Friday, December 02, 2005

Abortion and Crime (hat tip: Corner)

A post from The Corner yesterday, courtsey of The Derb (if you don't read the Corner, you really, really need to...I post the site all the time, but here it is again: )

ABORTION AND CRIME [John Derbyshire]
Steve Sailer has been conducting a lonely and too-little-noticed campaign these past few years to demonstrate that "Freakonomics" author Steven D. Levitt is all wet on abortion and crime.

Levitt's theory, you may recall, is that the legalization of abortion led to a drop in the crime rate, since lots of the people who would have grown up to be criminals were no longer being born. By crunching the numbers, Steve showed that not only was this not what happened, the opposite thing happened. But Steve is, you know, a, ugh!, conservative, so no-one paid much attention...

...Until this week, when the Wall Street Journal published an article about how two economists, Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz, redid Levitt's analyses and found that he made two errors that wipe out the entire effect he claimed. Levitt has already admitted to making one of the errors.

This stuff isn't merely academic. There are broad policy implications, including for the Alito fight.

Steve has put together a very handy summary of the controversy, including his results, here.

This instructive little saga illustrates all sorts of things, from the usefulness of the tireless and diligent blogger to the self-congratulatory dishonesty of too many of our public intellectuals.

It also illustrates the importance to the political Right of having some competent datanauts on our side. Steve is amazingly good at this (he likes to describe himself as "the only Republican who knows Microsoft Excel"), and it is astonishing that some conservative think tank hasn't got him on a big fat permanent retainer by now.

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