Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nancy Pelosi, the Jose Canseco of the Pro-Choice Movement

The Speaker of the House, the right honorable Nancy Pelosi went to Catholic schools, was married in a Catholic church, and has five kids, and seven grandchildren. So you might think that she'd at least be somewhat sensitive to the idea that life has value, real value regardless of the wealth or status of any one individual. Isn't that what the Democrats say they do - value each person? She's from California, and she's also a favorite of the NARAL folks, so she's also pro-choice.

But this quote from her arguing that government spending that provides free contraception lowers other governmental spending by basically preventing poor people from getting pregnant is not merely the "party line" from pro-choice activists. This was blunt honesty, and I was pretty shocked that she actually said what I've always suspected a lot of elitists seem to be thinking on this issue.

Nancy Pelosi, the Jose Canseco of the pro-choice movement. Canseco's admission about steroids, which ruined a lot of people's careers, did help to clean up baseball (and expose him to some unpleasant cheap shots from his wife about his ball game). Of course Nancy won't get the money from a book deal that Jose got.

Nancy "Canseco" is admitting what a lot of other people are afraid to say, which is "Look, I'm smart enough, rich enough, and responsible enough to have a big family. Welfare mothers aren't, and rather than put them through the pain and suffering of trying to raise too many kids, I, an elite, will encourage you to stay `kid free.'" I've always thought that's what most rich, white women who are pro-choice have really thought, because whenever I talk to a upper-middle class pro-choice woman, the explanation I've always gotten for their position on abortion has been something like "well, I WOULD NEVER have an abortion, but I don't want to take that right away from someone else." Now I've always suspected that "someone else" was "poor stupid people," but now thanks to Nancy, I know it is that.

All of this is part of the new elite trend towards what Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler are calling "nudging" in which elites influence the "choice architecture" that people face to help them make "better decisions." Except they are now using the friendly power of the state to do the nudging. So if you give dumb poor people the proper incentives (birth control) to make better choices (not have so many kids that cost the government money) we'll all be better off. Sunstein, by the way, is head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which I believe was either headed by Harry Tuttle or Winston Smith during the Bush years.

Empirically, Nancy may be correct in the short-term that lower birth rates may indeed lower government expenditures for social services. And let's be honest, being an unwed mother remains a key indicator of poverty in the United States. However the Journal is also right that lower birth rates mean long-term losses in human capital. For example, Africa is suffering horribly from losses in human capital resulting from the AIDS epidemic. More specifically it strikes me that encouraging ever smaller populations in poorer states, like Michigan or Ohio, which are already losing population, may not be the best path to pursue, but that's the point of Obama's nudging strategy - trust the smart people to know what's best for society.

I guess for me, the admission by someone that the reason birth control is in the "state's interest" is to limit its costs is both revealing and more than a little creepy. "Nudging" people to think about the consequences of their actions seems laudable, but doing so while continuing to promote risky behavior (birth control pills don't prevent AIDS after all and neither do abortions) seems odd at best. Admitting the reason you want to prevent the process of reproduction because you don't think some people are responsible enough, nay good enough, to reproduce is a whole other matter. And it's one that I think we ought to leave to the Big Guy, not rich, Ivy League educated elites who want to run or nudge anyone's life. I thought being able to run your own life, and be responsible for it, was the whole point of this country anyway.

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