question, no, a troll doesn't have to know he is a troll to be a troll; the trolling label is a measure of the usefulness of the troll's contributions to a discussion, and not necessarily his intent.

    Huben hosts a Critiques Of Libertarianism. Friedman responds to one of Huben's "FAQs" here.

    To be fair to Huben, some of the critiques on his site are on the mark, and his obvious frustration with some of the less well-versed dogmatic True Believer libertarians explains much of his hostility toward libertarianism in general. (Anyone who has spent a sufficient amount of time talking with orthodox Objectivists should be familiar with the feeling.)

  4. Thanks for the links. I was enjoying Friedman's responses but by the 10th or so Huben's criticisms were so silly that I had to stop.

  5. What most irks me about the non-libertarian FAQ is the constantly shifting stance of Huben. Here's a guy who denies libertarian rights arguments with the claim that "there is no such thing as rights," but will then turn around and justify state action on the grounds that the state has the right to its territory.

    My favorite response of Friedman's is:

    Mike recognizes this problem when he writes that "This begs the question of how to judge the interpretive philosophies of the possible justices, but libertarians seldom get that far." This leaves him in the odd position of adopting a position that he recognizes as incorrect and justifying it, apparently, on the grounds that most libertarians won't notice.

  6. Huben responded, both on our blog and on the original MR post.

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