A Terrible Beauty is Unborn

In my job, we’re big into psychobabble. At least every 24 months, for nearly the last two decades, I’ve been psychoanalysed, head shrunk, strapped to and then spun out on an insights wheel. It’s par for the course in the job. At least it is when you’re as incompatible with the orthodoxy as I am…

Demanding, Egotistical and Aggressive; these are the top three recurring words that come up in my results. I’m not so sure about that, but I do remember at one time I thought those three words were a badge of honour.

Thankfully, I had a boss(more a soundboard) who thought me how, not to change, but to adapt, or fake it. He gave me a few practical tools to be able to shroud my demanding, egotistical aggression in more nuanced ways. I suppose, at heart, I’m still the same irredeemable monster, just more nuanced.

The best trick he thought me was to “Take the emotion out of it”. For example, let’s say someone in another department had missed a deadline. My dual approach was previously to get it fixed and crush the culprits’ spirit. I told you, a monster.

Nuanced me instead rings my boss, explains the situation and then role-play out the aggression until I’d settled on fixing the error, challenging the non-performance WHILE allowing the culprit maintain dignity. Teachable moments, indeed.

Why the big lead in? Well, it’s my way of saying that I know you are not going to like this piece. This topic is so evocative, so controversial and divisive, that I’m guessing you will hate my analysis, no matter your current position. But before you jump to hate, try take the emotion out of it and judge it coldly.

“Life is cheap” goes the saying. Although, I recall Robert Fisk saying something along the lines of “Life is cheap, it’s death that’s expensive”. He was talking about the billions and billions spent on weapons and ammunition. The billions spent to stockpile implements of death; the cost per bullet to the number of lives taken. Economic costs benefit analysis on the cost of death; X total of weaponry divided by Y number of killings equals the price of a life. I don’t need to tell you that, in a world hooked on Fear, the cost per death can run into the hundreds of thousands. And perhaps that is a good thing…?

But I’m not here to discuss the abhorrent global wasting of money on weapons. I’m here to talk about Abortion. I’m going to try to look at Abortion without emotion. I want to look at the abortion debate as a cold economist might. And the first thing an economist would try to do is separate the facts from the myths.

The first myth we need to bust is the “all life is precious” line; precious means of great value, like a precious work of art changing hands for tens of millions. Life, in contrast, is not precious, at least not in an economic sense. Your life is worth approximately €15,500. That’s it, nothing more. €15,500 is less than the price of a family saloon. Precious????

Where did I get that figure from? Why, from the UK Government figures themselves. They’ve set the Bereavement figure at a pitiful £12,980. So, assuming Ireland is similar, if you or I die due to some medical negligence or fatal accident not of our making, the bereavement “compensation” payed to our families is a paltry €15,500. That’s it. Yes, the amount can go higher. But it goes higher based on a number of other factors; loss of future earnings, funeral expenses, pain, suffering and number of dependants. But ultimately, Your Life isn’t worth €20,000.

Now I’ve established how little life is worth, it’s time to explore the next myth; the lie that “We are all equal”. Equality of everything is bullshit, yet everyone, be them Blood Sucking Capitalist Vampires or Anarchist Socialists, bleat on about how we can be whatever we want to be. Hell, I’m almost 40 and still dream of playing Point Guard for the Chicago Bulls (I’d settle for the Indiana Pacers), it could happen, right? Wrong.

In his recent podcast series, Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell told a tale of a brilliant Hispanic kid who (Spoiler Alert) escapes a horrific upbringing, neighbourhood and poverty trap entitled “Carles Doesn’t Remember”. Check it out here.

At the conclusion of the story, Gladwell warns us that “whatever you do, don’t call this story inspirational”. He concludes that it’s a depressing story and that “you need to be one in a million to make it out”.  One in a million kids outperform severe poverty, maybe one in a few hundred for those born slightly higher up the socioeconomic ladder and perhaps one in ten for those born into serious wealth. It’s called the Capitalisation of Talent and it ensures that, despite outliers like Carles, we aren’t all equal and never will be. Equality starts and ends at conception. It’s a myth.

So we know now that life is not precious and we can show statistically that life is unequal. The next step, and most controversial, is to smash the “Slippery Slope” myth.

There are many out there who think the introduction of abortion in Ireland would lead to the disintegration of our social fabric. They see it as an attack on certain (mainly Christian) values. And they have a point, at least emotionally. But let’s take the emotion out of it. Let’s look at the facts.

Under the Slippery Slope theory, the introduction of abortion will lead to a further devaluing of human life, an upsurge in violent crime and generally a growth in immoral behaviours. We can’t road test this theory, we can’t prove what hasn’t happened yet…..or can we…?

