Monday, October 03, 2005

i think jake just schooled me

Jake sent me an email about my Bill Bennett post. I wish he had posted his comments to the blog, but he didn't. This means, of course, that I get to try to paraphrase what he said and misrepresent him. But he might run me over with his bike, so I won't.

1) Jake pointed me in the direction of Freakonomics and this post in response to Bennett's comments. Quick summary: a) the comments were off the cuff; b) when you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, race is not a factor in the likelihood of commiting a crime; c) what does matter is that abortions are used (in general) on unwanted pregnancies among single and teenage moms; d) having an abortion does not change the number of children a woman has, it generally just changes the timing of when she has them; e) there is an important distinction between women controlling their fertility and government limiting a woman's fertility (I don't entirely get this point); and, f) the statement that Bill made is factual, but also applicable to aborting all Asians, all white people, etc.

2) Jake thinks that there are a number of issues that impact Social Security contributions and distribution: for example, cigarette taxes, gender and immigration.

3) Jake said this (which made me go, "Damn, Jake just made fun of me in a passive aggressive kinda way."), "Funny how virtually everyone who ever criticizes an empirical argument fails to even read it," after pointing me in the direction of this paper, which I have to buy to read, so I just read the abstract. The conclusion of the paper is that legalized abortion accounts for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime (the paper was written in 2000).

4) Jake also said that he thought it was "refreshing" for someone to base an argument on evidence rather than ideology.

So . . . I appreciate that Jake can always be counted on to provide citations, which I guess stems from the fact that, as he states, he values evidence over ideology. I think the conclusion that legalized abortion has led to a drop in crime is an interesting one because it sounds horrific on the surface, but seems to speak to the factors that I imagine contribute to a person committing a crime (for example, lack of income, lack of self respect).

(Jake will certainly have something to say about this).

I also, despite being guilty of regularly spouting ideology with no basis in fact, appreciate an argument based on fact (an issue that I am contending with at work right now). Nevertheless, I have a hard time with the idea that the basis for Bill Bennett's argument was evidence and not ideology. If Bennett had said that more abortions would lead to a drop in crime, than he would be making a an argument based on evidence. In this case, he was making an incendiary comment in which he specifically chose to appeal to the racist views of his conservative listening audience, off the cuff or not.

Oh, and Jake remembers Bennett as the drug czar too. I guess that means that, I'm not only clueless, I'm am indeed old.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a couple things:
i cited the freakonomics link to give the Bennett comments a little context. the point being that while his comments were stupid (they implied a policy of actively aborting kids based on race) they were referencing a defensible argument about the connection between abortion and crime. he apparently got carried away in the heat of live radio.
i love being passive aggressive but i wasn't trying to do it in this case. most people don't bother to learn much before spouting off on most issues. ABF is probably 1.96 sigma better than the mean. in the interest of widespread enlightenment, the paper is available for free here:
on evidence versus ideology: Bennett's argument was that even if we have evidence that some action (abortion) creates some utility (averted crime) that may not be enough. he was arguing that the means matter at least as much as the ends. so you could say he was choosing ideology (he would call it morality) over evidence. my point is that at least he acknowledges potential utilitarian losses in return for deontological leanings. he's not ignorant of the evidence, he just thinks it's not germane. dig?