Sunday, October 2

Freakonomics, Abortion, and the Bennet Debacle

This via
From last month's First Things:

Six years ago, economist Steven Levitt and law professor John Donohue sparked a brouhaha with their claim that abortion is probably the greatest crime-prevention measure ever invented. Now that argument has received renewed currency in the bestselling book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Levitt and his co-author Stephen Dubner. In recent years there has been a 30- to 50-percent drop in crime, and many explanations are offered: new policing methods, more than two million people behind bars, the drop-off in the use of crack, and on and on. But a careful analysis of the data, say Levitt and company, indicates that the biggest factor, far and away, is that the millions of young men most likely to commit crimes were killed early on. A refreshing note of candor in the current discussion is that nobody is denying that all those fetuses killed in the womb were really human beings. So it seems the question of when human life begins has been settled once and for all. The dramatic decline in crime began eighteen years after Roe v. Wade, and a few years earlier in those states that liberalized their abortion law. Of course, most of the commentaries steer away from a too-explicit reference to race, although everybody is aware of the astonishingly inordinate incidence of crimes committed by young male blacks and the equally inordinate incidence of abortions procured by black women.
I don't agree that abortion had anything to do with the reduction on crime rate at all! Besides the fact that it is a utilitarian way to see things, and morally reprehensible, abortion does not change the choices made for those that yet live. If there has been reductions in crime rate, the reason lies elsewhere--not abortion. If anything, eliminating abortion and helping women choose life will elevate our nation on the moral scale, helping, I'm sure, to reduce crime rates overall. has more on the Bennet debacle, and how it reveals the incredible liberal hypocrisy.
The conundrum arises for liberals when it comes to their outrage over this because their anger at Bennett's statements is a tacit admission that life is being destroyed in the womb. Bennett was talking about aborting black "babies" and the liberals got all upset about it. But why? If those black "babies" in the womb are nothing more than "tissue and fluid," are not really "babies" at all, then why act so outraged over Bennett's statements at all?
UPDATE and BUMP: Captain Ed has a interesting analysis of Bennett's comments.

When one looks at the entire context of the remarks made by Bennett in discussing the Freakanomics argument that three decades of abortion lowered violent crime in America (an argument that suffers by the fact of the violent death of 43 million feti, wouldn't one think?), it should be obvious to reasonable people that Bennett neither argues for aborting black babies nor does he agree with the Leavitt and Dubner hypothesis. Anyone who spends time with Bennett, either listening to his radio show or reading his works, knows that Bennett is no racist.

However, he makes one mistake in his reductio ad absurdum argument that he should have avoided, one which gives fuel to the entire argument: he assumed that lowering the African-American population would result in a lower crime rate, without any other conditions being met. Here's Bennett's statement:

But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.

Do we know that the crime rate would go down, any more than if we aborted every white baby in America? No, we do not, and that mistaken assumption creates the much smaller but legitimate criticism of Bennett's remarks. At the heart of that assertion, Bennett has to assume that all other things being equal, blacks are more likely to commit crime than non-blacks as part of their innate nature, and not as part of an environment.

First mistake: using blacks as an example. Had he said "poor", he would have been much closer to the mark. The poor do not have an innate compulsion to commit crime either, but the environment in which they enter the world creates more pressure towards criminal behavior. That does not hold true for "all black children" -- only for those born into that environmen
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