Answer: re-legalize abortion!
That’s the conclusion you could come to, I suppose, after reading the wonderful Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything, by America’s most inventive number cruncher, Steven Levitt.
The populist Law and Justice government has made great play out of its commitment to cut crime, impose law and order and regenerate Poland’s moral fabric. But I don’t think that legalizing abortion will be one of the measures on the agenda at the next meeting at the Ministry of Interior.
Sociologists warned of a ‘bloodbath of the streets’ if something wasn’t done about the US’s soaring crime rate. Crime became the number one political issue.
And then, all of a sudden, instead of going up the crime rate started to fall and fall…Why?
Steve Levitt goes through the ‘conventional wisdom’ on the subject and finds much of it wanting. Many think that the fall in crime was due to innovating policing methods, particularly in cities like New York. But crime has already gone down 18% in New York by the time the ‘broken’ window’ theory of criminology had started to drive Mayor Rudi Guiliani’s policies.
More police does have an effect in reducing crime, so does locking away more criminals. But not to the extent of the remarkable reduction in crime over the last 15 years or so.
Levitt’s conclusion was that changes in America’s demographics was the answer. And, apart from a generally ageing population (the baby boomer generation now appraoching its pension), the Roe vs. Wade (1973) ruling was the most determinant in this.
Most crime is committed by young males from low-income, unstable families. Sad but it’s a fact. The pro-abortion ruling meant that the numbers of kids in these families went down. The pool of potential criminals had reduced – so had the number of crimes.
Levitt’s work, published academically in 2001, caused a storm of protest from all sides. Conservatives hated the thought of abortion as a crime control measure. Liberals screamed that Levitt was blaming the poor. Everyone hated his neat way with a correlation.
Nicolae Ceauşescu comes to power in a Romania where abortion is the number one method of birth control. For every one baby born there were three terminations.
In order to build the new Romania, home of the New Socialist Man, Ceauşescu decided to outlaw abortion, charge a ‘celibacy tax’ on childless women and send inspectors out to work places to give them pregnancy tests!
The birth rate soared. And we’ve seen the consequences of that with the Romanian orphanages outrage and much else besides.
Sociologists have found that kids born after 1966 were far more likely to do badly at school and commit crime that kids born before 1966.
It seems to be the mirror image of the American experience. Children born into homes that want them, and are financially and emotionally capable of bringing them up, do much better than kids that aren’t.
The Law and Justice administration has put crime at the top of the agenda. They also have a policy of paying parents 1000 zlotys (330 dollars!) if they have a kid. The ‘cash for babies’ policy has met with much derision but it does signal the government’s commitment to increasing the birth rate.
Abortion has been illegal in Poland basically since 1993. Does that mean that in a few\years time the streets will be full of kids looking for a chance to practice a bit of GBH?
Will a policy of bringing into the world more unwanted kids eventually scupper any policy coming out of the Law and Justice government to reduce crime and restore order?
It was just a thought
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Posted by beatroot at 6/17/2006