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Monday, October 03, 2005

Freakonomics Author on Bill's Remarks

Steven D. Levitt one of the authors of "Freakonomics" had plenty to say about Bill Bennett, the former Secretary of Education and the nation's first "drug czar". As you may recall Bennett on his syndicated radio broadcast recently explained to a caller what might happen 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."

Levitt in his blog post of Setember 30, 2005 states that he and Bennett have much in common. According to Levitt both have written about crime. Bennett's "superpredator" theory gets a quick discussion in Freakonomics. They both have thought a lot about illegal drugs and education. They both love to gamble. Levitt says he plays for lower stakes than Bennett and he is more successful at gambling than Bennett. Now they both share the fact they've made controversial statements about the link between abortion and crime. We know very well what Bennett has said.

Steven Levitt says in defense of Bill we should remember Bennett was speaking "on an unscripted radio show in response to a caller's question. It was clearly off-the-cuff. This is a very different situation than, say, Bennett's writing an op-ed piece." I say as a talk radio host if Bill Bennett has no more control over his ability to communicate effectively than this I suggest he rush to the nearest Toastmasters International meeting and sign up immediately. He has no business on the air. (There are many on radio and television who fit this description.) Furthermore is Steven saying this performance by Bill is more thoughtless than when he's writing an op-ed piece?

Levitt also says,"... for most crimes a white person and a black person who grow up next door to each other with similar incomes and the same family structure would be predicted to have the same crime involvement." Levitt says he's sincere when he states, " from a purely fact-based and statistical perspective, race is not in any way central to our arguments about abortion and crime."

Steven Levitt also says. "If we lived in a world in which the government chose who gets to reproduce, then Bennett would be correct in saying that 'you could abort every black baby in this country, and
your crime rate would go down.' Of course, it would also be true that if we aborted every white, Asian, male, Republican, and Democratic baby in that world, crime would also fall."

Finally Levitt says he would take Bennett to task for: first saying that he doesn't believe our abortion-crime hypothesis but then revealing that he does believe it with his comments about black babies. You can't have it both ways.


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