I've read, re-read and re-re-re-read Bill Bennett's comments on abortion and black babies (linked up the wazoo by now, so what's the point?) and I'm still having a hard time wondering what all the fuss is about.
Try to eliminate the fact that it was Bennett who was speaking. If anybody else was making a point about the Freaknomics postulate that legalized abortion resulted in lower crime rates. The quote might go something like:
"Okay, if this were true, that abortion has resulted in lower crime rates in the 90s, why not take it further and abort all the poor people? That will lower crime even more."
The intended impact of this statement, though not technically a reductio ad absurdum (because Bennett is not talking about a logical result so much as a policy decision) would be to illustrate the poor reasoning of the argument by pointing out the adsurd policy choices that could be drawn from it. And this conclusion is the fact that more poor people commit crimes than rich or middle class people, so if we want to reduce the crime rate, let's get rid of (abort) all the fetuses of poor women and voila, no crime problem. The problem here is that not all poor people commit crimes, so you have a case in which you burn the village in order to save it.
"Why," you say, "that's ridiculous. And repugnant."
Exactly. The point has been made. Unless of course, you're into knee jerks and any mention of race gives you the gridgies.
But let's look at it this way. Bill Bennett, as far as I know, is not a racist Valerie Solanas, who is famous for shooting Andy Warhol, but also advocated the abolition of men because men rape. Solanas was serious, though crazy. Bennett isn't saying that this is a good idea. Every critic is focusing not on wnat Bennett said, but what the project that he meant. And that, to them, is that he considers blacks innately inclined to crime.
So far I haven't heard Bennett actually endorse Eugenics, but if he does, I'll blog about it.
This, somehow is getting more traction than the conservative line about a year ago that posited that abortion is what has kept the Democratic Party out of power and will continue to do so as long as abortion is legal. The thinking, and how this can be measured, I don't know, is that more liberals get abortions. Liberals vote Democrat. Less liberal babies have been born, so less Democratic voters.
However, Levitt points out that most abortions don't eliminate births so much as put them off, so there is a delay rather than a reduction. Bennett illustrates that he did not understand Levitt's argument. I'm not sure I understand everything Levitt writes, but here I think that he's basically saying that delaying pregnancy allows a woman to have children when she is more economically enabled, thus keeping her and her family out of poverty and thus reducing crime. In this, Levitt is agnostic on race. Bennett chose to extrapolate to make a point and ended up sounding like a nut.
I am getting tired of having to defend conservatives, especially those whom I find to be slithery and worthless. But really, all the wailing about Bennett is ridiculous. And if we're going to decide that any discussion about race makes one a racist, well... where's the next stupid remark going to come from? Bennett's fault is that he's stupid. He's not a racist.