September 30, 2005
Suffering with Bennett
I am stunned that people can be so ignorant so as not to recognize a theoretical argument when they hear one. Perhaps they can't hear, perhaps they can't recognize. Either way it's their deficit and Bill Bennett has nothing to explain to this blogger.
It would be irresponsible for me to suggest in any seriousness that people who believe Bennett is a racist should be rounded up and carted off to concentration camps. In fact, I cannot figure any moral reason to do so, but there are certainly economic reasons to do so. We would be rid of those drains on society.
However I find myself in agreement with Bennett that there are moral issues that should not be excused or rationalized by economics. So, with the hope that I will be similarly misinterpreted, I would be proud to suffer the emnity of race of idiotarians opposed to Bennett.
But seriously folks. As an early reviewer of Freakonomics, I immediately recognized the parallel argument when I was informed here or there of Bennett's alleged tresspass. Levitt found through his research that there is correlation between lower birthrates and lower crime rates. That's about as far as anyone need take the arguments although Levitt himself goes the whole nine yards. The point is that there's nothing to the charge that Bennett is advocating genocide against African Americans in order to lower the crime rate, so there's nothing worth investigating.
In my own little experiments I have made exactly the same kind of statements as Bennett and I came to the same conclusion. In my case, the matter was the Economics of Racial Profiling, a subject generated by the issue surrounding blacks and Korean grocers in Los Angeles.
My conclusion was that if you were to do a strict racial profile on your customers, it could be economically justified but not morally justified:
Part of the problem here is that by identifying crime rates by race and observing the difference, you set up a standard by which some crime is justified, in this case, 'white' crime. by such a standard some race is bound to be overly persecuted in this case, 'blacks'. the very act of initiating a crackdown on criminals *by race* even if the statistics 'justify' it, is to set up a differing standard by which individuals are judged in the justice system. this is racist even if this the actions are restricted to the class of known and observed criminals. You end up treating one race of criminals worse than another race of criminals.
In fact, racial profiling is not restricted to a population of criminals. The effects are felt against the general population. In this case you alienate the innocent black general population as well as the criminals. By profiling the black population you are in fact treating all blacks as if they were black criminals, which we have already established are getting a worse deal than white criminals.
However, if you are only concerned with profit, it's clear that you can maintain such a racist policy with a minimal impact on your bottom line.
I would add that most Americans would have moral problems with racial profiling, not just those singled out. Needless to say we are reaping the whirlwind of shying away from a clear and present, well-measured anti-racist environment alive in this country. We stand on the brink of racial McCarthyism. Somebody help us out here. Is there no racial answerman? Can't the networks provide some poor soul to shoulder the burden? If not, we're all going to be suffering with Bennett. It may be sooner than you think.
Posted by mbowen at September 30, 2005 09:57 PM
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I hardly think Bennett was promoting genocide of any kind. I just think he chose a poor, poor rhetorical analogy. He would have been better off saying that if we aborted all male babies, we would virtually eliminate rape. The notion is just as absurd, immoral and not feasible but, with him being a male, it would be hard to read anything else into it.
It is the fact that he played right into the stereotype that links blacks and crime and implies that all crime is committed by blacks. It was thoughtless and insensitive so he just needs to take the heat and shut up.
Posted by: Qusan at October 2, 2005 03:18 PM
The implications of your logic is that the male abortion notion is more absurd, immoral and not feasible. Whereas the black abortion scenario is not absurd, immoral and infeasible *enough*. That Bennett needs to be attacked because you believe that there are people who find black genocide is a good idea.
Whether or not Bennett sees himself as responsible for inciting people who have stereotypical thoughts on blacks and crime is, to my way of seeing it, besides the point. It's rather like saying that the radio program director who allows gangsta rap to be played on his radio station is somehow responsible for real gang violence. If there is any responsibility it is awfully slim, and the volume and energy expended at the head of Bill Bennett is a waste of resources.
I mean seriously, there must be a better target out there.
I don't think he needs to be attacked but when you make certain statements to the world, you have to be prepared for the consequences. We know, from current practice and history, that people DO view genocide as a viable solution throughout the world. Bill Bennett doesn't hold public office and I'd hardly listen to his program but to think that people wouldn't react and draw certain conclusions given his statement is silly. His remarks, even if not racist, were stupid and he needs to suck it up!
AND, since men are required for procreation (unless we freeze sperm for eternity), it isn't feasible to rid the world of them. We see, in places like China, the effect of women aborting girl babies because of the preference for boys. Now there is a shortage of women and their society is being altered due to the men going outside of the country/culture to get wives.
The point is that we are ALL going to have to figure out how to get along and inflammatory language, when you have a public forum, does not contribute to that.
Posted by: Qusan at October 3, 2005 07:27 AM
I like your blog but can't get with your logic...so let me throw this out there. While you may have rushed in positing the gangsta rap analogy, it doesn't hold. Why? The reasons are several and probably don't need to be articulated here for clarification. However, it is worth saying that Al Capone and Lucky Luciano did not need movies or songs to engage in their gangsta battles in the streets of Chicago and New York. Today's gangsta battles follow in that tradition of street-level violence based on territorial competition for prime real estate to pursue narco-trafficking. The music is akin to Hollywood's movie - the difference is that the rap songs are "real time." The analogy does not hold because most rappers are not primary sources for drug trafficking and gang battles. They are secondary sources. However, when the issue turns to policy and connections to genocide, Bennett is a primary source - he is a well-placed ideologue and practitioner. Moreover, the damage (if any) is in raising the question in the first place - forget about whether or not he actually endorses it...though his policy efforts are sufficient evidence for me. Entertaining the question is really the heart of the matter. When folks deliberate your demise, formal plans are not far off. As I said on your other post, there is no point to positing the abortion of all red babies. Done, mostly. Maybe next week Bennett can talk about the need for population control and the extermination of Indian and Chinese babies. Abortion is not his method, but the aims cannot be far from consideration. After all, Bennett has some familiarity with making life and death decisions. This is hardly an intellectual exercise.
I suppose the bottom line is that the burden of proof is on you and buddy Bill. So far, so bad.