Friday, September 30, 2005

Ain't We Got Fun! Look out, Bill Bennett is shooting his mouth off again:
Bennett, who held prominent posts in the administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, told a caller to his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday: "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."
The story does make it obvious in the next paragraph that Bennett was not outlining what he believes to be proper policy, but he's still going to regret this one, I predict. Look, I don't much like Bennett. He's a prig and a hypocrite, and I think he should just fade away. That said, I'm a little tired of every public figure needing to apologize for every third word simply because someone found it "hurtful" or "insensitive." It's silly.

First, the majority of crime most urban areas, especially violent crime, is attributable to the black population. It's a fact; you can't argue with it, though you don't have to like it. Second, some analyses have shown an apparent link between the rise of legal abortion and the drop in crime. Now, Bennett's facile connection of the two may or may not be correct (simply as a numerical matter, I would guess that crime would drop, if only based on the reduced numbers of people born into circumstances that correlate with crime, which happens, indisputably, to a higher proportion of black children), but the point is that it's not necessarily racist, or even wrong, to speculate upon. That said, it's probably stupid to say it really loudly in public these days.

This reminds me of the "Bell Curve" controversy of the last decade. Now, I read The Bell Curve, and I didn't find any racism in it, though Herrnstein and Murray, it's authors, were accused of just that. What I did find was that two respected social scientists saw an unusual statistical anomaly -- that among Asians, whites, and blacks, Asians generally measure highest on standard IQ tests, whites lower, blacks lower still. (They took the unusual step of publishing all of their data, too.) Then they asked, why might this pattern occur? And the usual suspects stepped forward and shouted, "How dare you ask that!" Brilliant. Better that we all remain ignorant than ask a question that might offend someone's delicate sensibilities.

Now, I'll grant you, Bennett's comments don't amount to an academic treatise, nor is he publishing data on the subject. Still, we shouldn't be afraid to say these things. I'm nominally pro-choice (for philosophical reasons), but with what I consider a healthy distate for abortion itself. Still, there are policy matters to be considered in light of statistical evidence that legal abortion lowers crime. Nobody sensible is saying that because of this correlation, we should encourage abortion, and particularly among black people. But there are social implications in this that are unrelated to abortion. Who gets pregnant? What are the economic and social circumstances? What are the social sevices/welfare incentives to have children? To avoid pregnancy? Throw in the questions that do directly relate to abortion policy/legality, and you've got a big ol' mess that people aren't talking about much, if only because some of the conclusions they might draw are, to be frank, politically incorrect.

If you disagree with Bennett, that's fine, but tell me why. Explain to me where he's wrong. But if you just think he shouldn't say such things because they are "hurtful" and "insensitive" then you need to get yourself a goddamn life.

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