September 30th, 2005

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03:15 pm - on committing ultra mega mass genocide...

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on committing ultra mega mass genocide... - graffiti.maverick — LiveJournal

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[User Picture]From: sui66iy Date: September 30th, 2005 - 07:58 pm (Link)
I had two reactions to that comment:

(1) What a stupid thing to say on the radio! I'm not really sure what point he could be making that couldn't be made in a less-likely-to-cause-knee-jerk-reactions way. Unless he just wanted to provoke people, which is always possible. Or maybe Bennet's just not that bright.

(2) Interestingly, it's a riff on the economist Steven Levitt's observation that the large-scale drop in violent crime in the mid-90s is most plausibly explained by the legalization of abortion in the 70s. That's an observation that people have been being shocked by for several years now. And, in fact, a quick peek on the web shows that Levitt noticed too:

Levitt's longer quote reveals that Bennet mentions the Levitt connection explicitly (which I hadn't realized until 30 seconds ago when I looked it up). It's a pretty decent post.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: September 30th, 2005 - 08:11 pm (Link)
1) well, yeah, granted. But I am quite certain he didn't mean it that way. But yeah, it was a pretty dumb way to put it, you'd think he'd be more careful. But as far as ignorant things to say go, I don't think its nearly as insensitive as say Barabara Bush's comments about Katrina.

2) Yeah, that's pretty interesting. Seeing the entire exchange like that, I am even more sure that he wasn't at all trying to be racially malicious.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 2nd, 2005 - 03:38 pm (Link)
I, for one, would never like to miss a chance to kick Bill Bennett when he's down (Any luck at the slots today, Bill?). And Bill's still managed to give us a unpleasant look into into his psyche even if it's not the one most people think that he has.

sui66iy's quite right. Bill's channeling Freakonomics on this one. Now Freakonomics is a nasty and contrary little book (If anyone really cares, I gan give a long rant on why economist's are pricks. I know I used to be one.). But I have to give Levitt some credit. He may have brought up the point the abortion has swept all of the undesirables off the street and made America a better place, but he never mentioned anything about the color of the unmentionables of which he spoke. In a rather unsurprising bit of mental gymnastics, Bill came up with the black babies line all by his lonesome.

By the way, I have to give Levitt credit for one more thing, and that is this beautiful line,
"...and we both love to gamble (although it seems I do it for much lower stakes and perhaps with greater success.)"

[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 2nd, 2005 - 03:58 pm (Link)
as I've said elsewhere, I don't think Bennett is unaware here. He knows that the book doesn't say that. And he goes on to say that he doesn't believe the books premise at all. He adds "the racist comment" to the hypothesis to prove that grand sweeping generalizations based on statistics are flawed. Perhaps he should have come up with something even more nonsensical in order to really drive home that he wasn't serious. "Aborting all male babies would remove sodomy from the world." But I think his thought pattern was something along the lines that he had to say something that was at least arguably statistically valid with a small grain of truth, in order to show that the idea had some merit. Much like the social security argument. It needs to be defendable, even if he doesn't believe it. I think if you actually believe that he's completely serious then you have to assume he's more than racist, he's a nazi, and I'm not willing to make that jump on the statement he made.

I have no problem with attacking him for his gambling problems.

Sure, make the economist argument...
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 2nd, 2005 - 09:48 pm (Link)
I think you give Bill way too much credit for making a clever argument. Yeah, he was reaching for some sort of "modest proposal" type argument, but the problem that I see is that when Bill Bennett reaches for a crime analogy the word that leaps automatically to his mind is black. Coming from a guy that makes a busy sideline defending Charles Murray, this screams, "Hi, I have a problem."

Call me crazy, but I think that "not a genocidal maniac" might be setting the bar a little low for the guy who wrote "the Book of Virtues."
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 2nd, 2005 - 11:13 pm (Link)

Ha, I've been waiting for years to have someone actually ask for the economist rant.
Here are my anthropological observations of a bizarre sub-culture.

Rant, Part One

  1. The first thing that you need to know about economists is that there a bunch of geeky white (and Asian) guys who are good at math. There's not a one in the bunch who doesn't have a handshake made of spaghetti and a backbone like a chocolate éclair. Not, of course, that there's anything wrong with that. When I left the hallowed halls of economics to become a software engineer, it's not like I suffered a huge culture shock. But it's an important point to consider as we proceed to point two.

