Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/30/2005

That essentially is what “outraged” Democrats are claiming about Bill Bennett’s unfortunate use of the method of “Freakonomics.” But that’s not where to look for the real outrage. As usual that gets overlooked. The real outrage is Bennett’s odd notion that “economic arguments should never be employed in discussions of moral issues.”

If “ought” implies “can” (in a non-Kantian sense) and choices involve trade-offs, then few arguments are more important than economic ones in the discussion of moral issues. (For example, socialism falls on intellectual grounds — it isn’t possible — even if we stipulated it’s “morality” in advance for the purposes of argument.)

Bennett’s failures are intellectual, and folks like Ted Kennedy have nothing to teach him about morals.

UPDATE: Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, weighs in on the Bennett controversy. Quotable:

Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics. It is true that, on average, crime involvement in the U.S. is higher among blacks than whites. Importantly, however, once you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, the importance of race disappears for all crimes except homicide. (The homicide gap is partly explained by crack markets). In other words, 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. Empirically, what matters is the fact that abortions are disproportionately used on unwanted pregnancies, and disproportionately by teenage women and single women .. When a woman gets an abortion, for the most part it is not changing the total number of children she has; rather, it is shifting the timing so those births come later in life ..

There is one thing I 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.

Steve Sailor has some factual criticisms of Levitt’s work here.

UPDATE II: Bill Bennett defends himself on Fox.

Meanwhile President Bush suggests that Bennett is a racist.

And Google News posts the following picture as it’s top picture of William Bennett accompanying links to news reports of the story:

Bennett as clansman

Bill Bennett doesn’t deserve this, any more than he deserves moral lectures from Ted Kennedy. Disgusting.


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