Matt Breunig at Gawker argues that riots save money and he puts a dollar figure on it. He writes: “one need look no further than famous economist and Nobel laureate Gary Becker to see how this is true. According to Becker, punishing bad behavior increases the costs of engaging in such behavior and thereby reduces the amount of it.” The bad behavior rioting curbs is the tendency of white police officers to be “needlessly aggressive toward blacks”.
It’s estimated that white officers kill black suspects 96 times a year. Cost-benefit analyses conducted by safety regulators peg the value of a human life at $9.2 million. This means the economic cost of white cops killing blacks is around $883 million per year. If the jolt caused by Ferguson’s rioting can chill police authorities and cause adjustments that save just 3 black lives per year, that’s an economic savings of $27.6 million. It’s hard to tell now how much damage rioting in Ferguson has caused, but I’d doubt it’s anywhere near that figure.
It’s interesting to compare this calculation with Jonathan Gruber’s 1997 paper for the National Bureau of Statistics titled “Abortion Legalization and Child Living Circumstances: Who is the ‘Marginal Child’”, which argues that “legalization of abortion in five states around 1970, by followed by legalization nationwide due to the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision … saved the government over $14 billion in welfare expenditures through 1994.”
Even better, John Donohue, of Yale Law School, and Steven Levitt, of the University of Chicago, found that ‘abortion cuts crime’.
The authors argue that states that had abortion legalized earlier should have the earliest reductions in crime. Donohue and Levitt’s study indicates that this indeed has happened: Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, Oregon and Washington experienced steeper drops in crime, and had legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade. Further, states with a high abortion rate have experienced a greater reduction in crime, when corrected for factors like average income. Finally, studies in Canada and Australia claim to have established a correlation between legalized abortion and overall crime reduction.
If abortion cuts crime and saves society money it is mostly African-Americans who get the treatment. ”From 1973 through 2011, nearly 53 million legal abortions occurred” disproportionately among non-Hispanic black women,who account for 30% of abortions while constituting 12.4% of the population.
The 1972 Rockefeller Commission on Population and the American Future is one of the better known early versions of this claim, although it was not the first. The Commission cited research stating that the children of women denied an abortion “turned out to have been registered more often with psychiatric services, engaged in more antisocial and criminal behavior, and have been more dependent on public assistance” … and were more likely to become delinquents and engaged in crime. Supreme Court Justice Blackmun’s opinion in Roe v. Wade also referenced the social and private problems “of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it.
So what’s the value in human life paid for this crime prevention? Well if infants “aren’t really human” the moral cost of terminating a fetus is zero. It’s a net benefit to ditch them. But if the reader feels “an abyss staring back at him” at this point, there are ample grounds for misgiving. With a cost-benefit number of human life in hand, the issues addressed by Action T4 are not far away.