The Bennett Brouhaha, The New Orleans Nightmare, And Me
Print Friendly and PDF

When Peter Brimelow asked for my opinion of Jared Taylor's white nationalist critique of me, I was reminded that out of the hundreds of thousands of words I write each year, I devote relatively few to ideologizing and exhorting—the main stock in trade of so many writers more popular than me.

I've always been more interested in reality than morality.

I think I have a certain knack for coming up with new insights into how the world works. Yet, at least by the self-confident standards of opinion journalists, I'm not all that strongly motivated to proclaim how it should work.

I have the personality of a born staff man. My natural predilection is to lay out the logical alternatives in a situation rather than to either make the decisions myself or to propagandize the masses.

I was struck by that again when the absurd Bill Bennett Brouhaha broke out last week, because I had indirectly set it off many years ago. [ note: not this Bennett Brouhaha, this one.]

All last month, ever since the New Orleans Nightmare became evident on September 1st, the hysteria built among the political and media elite over which of them would crack first and mention the elephant in the living room: that blacks have higher average crime rates.

Finally, it has burst forth in a spasm of irrational and self-righteous denunciations of former Education Secretary William J. Bennett.

The triviality of the triggering incident reflects the tensions bottled up within the media.

On Bennett's talk radio show, a caller claimed that legalized abortion damaged Social Security's financial health. The pro-life Bennett doesn't like pragmatic arguments against abortion, feeling abortion should be opposed even if it had positive effects. As an example of how the caller's approach could be turned against anti-abortion activists, Bennett cited economist Steven D. Levitt's popular theory (in his bestseller Freakonomics) that legalizing abortion had cut the crime rate.

First, Bennett expressed skepticism over Levitt's claim. But then he issued a logically impeccable reductio ad absurdum:

"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."

Bennett was immediately roasted alive by the Great and the Good. Many of them fraudulently claimed Bennett had endorsed genocide.

Bennett's real crime: he had indirectly alluded to the unmentionable fact of African-American above-average crime rates.

I felt a little responsible for his plight. According to Bennett, he had been introduced to the abortion-cut-crime theory six years ago in a debate in between Levitt and myself.

Funny thing— although I am constantly being accused of being a "eugenicist" (despite my long record of expressing strong concerns about eugenics), for half a dozen years I have been perhaps the leading opponent of Levitt's crypto-eugenic logic.

Levitt argued in his 2001 article with John J. Donohue:

"Fertility declines for black women are three times greater than for whites (12 percent compared to 4 percent). Given that homicide rates of black youths are roughly nine times higher than those of white youths, racial differences in the fertility effects of abortion are likely to translate into greater homicide reductions."

My objection to Levitt's racial eugenic argument is not on moral grounds, but on factual ones. In the real world, the direct opposite of his theory's predictions actually happened: the first cohort born after abortion was legalized in 1970-73 grew up to be the most violent teens in recent American history, with a homicide rate triple the last cohort born before abortion was legalized. Among African-American 14-17 year-olds, the murder rate more than quadrupled.

But what I've learned in the six years that I've been diligently punching empirical holes in Levitt's theory is that virtually nobody, on either the pro-choice or pro-life sides of the enormous debate over abortion, cares about facts.

Both sides mostly want Levitt's theory to be true. Many pro-lifers want to feel virtuous for opposing legalized abortion even though it makes them safer from crime.

In contrast to the hundreds of hours I've spent digging up the facts about abortion's impact on crime, I've seldom offered a strong opinion on the morality of abortion. That's because I've never noticed that I had much that's unique to contribute on the question.

Everybody is entitled to an opinion on morals, and I don't see any reason that mine should count for more than other people's do.

What moral principles I do frequently promote tend to be basic ones. For example, as a journalist writing for a fairly elite audience of adults, my code is simple in the extreme:

Tell the truth.

And that's what Bill Bennett just did.

[VDARE.COM note: Steve originally added another couple of thousand words replying to Jared Taylor. We'll thriftily save them for next week.]

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

Print Friendly and PDF