The fine art of putting words into other people's mouths, as practiced by Brad DeLong: "I think that if you want to buy Seatbelt Sam's argument and call mandatory seatbelt laws examples of harmful and counterproductive government red tape . . ."

Note DeLong doesn't use quote marks and he doesn't say Sam Peltzman actually said or implied that seatbelt laws were "harmful" and "counterproductive." He just says that if "you" buy his argument, "you" might therefore decide that the laws were harmful and counterproductive. Pretty clever, no?

(We can be sure that Professor Peltzman didn't use those words in his article, "The Effects of Automobile Safety Regulation," Journal of Political Economy, August 1975, thanks to a machine-readable version and Control-F. I submit that a fair reading of the article suggests that he didn't imply them, either.)

DeLong also accuses Peltzman of doing his econometrics in bad faith. This seems harsh given that many other studies have found evidence consistent with safety devices causing compensating behavior, now known as the Peltzman Effect. Even the most recent research I could (quickly) find on this, "The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities," Alma Cohen and Liran Einav, June 2002 (and forthcoming in Review of Economics and Statistics) finds that seat-belt usage raises non-occupant fatalities in a simple OLS regression. It isn't until they either 1) include state and year fixed effects, or 2) instrument for the adoption of seat-belt laws that they get different results. People reasoning in good faith could disagree over the merits of different specifications.

But since Peltzman is quoted in a textbook written by Gregory Mankiw and since Professor Mankiw is now working for the Bush Administation, might "you" think DeLong was just, once again, trying to slam almost everything connected with that administration?