  2. Economists are, to a one, innate contrarians
    They were right about rent control, and by God, cost-benefit analysis shows that benefits of talking on a cell phone while you drive far exceed the costs of all the dead drivers. (

    In an economist's mind, conventional wisdom is all bunk, and clever analysis will show that the truth is much different. Combined with point one above, this leads to some interesting discussions in departmental

  3. Economists believe that people are rational.
    Now, rational means something different to an economist that to a normal human being. In the first week of micro economic theory (graduate school, not that pap that they teach the undergrads), budding economists are taught something like this. Rational means that people have certain goals (which may differ from what they actually tell other people) and that they will act to the best of their knowledge and ability to achieve those goals. Now if your goal is to obsessively assemble and dis-assemble bicycles as you wait for you next crystal meth hit that's still rational. Economists don't make normative judgments (Normative is a real popular word in economist circles.).

    Now in week two, they teach you to forget all that crap you learned in week one. Rational means people try to grab as much money as possible, work as little as possible and do what they can to minimize any risk. People have perfect information about everything in the world (or at the very least the understand exactly how the world works and can instantly solve world-wide sourcing transportation events in their head, figure out the cheapest cellular plan, etc.).

    Economists go with choice two because otherwise the math's too hard. And easy math is what makes the economic world go round.

End Rant, Part One

From: (Anonymous) Date: October 2nd, 2005 - 11:14 pm (Link)

Rant, Part Two

  1. Economists really do believe that people are rational.
    I'm talking choice two here. You do this crap long enough, and it rots your brain. Somewhere around your third overlapping generations savings model, you tend to forget that people sometimes kill each other for sexual gratification. The Kool-Aid's great. Money, leisure good. Risk bad. Whatever else could motivate human behavior?

  2. Economists want to save the world

    After having drunk the Kool-Aid, economists believe that they have stumbled on the perfect rational way to view the world. Economists believe that their models are a perfect way to view family life, crime, abortion or what-not.

    I once worked with a guy who was dying to publish his article on the economics of prostitution. He had it all figured out, and all he needed was a journal who would take it.

    Strangely enough, economists never seem to notice that points one and four might somehow cloud their judgment a bit.

    Now might also be the time to mention the unsurprising observation, that Ayn Rand is really, really big in economic circles. I'm not talking starry-eyes freshman big. I'm talking Mein Kampf, Book of Revelations big.

  3. Economists never notice the fact that economics is mostly crap science.

    As you can tell by departmental placement, most schools consider economics a social science. This really, really irks economists. They do hard math; they shouldn't be placed with sociologists. As beststephi might be able to explain to economists, real science tends to have what is called repeatable experiments, controls and the like. It's kind of hard to tell a country, "That was great. But could you do that recession again, this time with a 7.8 percent interest rate?"

    Economists like to put themselves up on a pedestal with physics and real science (Biologists are crushed by the rejection.). The reality of the matter is that most of the time, economics is just well-argued conjectures with integral signs littered about.

  4. Economists are whores
    Once in primordial times, some politician realized that a crackpot proposal didn't sound so crackpot when you had a PhD explaining it. Since then every right-wing politician, oil company and oppressor of the masses has gone trawling through economics departments with a hundred dollar bill to find someone to turn tricks.

    This doesn't work quite so well with other types of academics. If you see someone on TV arguing that global warming doesn't exist, this is almost never an atmospheric scientist. Ditto for epidemiologists and lung cancer. But you never lack for economists arguing that cutting taxes doesn't increase the deficit. Or economists arguing that global warming doesn't exist. Or economists arguing that cigarettes don't cause lung cancer.

    I suspect that there is a rationality argument here. Money good, and all of that. And if atmospheric scientists aren't going to be rational, somebody's got to do it.

  5. Economists are jerks.

    A while back, a survey was performed ranking professions by their amounts of charitable giving. Economists finished dead last. This is one of those stories that would have been dead a long time ago except for one thing. Economists keep bringing it up. It's one of those things that they like to bring up as light conversational fodder. And they really don't see it as a bad thing.

    I see the invisible hand of Ayn Rand in this one.

  6. </ul>

    Enough rant. Maybe sometime, I'll tell ya what I really think.


    PS Feel free to take any of the above with a grain of salt. And don’t forget that I’ve checked into the Hotel California myself.

[User Picture]From: vanango Date: September 30th, 2005 - 09:31 pm (Link)
Mav, I really enjoyed this post. I think you're right in your way of thinking, and it is refreshing. Everyone jumps at these opportunities to play the race card and sometimes it just creates more issues.

Miss you!
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 1st, 2005 - 03:46 am (Link)
Thanx, glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, I was totally serious about that. There is quite enough racism in the world without having to go out looking for it.

miss you too... hope everything is going well out there.

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