Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bill Bennett is Misunderstood

Bill Bennett is a fascist, racist, bigotted hypocrite, but he's been misunderstood. Those who criticise his latest racist hate-mongering are attacking the superficial flaws in what Bennett said and not tackling the more fundamental flaws behind them. Let's analyse what happened.

Before proceeding, here's a special note for the hard of thinking: at times, if you skim over what I write without following the chain of thought to its conclusion you will come away with the mistaken idea that I support what Bennett said.

Bennett had a caller to his radio show saying that if abortion had not been legalized in 1973 then Social Security would not be in a mess because there would be more workers paying into it. Bennett replied "maybe." Here I can give Bennett a tiny shred of credit for not agreeing with his lunatic caller. Social Security is not in a mess, will not have problems for decades, those problems are not disastrous, and those problems could be fixed by relatively minor tinkering.

But I don't label the caller a lunatic for swallowing Bush's lies about Social Security. I call him a lunatic for his assumption that a higher birthrate would lead to a higher proportion of the population in gainful employment. More people means more consumers which means more people required to produce what is consumed, but whether that leads to a percentage shift in employment in either direction is doubtful. India has a far higher population than the US and a far higher percentage that are unemployed and/or live in poverty. It's not bodies on the ground but social, political and economic policies together with available natural resources that determine the affluence of a society and whether or not it can afford social security for all. It is entirely possible that a higher US population competing for the same amount of natural resources would lead to a decline in affluence and worsen the position of social security.

Anyway, Bennett answered the caller by referring to a book he had read that increased abortion had led to a decrease in the crime rate. Bennet said he disagreed with that hypothesis. Not having seen the book I cannot evaluate its credibility in order to say that I either agree or disagree. Were the statistics the book compiled accurate or inaccurate; were the statistics evaluated correctly or incorrectly? Assuming the statistics are valid, there is the problem that correlation does NOT prove causation. Crime rate may decline as abortion rate increases not because one is a result of the other but because both are determined by a third factor. Even if you can somehow show that there is no other factor involved, you still have to show that a fall in crime rate is the result of an increase in the abortion rate rather than an increase in the abortion rate is the result of a fall in the crime rate (the first of those alternatives seems more plausible but the other is not impossible).

That said, the book gives a plausible hypothesis as to why this may be the case. There are three main reasons for seeking an abortion: the child will be still-born or severely disabled; the mother's health is at risk; or poverty. If you struggle to make ends meet you know that another child will take you over the edge and that your other children will suffer badly as a consequence. You may not want an abortion, you may even think you'll go to hell if you have an abortion, but if the choice is between an abortion and some of your other children starving to death then you'll go for the abortion. Since Bush stole power more people are living in worse poverty. Since Bush stole power the abortion rate has been climbing. All the caveats above about correlation/causation apply, but it does seem that as Bush forces more people into worse poverty they have abortions so that they can concentrate their limited resources on their existing children.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that abortion is largely a response to poverty then those who avoid poverty by means of abortion don't have to struggle to survive. In particular, they don't have to steal a loaf of bread from the supermarket so they can eat. Not only that, a child raised in abject poverty will be more resentful of the system that failed him and less likely to respect its laws. So the book could be right and that increased abortion rates (and hence less poverty) lead to reduced crime rates. Without evaluating the book I cannot say any more than it presents a plausible, but not necessarily true, hypothesis. Bennett committed himself and said he disagreed with the book. Therefore, according to Bennett, the abortion rate has no effect on the crime rate. That could be true, they could both be determined by some third (unknown) factor.

What made people denounce Bennett was for what he said next. Despite effectively saying that the abortion rate has no effect on the crime rate, Bennett then said "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." That was (almost certainly correctly) interpreted as a racist remark. It was (almost certainly incorrectly) misinterpreted as Bennett blaming blacks for all crimes.

Let me point out (as Bennett himself did in his third or fourth attempt to dig himself out of the hole) that you could abort all babies and the crime rate would go down. It might take ten or twenty years, but with fewer people in the population there would be fewer opportunities for crime and fewer criminals. The per capita crime rate might stay the same but the absolute number of crimes per year would drop. If you doubt that, consider aborting all babies until there is no more human race: how many crimes per year now?

Bennett could have originally said all babies, but he said all black babies. He could have said you could abort all white babies, or all Mexican babies and the crime rate would go down, because all races and ethnicities produce criminals. And so people attack Bennett as being racist (he is) on that basis. They interpret his statement as saying that most criminals are black. But they miss the deeper point.

