Economists and non-economists on elasticity

From a recent paper by Joanna Venator and Jason Fletcher:

In this paper, we estimate the impacts of abortion clinic closures on access to clinics in terms of distance and congestion, abortion rates, and birth rates. Legislation regulating abortion providers enacted in Wisconsin in 2011-2013 ultimately led to the closure of two of five abortion clinics in Wisconsin, increasing the average distance to the nearest clinic to 55 miles and distance to some counties to over 100 miles. We use a difference-in-differences design to estimate the effect of change in distance to the nearest clinic on birth and abortion rates, using within-county variation across time in distance to identify the effect. We find that a hundred-mile increase in distance to the nearest clinic is associated with 25 percent fewer abortions and 4 percent more births. We see no significant effect of increased congestion at remaining clinics on abortion rates. We find significant racial disparities in who is most affected by abortion clinic closures, with increases in distance increasing birth rates significantly more for Black, Asian, and Hispanic women. Our results suggest that even small numbers of clinic closures can result in significant restrictions to abortion access of similar magnitude to those seen in Texas when a greater number of clinics closed their doors.

There are (at least) two possible responses to such results, and that is without even getting into one’s underlying view of the ethics of abortion.  One is to say that a great deprivation has occurred because many fewer women end up having abortions.  Another response is to infer that the marginal value of the abortions could not have been so high to begin with, if the number drops off so readily.

The same issue comes up with Obamacare.  If the price of health insurance goes up, quite a large number of people decide to go without coverage.  Is the size of that number a measure of the human tragedy resulting from the price increase?  Or is it a measure of how little those people actually value health insurance?  Or somehow both?

I have yet to meet a person who can think through these issues rationally and absorb what is interesting and valid in each of those two perspectives.

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“ I have yet to meet a person who can think through these issues rationally and absorb what is interesting and valid in each of those two perspectives.”

You must not hang out with enough sociopaths.

Or people who learned economics before 1970.

Why conservatives spend so much effort increasing the number of non-white, and thus poor, mothers and baby on welfare is puzzling when before 1970 they were trying to reduce by force their number. Forced sterilization was a public good to many.

"associated with 25 percent fewer abortions and 4 percent more births"

Abortion is used as a form of birth control. When people can't get abortions, they get pregnant less (use protection or have less sex). When abortion was taken away births happened in less the 20% of cases.

I agree the conservative obsession with abortion and "dems are the real racists" is a waste of time, but the intuition that taking it away won't result in a flood of babies is correct.

I don’t think you know that unless you know the abortion/birth ratio before the closures, which I didn’t see given.

If there were 16 abortions for every 100 births before, and after there were 12 and 104, abortions went down 25%, births went up 4%, and there were still 116 pregnancies.

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I think the validity of both arguments depends on some assumptions about human rationality that are mathematically convenient but not well supported by data.

The entire premise behind abortion rights is that only the mother is equipped to make such a complex decision, taking into account all relevant factors: her ability and willingness to raise a child, the theological question of when life begins, the value her child would have placed on his or her future life, her relationship with God,...and the cost of traveling to the abortion clinic.

Also, why would we give someone a health care subsidy if they're not going to be rational in spending it?

So we allow individuals to decide when another human being is or isn't alive based on their own self interests?

We don't let mothers make this choice 0.000001 seconds after the baby is out of the womb. Then its called murder, because others don't get to decide if you're alive.

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Libertarian support for abortion has always struck me as a complete negation of its claims to see all people are unique valuable individuals with rights, the right to not be murdered being the most paramount. How they can go on and on about the paramount libertarian right say to immigrate anywhere and then be supported by some state while thinking it's ok to casually throw away those in the womb out of mere convenience is beyond me.

In theory libertarian philosophy need not lead libertarians to any particular position on abortion, yet they seem to overwhelmingly favor abortion. It leads me to believe they have no principles, that it's really just about personal convenience and hedonism as critics would say.

Libertarians aren't wholly pro choice. Many recognize the protection of a baby as a right to life.

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Yup, that's my reaction too: Tyler's ignoring the externalities associated with the abortion decision. Moreover, as a society we don't even agree whether they are positive or negative externalities.

I.e. it's more complex, or at least more nuanced, than elasticities and consumer surplus.

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"Another response is to infer that the marginal value of the abortions could not have been so high to begin with, if the number drops off so readily."

True, but this also means that the marginal value of the children **to the abortive parent** could not have been so high to begin with. But that is the not the same as the value of those children to society. Also, how are Parfit fans not pro-lifers?

