Crucified for the Truth
O.K., this is going to be the most controversial post I've ever done, but since I have so few regular readers, I'm not thinking that that is going to matter much. If you have been following the scandal news of the US of late than you have been unable to escape the story of William Bennett. It seems this former Secretary of Education known for making hateful and bigoted comments was caught yet again spreading racism and prejudice on his nationally syndicated radio talk show. Bennett is absolutely being ripped apart in the press here, by politicians (both Democrat and Republican), commentators, talk show hosts, editorials, you name it, everyone wants to get in on this band wagon and rip this guy a new asshole. Now don't get me wrong here, I am NOT a fan of this man. He HAS said some very hateful, hurtful things in the past. But I think we need to take a closer look at what Mr. Bennett said in this specific case. Here are the comments that have spawned such a virulent backlash:
"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 impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down."
Look at the whole quote, look at the qualifying remarks, and now understand the context of the comments. Bennett was having a conversation with a listener of his show about the social and economic effects of abortion in this country. During the conversation, Bennett brought up some results published by an economist (Steven D. Levitt) with the help of a freelance writer (Stephen J. Dubner) in the book Freakonomics. Levitt's analysis of the data suggest that the most strongly correlated factor to the significant drop in crime during the decade of the 90's was the legalization of abortion in 1973 approximately 20 years earlier. Levitt doesn't stop there, he analyzes the data further to determine if the correlation suggests causality. To do this, he compared the crime rates of the 5 States that had legalized abortion prior to Roe v. Wade to those of the other 45 States of the union and discovered that indeed, the crime rates in those States had begun falling years earlier than the crime rates in the rest of the U.S. Then he compared the crime rates in the States that had the highest abortion rates in the decade after Roe v. Wade with those in the States with the lowest abortion rates, and once again discovered that crime rates fell faster in those States where abortions rates were highest. Other statistical analyses confirm these results.
Using this as launching point, Bennett makes the above "controversial" statement. So now let's consider his statement. Bennett suggests that if every black fetus were aborted in this country, we would see a drop in the crime rate. I think we have to assume that Bennett means first, that such a thing would have to happen on a sustained basis for many years, and second that we would see that drop in crime rates in approximately 15 to 20 years after such a scenario started. So, here's the question: is Bennett wrong? No, he isn't. Bennett is absolutely correct in his analysis, and I challenge anyone to produce a sound mathematical/statistical argument to prove otherwise. At the same time, I also think it is quite clear that Bennett is attempting to forward this notion as an absurd hypothetical and that he does not believe that the abortion of all black babies is a reasonable strategy for reducing crime. If Bennett were actually advocating such an idea as a solution to crime in this country, then I could completely understand the indignation and angry responses his statements have engendered. But clearly he isn't. Look what Bennett says next. He acknowledges that such an idea is "impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible." Bennett wasn't calling for the abortion of all black children, he was attempting to make a point with his listener. And while admittedly, he did so quite clumsily, the claim he makes is undeniably true. Further, he qualifies his remarks sufficiently to make it clear that he isn't advocating a policy of forced abortion for black women.
So why is this man being crucified in the public arena in this country? This is political correctness at its absolute worst - a monumental case of the ostrich sticking its head in the sand in order to deny eminent catastrophe. Rather than vilifying Bennett over his comments, we ought to examine what circumstances in this country account for the fact that Bennett's analysis is absolutely correct and reflect on the steps we need to take in this country to remedy those circumstances. It is a national disgrace and disaster that we have created a society and culture that has resulted in Bennett's words being true. Attacking the messenger doesn't do a damn thing to illuminate solutions to the problem.