April 19, 2005

A WANTING THEORY (via Emily Bourie):

Pre-emptive Executions?: The notion that legalizing abortion drives down crime rates is logically flawed and morally repugnant. (Steve Sailer, 5/09/05, American Conservative)

Did legalizing abortion in the early ’70s reduce crime in the late ’90s by allowing “pre-emptive capital punishment” of potential troublemakers? Or did the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, by outmoding shotgun weddings, adoption, and respect for life, instead make more murderous the early ’90s crack wars fought by the first generation of youths to survive legalized abortion?

Since 1999, the University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt has been pushing his theory that legal abortion is responsible for half of the recent fall in crime. This assertion is the most prominent element in Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, the entertaining new book Levitt co-wrote with journalist Stephen J. Dubner. [...]

Levitt’s theory rests on two plausible-sounding statements. First, he claims that abortion lowers the number of “unwanted” babies, who would be more likely to commit crimes someday. Second, crime did fall. Levitt writes, “In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v. Wade was hitting its late teen years—the years during which young men enter their criminal prime—the rate of crime began to fall. What this cohort was missing, of course, were the children who stood the greatest chance of becoming criminals.”

Although Levitt’s research has been praised by normally hardheaded gentlemen such as George Will and Robert Samuelson, few have probed its statistical complexities. [...]

The most striking fact about legalized abortion, but also the least discussed, is its pointlessness. Levitt himself notes that following Roe, “Conceptions rose by nearly 30 percent, but births actually fell by 6 percent …” So for every six fetuses aborted in the 1970s, five would never have been conceived except for Roe! This ratio makes a sick joke out of Levitt’s assumption that legalization made a significant difference in how “wanted” children were. Indeed, perhaps the increase in the number of women who got pregnant figuring they would get an abortion but then were too drunk or drugged or distracted to get to the clinic has meant that the “wantedness” of surviving babies has declined.

Interesting the way Mr. Levitt's theory brings us full circle--middle class America was sold abortion on the basis that poor blacks would kill their unwanted kids instead of having all of us support them via welfare. Apparently some folks still feel the need to believe that Roe v. Wade only culled the "unwanted"--and minorities at that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Can there be any baser or more bankrupt moral position than that children should be killed to save us the burden of raising them?

Posted by: Peter B at April 19, 2005 9:03 AM

Peter: As with the argument that an "off" switch obviates any need for a decent society, it's not our own kids we're worried about.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 19, 2005 10:58 AM