In this case a positive abortion value assumption implies a negative, but probably noisy given elasticity, value to the life. Parfit fans come out and fight!

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"But that is the not the same as the value of those children to society. "

All evidence is the value of those born as a consequence of anti-planned parenthood actions is negative, as burdens on society.

The children born are not valued by giving them the best possible future with stable housing, the best education opportunity, the best health by good nutrition, clean air and water, good health care.

Rather, it's more like placing anchors on the women and communities to keep them down.

Creating a lower class to look down on, in order to feel superior.

Similarly, laws against murdering blacks stem from racial animus against blacks and the desire for a black underclass. Kill all the blacks, and the real victims are whites who no longer get to feel superior.

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Is there something in the paper showing an increase in births?

4% more births and 25% fewer abortions. Maybe there are more elasticities going on here.

As Steve-O shows above, that doesn't answer your question.

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Abortion: The drop may result from strong social constraints as well; i.e., its hard to overcome social constraints all the time, but additional distance multiplies that factor;

Health "Insurance" has lots of "benefits" that most people don't need or use. When you boil out the stuff you really *need*, its pretty cheap to pay as you go. Most people only need "insurance" for major expenses, and with deductibles rising, even that isn't so great of a deal

BTW, That's obviously true, right? For sick people to get $$MM cancer treatments, you have to have lots and lots of payers that dont need any healthcare. That's the whole point of public healthcare: The many cover the few

You just defined insurance.

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It looks like they are looking for a job at a right wing think-tank or a theology university. There is no way to tell that the 4% birth increase is due to the closures as any woman can buy safe abortion pills easily from the internet.

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25% fewer lives terminated? What's that in numbers say in hundreds or thousands? Re Obamacare worries and the perception of lack of faux-anodyne analysis: That someone invented some way to cure some ailment, what is the moral case for someone wanting it to receive it with its cost funded at gunpoint? If miraculous tax sluiced govt research was the cause of its invention why are not its related royalties pledged and applied to fund its use by non-paying users?

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"Another response is to infer that the marginal value of the abortions could not have been so high to begin with, if the number drops off so readily."

25 % fewer abortions -- and only 4 % more births ... Wouldn't that one led to think women simply opt for other options for terminating pregnancy?

I say "25 % fewer _documented / official_ abortions" would be more exact.

Those percentage changes aren’t off the same base. What they imply is that before the closures, there were 16 abortions for every 100 births. 25% fewer abortions means there are 4 fewer abortions; 4 more births is a 4% increase.

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Ancedotally, when abortion clinics close there is increased use of contraceptives and better use thereof. I am told by ob/gyn that when Planned Parenthood locations are set to close there is an increase in LARC requests.

The figure more likely to be "wrong" is the birth increase. Most likely a majority of all pregnancies were planned and birth desired. Decreasing the number of unplanned pregnancies means that our true denominator is smaller post than pre. If we look only at the set of pregnancies that would have previously resulted in abortions (e.g. exclude everything planned, exclude the unplanned/desired birth ones), we are looking at a pretty big movement within this subset.

All of which goes to the point that abortion's social utility is pretty low. It is relatively easily substituted by LARCs and a substantial number of unplanned, undesired pregnancies are so sensitive to convenience that they forgo the procedure.

I have long thought that the far more cost effective pro-choice position is LARC subsidy. Nexplanon is about the same price range as an early Planned Parenthood termination, it is just more effective, has fewer side effects, and provides peace of mind for the duration. Further you could likely get a lot of pro-life money (obviously not anything Catholic) to go in on such a scheme (particularly if you opt for Nexplanon or other implantable). I just don't see how you help more women by fighting a contentious battle rather than opting for LARCs.

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increasing the average distance to the nearest clinic to 55 miles and distance to some counties to over 100 miles.

What was the average distance previously? Are the authors worried about Amish horse and buggy access to abortion facilities? What should the average distance actually be? Maybe an abortion complex should be located on every college campus and downtown entertainment district. Or mobile abortion operations, like book mobiles and blood donation buses could be established.

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”I have yet to meet a person who can think through these issues rationally and absorb what is interesting and valid in each of those two perspectives.”

Honest question: do you include yourself in those people you’ve met or do you believe you can/do think this through rationally?

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”[..] marginal value [not high] if the number drops off so readily.”

Or the (perceived) marginal cost imposed by the additional travel required is higher than you estimate.

My first thought as well, esp. given that the incidence seems to be largely on minority/low income populations. Amazing how out of touch people are when they assume that everyone has ready access to a car and gas money.

