Saturday, October 01, 2005

Orson Scott Card on Freakonomics

As a youngun' I read Science Fiction almost exclusively. That was a long time ago. About the time I was leaving SF to explore other genres, Orson Scott Card began writing SF. Consequently, although I heard of him, and heard his praises from others, I've never read any of his books. I do read his posts on The Ornery American. He's brilliant. He's well-read. He's intelligent enough to work through the B.S. offered by the left and the press to come to starling, yet sensible conclusions based on facts, not paranoid fantasy. Because of
this piece, I'm going to buy FREAKONOMICS. I'd read some of the reviews when it first came out and they were wishy-washy, presenting it as a book that didn't quite cover its bases as it should have. But these were reviews in the Main Stream Press. Mr. Card is sharper than they are. As he says:
When the crime rate started dropping in the 1990s, it took everyone by surprise. All the experts had predicted that crime would continue to rise in the radical way it had during the 1970s and 1980s.

Experts were talking about how we'd have to adapt to a society dominated by fear, living in gated communities, paying for far more prisons and police forces.

And then ...

It didn't happen. Instead, crime rates started to fall. All kinds of crime, across the board. And not just in one place, in many places.

Why Did Crime Rates Fall?

The innovative policework in New York City was given much of the credit, but the same thing was happening in cities with no new theories or practices.

All kinds of theories were advanced, but they all fell apart against statistical realities -- none of them explained why crime rates fell at exactly the time they began to fall.

Except for one explanation. Abortion.

Try to set aside your personal opinions about abortion and let's look at history.

In 1973, Roe v. Wade made abortion permissible throughout the United States. The floodgates opened, and vast numbers of abortions were performed. As a result, vast numbers of children were not born.

Ah, but which children? The vast majority of the abortions were among women who would have been raising their children without a father; substantial numbers of these women were addicts. And even the abortions performed on middle-class women were somewhat more likely to be the result of liaisons in which one partner or the other, or both, had poor impulse control.

In other words, the fetuses that were aborted, had they been born, would have become children who were statistically the most likely group to become criminals. Raised by single mothers, in poverty, with genes that might not provide them with much ability to foresee the longterm consequences of impulsive actions.

The crime rates began falling exactly when that generation of children would have reached adolescence and those with such tendencies would have begun their criminal careers.

It certainly looked as if we killed off much of our criminal class in the womb.

Proving Cause and Effect

Of course, a causal assertion like that is hard to prove -- though people make even more sweeping assertions on less evidence all the time. But we're far more likely to accept, without evidence, the causal assertions that fit our beliefs. Those that don't fit, we try hard to ignore.

This one doesn't fit anybody's beliefs. The pro-abortion group is generally on the Left, and if you had tried, in 1973, to introduce abortion as a means of killing off the criminal class of the 1990s and 2000s, they would have opposed it.

Likewise, anti-abortionists tend to be among those who are concerned about law-and-order issues. But if, in 1973, you had proposed that the most effective longterm crime-control measure would be to allow abortion, I doubt that many anti-abortionists would have been persuaded that this was a good idea.

Why? Because it's eugenics, plain and simple. Hitlerian logic. Purifying the race by preventing the birth of the class of people who are most likely to degrade the quality of life for the rest of us.

So few would have dared even suggest such a thing in 1973; but a group of judges decided to perform this eugenics experiment on the American people, and now we're seeing the results.

Or are we? Nobody wants to believe it. There's no way to prove that the unborn babies we killed would have grown up to be bad people, or that crime rates have anything to do with abortion. I know my first reaction to this idea was repugnance and rejection.

Except ... 1973 wasn't the beginning of legal abortions in the United States. There were states that legalized abortion several years earlier.

And guess what? In those states, the crime rate began to fall exactly that number of years earlier. The fall in crime rates marches in lockstep with legalized abortion fifteen to twenty years before.

Maybe the growing awareness of this fact is part of the reason why even though most Americans find abortion itself to be a morally appalling act and wish it were rare instead of common, we are also reluctant to give up the relative peace and safety that killing all those babies has brought to us.

That's another causal assertion, and one far less likely to be true. Abortion as class warfare is not something that any political group I know of is likely to openly approve of. So we have to ignore or deny the evidence.

Well, there's a book -- and a mini-movement -- that is trying to cut through all the fog and insist that we face facts in all sorts of areas of American life. It's called "Freakonomics," and it gets its name from the book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt (economist) and Stephen J. Dubner (science writer).
What really got me is that I remember when the abortion argument was first advanced as a possible cause for the decrease in crime. And I remember that the person (people? I don't remember) who brought it up was vilified and effectively shut up. Not another word was ever mentioned . . . at least in public or in the media.

If you read the rest of Mr. Card's essay though, you may be startled at his sensible, logical conclusion. His conclusion is based on solid evidence and he's a fine writer.

I don't know if I'm ever going to read any of his Science Fiction, but I am going to continue to read his columns, and I'm going to buy a copy of FREAKONOMICS.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>
War's legitimate object is more perfect peace. Flavius Vegitius Renatus This is an optional footer. If you want text here, place it inside these tags, and remove this comment.