Blacks appear to disproportionaly commit crimes. I say "appear to" because there is a phenomenon where racist white police disproportionately search black people. So even if blacks were less likely to commit crimes the police would find more black criminals than white criminals because they're spending more of their time looking at blacks. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that blacks really do commit disproportionately more crime. It is also the case that blacks are disproportionately poorer. If you accept that poor people steal in order to be able to survive (while rich people steal so they can become even richer) then the endemic racism in the US that makes blacks disproportionately poor means they are more likely to commit crime.

Where am I going with this? The hard-of-thinking are going to have problems here... Bennett might have had in mind the sort of nuanced argument I just made. He might have been thinking along the lines that if increased abortion does lead to lower crime rates then you get a better "pay back" by concentrating those abortions amongst the populace most likely to commit crimes. Bennett might have been guilty of no more than oversimplification in a time-limited, spontaneous medium. But he's not.

Again, for the sake of argument, assume all the reasoning above is true. Increased abortion rate really does lead to lower crime rate because increased abortion rates reduce poverty and remove the need to steal to survive. Blacks, because endemic racism means they are disproportionately poor (if you doubt that see who got out of New Orleans and who could not afford to) are therefore disproportionately likely to steal. One conclusion would be that if you were to sanction abortion to reduce the crime rate you would target it at blacks. Another conclusion would be that you should fucking well do something about the endemic racism in the first place so that blacks are not disproportionately poor, and that you should fucking well do something about eliminating poverty, instead of trying to ban abortion.

And that's why Bennett is a slimy piece of shit. Not because he is a racist. But because he knows that the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor, and endemic racism, are the cause of crime. But, being one of the inordinately rich (he can afford to blow millions gambling while lecturing others against indulging in vices) he does not consider that he could reduce both the abortion rate and the crime rate by advocating the removal of inequities in society. He may claim he wants the abortion rate to go down, but he and his ilk are pursuing policies that line their own pockets which have the side-effect of increasing the abortion rate.


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Blogger Timmer said...

"Blacks are disproportionately poor which leads to disproportionate crime by blacks" is about the only thing, other than Bennett's bad choice of words, that we can agree on.

I am curious - if you are in Wales, what the hell do you know (or care) about the American Social Security issue?? You are obviously not very well informed and make some silly assumptions.

By the way, you are getting SLAMMED by spam, despite your word verification (unless you just put that on). Sucks.

Sunday, October 02, 2005 4:43:00 AM  
Blogger Brian de Ford said...

Timmer wrote:

"Blacks are disproportionately poor which leads to disproportionate crime by blacks" is about the only thing, other than Bennett's bad choice of words, that we can agree on.

It would be a boring life if we all agreed upon everything. However, since you did not care to explain why you disagreed with me neither of us, nor any one else reading this blog, is able to gain from a constructive argument.

I am curious - if you are in Wales, what the hell do you know (or care) about the American Social Security issue??

I know about it because I take the trouble to make sure I am knowledgable about the activities of the evil scumbag who stole your presidency. I read about the evil scumbag running your country because he teamed up with the evil scumbag running my country.

If you had bothered to look at the very top of my blog page you would have seen the objective of the blog, although it doesn't say why I bother to do that. The UK joined an illegal war. UK military personnel are being killed in an illegal war. Many acts by UK military personnel constitute serious war crimes. What few civil liberties we had are being stolen from us in the name of fighting terrorism. And it's all because of the fucktard who stole the US presidency.

The Social Security issue is important because of the fact that Bush overplayed his hand and the people of the US started to wake up to the fact that he is a corrupt evil scumbag. Whether or not they will do anything about it is another matter. Whether or not they can vote enough Dems into Congress in the mid-terms to get the fucker impeached seems unlikely unless such an overwhelming majority turns against him that even Diebold couldn't convincingly manipulate the results. I live in hope, but I'm not holding my breath.

You are obviously not very well informed and make some silly assumptions.

So you say. But again you do not care to point out where the things I claim as facts are incorrect or where my logic is faulty. Merely telling me that I am wrong does little to convince me. And if you are correct in your assertion then you have done nothing to educate me about my errors, so your comment was effectively a waste of your time and mine.

Oh well, let's play it your way. You, Timmer, are wrong. OK? Now you can respond and tell me that I'm the one that's wrong. Then I can respond...

Actually, please feel free to post again if you have something useful to contribute. Otherwise I recommend that you don't bother.

By the way, you are getting SLAMMED by spam, despite your word verification (unless you just put that on).

Yes, I just put that on. And the spam is still happening. They must be pretty damned desperate if they're spamming a blog with a readership of about five people.

Sunday, October 02, 2005 7:52:00 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Planned Parenthood Advocates Abortion to Reduce Crime

And the bizarre thing is that Bennett, who explicitly rejects abortion, is under attack.

Monday, October 03, 2005 3:58:00 AM  

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