Sep 05

Watch the math sparks fly

The best commentary on the Bill Bennett comments have come from the Freakonomics guys, who did seem to start the entire thing.

Bennett’s offensive commentary

CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I’ve read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn’t — never touches this at all.

BENNETT: Assuming they’re all productive citizens?

CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.

BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don’t know what the costs would be, too. I think as — abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.

CALLER: I don’t know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don’t know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don’t know. I mean, it cuts both — you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well —

CALLER: Well, I don’t think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don’t think it is either, I don’t think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don’t know. 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. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

Now mind you, nowhere does he point out the obvious point that even if we did successfully prohibit abortions in this country we would only move the bankruptcy date of Social Security back a few years, having not changed the pay-in to pay-out ration that much.

One point that Leavitt makes is quite interesting, to wit:

4) When a woman gets an abortion, for the most part it is not changing the total number of children she has; rather, it is shifting the timing so those births come later in life. This is an important fact to remember. One in four pregnancies ends in abortion and this has been true for 30 years in the U.S. But the impact of abortion on the overall birth rate has been quite small.

This is unsourced and I would like to see some data and theory on the matter.

Beyond that, it’s amazing how large the indignation industry is in this country. Here was a statement which, true or false, kind-hearted or malicious, did not kill or hurt anyone, and left no one richer or poorer. The fact that many people got exorcised about this empirically meaningless statement is amazing. It says a lot about the wealth we have as a society when we can afford the endless chattering classes.