For those who missed the first round of stories, Bennett took a call from a listener who suggested that Social Security might not be in financial difficulty were it not for the millions of abortions that have occurred in recent decades (because, presumably, more young people would be paying into the trust fund). Bennett responded that arguing for or against abortion based on such consequentialist considerations was dangerous because it "cuts both [ways]": "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. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."
Let us walk, slowly and carefully, through this minefield and see what it shows.
FIRST, IT SHOWS how superficial American political discourse has become -- in several different ways. Bennett was trying to demonstrate to the caller, albeit clumsily, the error of judging the morality of a practice based on the results of the practice.
The caller suggested abortion was bad because it led to bad consequences (i.e., inadequate contributions to the Social Security trust fund). Bennett provided a counter-example: lower crime. If we say abortion is bad because it reduces Social Security contributions, then should we say it is good if it reduces crime? Bennett was attempting to show that arguing backward from consequences can lead to "impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible" positions. The utilitarian calculus of consequentialist ethics involves no regard for important but not easily quantifiable values, such as individual rights and the inherent dignity of every human being.
Stupidly, Bennett clouded the debate by bringing race into the conversation. But because he did bring race into the discussion, a couple of other points bear noting.
The first is a simple mathematical fact: African-Americans commit more crimes, per capita, than whites (though not more crimes in the aggregate). The principal victims of African-American criminals are also African-American. In Richmond in 2002, for instance, 63 of the city's 84 homicide victims were black males. That year a black male in Richmond between 18 and 34 had a higher chance of dying by violence than an African-American serviceman fighting in Iraq; statistically, he was more than twice as likely to die by violence here than in the war zone. This went unremarked by Bennett's critics. But failing to face up to the facts does no good to anyone, least of all to the young men who confront such depressingly awful odds.
HERE IS another point: African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but they have 32 percent of the abortions. More than 12 million black children have been aborted since the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. Of the roughly 1 million abortions that will occur this year, about a third will end the life of a black baby.
If i was into conspiracy theories, i would suggest this last was the foreseen, if not the intended, consequence.