Warning: If you are of a sensitive disposition please stop reading now.

Are you still there? Good, I’ll continue.

In 2005, when Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner published their first (and still their best) book Freakonomics, lots of controversy followed. None more so than Chapter 4: Where Have All the Criminals Gone?

For those of you old enough to remember the 80’s, the main cities in the US had become dangerous places to go. In fact, near the end of 1989, the violent crime rate in the United States was entering it’s fifteenth straight year of growth. Bad Business was booming. It had soared by eighty per cent over the same period and the experts (doomsayers) were predicting it was only going to get worse. Warnings were issued nightly on national evening news of a coming “bloodbath”. But. But. But, it never happened. Why?

Needless to say, the same experts had loads of answers as to why their original predictions were wrong. They listed the growing economy, better policing and some even claimed (I kid you not) tougher gun control. But Levitt argued in his study that they were all wrong.

He pointed out some very interesting facts:

In 1973, the US Supreme Court legalised abortion.

Most violent crime is committed by males aged 18-24.

You were more likely to become a criminal if you come from certain socioeconomic backgrounds.

The abortion rate in the United States plateaued at 1.6 million per year and the birth rate fell by 6 per cent.

Now we get real distasteful. Now, dear reader, we get the sums:

“There are roughly 1.5 million abortions in the US every year. Say we value 1 newborn at 100 foetuses. 1.5 million abortions would translate – dividing 1.5 million by 100 – into an equivalent loss of 15,000 human lives. Fifteen thousand lives; that happens to be about the same number of people who die of homicides in the United States every year”

They conclude “abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalised abortion, therefore, led to less crime”. What Levitt was saying in essence, is that because of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalised abortion, the criminals who were to usher in the violent crime era of the 1990’s were never born. Just think about that for a minute.

There is more statistical evidence , showing the ratio of foetuses aborted to potential murderer and then subsequent percentage drop in violent crime. Light reading.

In Levitt’s defence, he does go on to clarify that “the trade-off between higher abortion and lower crime is, by an economists reckoning, terribly inefficient”.

So what am I saying? Am I arguing for either side in this most bitter of debates here? No, I’m simply giving you some facts. You can, and probably already have, made up your own mind.

Am I calling for the repeal of the 8th amendment? Not here. Here I am offering access to studies that might give pause to those on the Pro Choice side who aren’t concerning themselves with the realities these changes will bring.

Am I denying abortion ends the potential for human life? Certainly not. I’m just using logic to counter the Pro Life hyperbole, lies and scare tactics.

A lot of what happens across the media on this debate can be distilled down to who makes the most emotional plea. And that is dangerous. We should not be make decisions based on emotions; they should be evidence based best solutions. Not the current bullshit. Not liberal agenda versus conservative agenda. Not Us versus Them.

Drop the rhetoric, forget the firebrand bullshit and look coldly at the facts. Life is valued at €15,500. It costs over €105,000 to raise a child in Ireland and there is no equality of opportunity for each child. The odds of an unwanted child rising above his/her start in life can be as high as one in a million. Abortion will not destroy the social fabric of our country. Evidence suggests it can actually improve outcomes.

These are the facts. For better or worse, a terrible beauty is unborn.

Tony Groves Sept 2016







2 thoughts on “A Terrible Beauty is Unborn

  1. Nice piece TG. It’s very hard to take the emotion out of the debate, but taking the lies, can’t and hypocrisy out of it would help. In my own view, every single argument on either side, can be twisted into something of a rebuttal. Take the “all lives are equal” stance. Even if you buy it (which I do as an article of faith but don’t see much evidence that anyone actually lives that way, so it becomes reduced to a nice philosophical argument. So I guess I don’t). How equal is it to blight the mothers life by making her carry a fatally damaged or deceased foetus to full term? Or to risk her life by persisting with pregnancy when she is at risk, even in medically controlled conditions? Not very. Anyway, all of that is illustration only and I’m sure many people will turn other arguments one way or the other to suit their emotional-psychological leanings.

    It all comes down to this, I think: do you believe that a woman has the right to choose what to do with her body and the unborn child that she carries, or do you believe that society or some
    section thereof has a greater right to tell her what to do? That’s the question at the end of the day.

  2. Well done for your bravery in taking a different angle, Tony. All angles add something in a complex debate. I take a rights approach rather than an economic or emotional one, I think/hope. But what does repealing mean in the end of the day….what will remain or what will replace? Repeal is a pithy slogan though. So….here goes….Repeal! Keep up the thought-provoking blogging.

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