Monday, February 26, 2018

Emotions over facts by a factor of 200

I see this tweet.

Is that true? Do insurers increase your premiums for gun ownership? I have never heard of that. Thirty seconds of googling, which I do not claim to be unassailable, merely indicative, seems to suggest that it is not true other than to the extent that guns have value. Your premiums for a $100,000 antique gun collection will obviously be higher than for one gun or no gun.

It appears that for most insurance companies, gun ownership is a non-issue. Apparently in the past decade some insurance companies have expressed interest to their state regulators in investigating whether the data supports a differential in risk based on gun ownership. One argument is that home gun ownership is associated with a small decrease in property theft and therefore insurance perhaps should be lower. Another argument is that home gun ownership is associated with a small increase in accidental injuries and therefore insurance rates should be higher.

As far as I can tell, some states have preemptively outlawed varying rates by gun ownership status. Other states have expressed skepticism but left it in the hands of the insurers to do the research and substantiate such an approach. As best I can discern, there is no robust real world analysis on the risk premiums (pro and con) and the relative off-sets of gun ownership. There is some academic research of varying quality but I am not seeing any insurer research on real world information. Some states preclude rate variance by gun ownership. In those states where it is permitted, it seems as if the overwhelming majority do not base rates on gun ownership.

So the broad claim that if you purchase a gun, your insurance rates will increase is factually wrong. Possibly in some few places under some specific circumstances but the overwhelming majority of insurance buyers will not see any insurance rate variance based on gun ownership.

This tweet appears to be one more piece of cognitive pollution being peddled out of ignorance or ideological fervor.

But look at the "Likes" in the thread of tweets. The originating tweet which falsely claims that gun ownership increases insurance premium rates attracts more than 200,000 "likes" as I write this. In two days.

In the long thread of responses I see a handful refuting the claim, some linking to reports that document the refutation. Not one of these responses attracts more than a thousand "likes." Indeed, most fail to attract more than double digit likes. Let's assume that there are a total one thousand "likes" as an aggregation of all the refuting tweets.

The implication would seem that in a discussion of a factually testable hypothesis (gun ownership increases insurance rates) for the general public there is a 200:1 ratio between emotionalism/ignorance/ideological fervor/mood affiliation versus dispassionate, objective empiricism.

That would support the observation that rhetoric is by far the stronger mode of argument over simple recitation of the actual facts.

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