SMDH

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Let's not stop with abortion, let's ban contraception as it is against God's will. And, because of my religious beliefs, your health plan will be approved by God, or a council of Clerics.

Right wing nuts: I will impose my beliefs on you even though you do no harm to me. All the conformists get together in Church to plan an event at Planned Parenthood where they can express their faith by blocking others. All the Churchgoers meet with their elected Representative, who cowers at the thought of opposing their proposal, to create new ways to impose costs on others.

And,

You are silent, because you are a Libertarian, sometimes.

The cabal would surely include Planned Parenthood and NARAL. The promotional value of abortion clinic closures is not marginal for them. So much so that they prefer to promulgate the idea that an abortion clinic is required to get an abortion in 2019, even though that probably sows enough confusion in an ignorant public that it's "responsible" for as many births as the abortion clinic being as far away as the outlet mall.

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OK, Bill, but where do you put the age? Can I kill my 18 yr old, but not my 21 yr old? Surely your plan allows me to kill my 6 yr old.

SF has a new way to clean the streets of the homeless as well. We'll name the street Bill's Way.

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Your one of those who believe life is a zygote. Your belief and not mine.

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By the way, TMC, Christian belief was that the sperm contained the full human being, and that the seed was planted in the womb.

So, how many seeds (human beings) did you kill jacking off in the bathroom?

sad, and you haven't even convinced yourself.

Sadder still that you cannot answer. I am firm in my conviction but you cannot respond, because you are too busy in the bathroom.

I forgive you for killing all those hermunculi.

Homunculi, those little human beings who would have been planted had you not been so sinful.

Will you soon be demonstrating that we should take off the bathroom doors in public facilities to prevent the killing of the unborn homunculi?

This is not a Christian idea.

The big proponent of something like this was the Greek physician Galen, who declared that because bones were white-ish, they definitely were made from fossilized, solidified sperm.

The idea may have come from late ancient Egypt, where evidence has been found of a belief that a baby's bones were made from sperm and its flesh material from the mother's womb, but scholars still argue about whether that belief had actually trickled down to Egypt from the Greeks.

It also turns up in the hadith, the Islamic collection of the sayings of the prophet Muhammad.

The homunculus first appears by name in alchemical writings attributed to Paracelsus (1493–1541); a proponent of renaissance humanism.

I have a firm belief that people named Bill aren’t really human beings... therefore I will ignore all the scientific evidence and support post birth abortions of folks named Bill.

Go read the Bible and look for the spilling of the seed, and the views that the seed was planted in the female.

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To help you in your biblical journey,

"Leviticus 15:16
Verse Concepts
'Now if a man has a seminal emission, he shall bathe all his body in water and be unclean until evening.

Ezekiel 23:20
Verse Concepts
"She lusted after their paramours, whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys and whose issue is like the issue of horses.

Leviticus 15:32
Verse Concepts
This is the law for the one with a discharge, and for the man who has a seminal emission so that he is unclean by it,

Leviticus 22:4
Verse Concepts
'No man of the descendants of Aaron, who is a leper or who has a discharge, may eat of the holy gifts until he is clean And if one touches anything made unclean by a corpse or if a man has a seminal emission,

Deuteronomy 23:10
Verse Concepts
"If there is among you any man who is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he must go outside the camp; he may not reenter the camp.

Genesis 38:9
Verse Concepts
Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother."

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Here are some other readings of early Christian theology on this subject:
"The evolving Roman Catholic perspective
Among contemporary religions, the Roman Catholic Church now holds most firmly the belief that inception of human personhood coincides with fertilization of an egg by a sperm (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2017). This was decreed in 1869 by Pope Pius IX; however, in earlier centuries of the previous millennium, prominent Catholics expressed no such certainty. Indeed, previous Catholic views had accepted 40 days as the point at which personhood began, and even had allowed abortion up to that time. In the 13th century A.D., the Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas embraced successive stages of ensoulment (Vollert, 2002). He believed that the embryo possessed first a vegetative soul, like that of any living thing such as a plant, and later a sensitive soul, like that of any sentient animal. Aquinas believed that God gave rational souls only to human beings and that this occurred around day 40 of
Stowers Institute, 1000 East 50th Street, Kansas City, MO 64110, USA. *Author for correspondence (william.neaves@stowers.org)
W.N., 0000-0002-5347-8599
development, thus emphasizing the importance of the physical development of the embryo in creating a home for the rational soul. These views were generally embraced and in the early 14th century, the Italian poet Dante Alighieri described a Roman Catholic view of ensoulment in the following passage from the Purgatorio (Sinclair, 1961):
‘... as soon as the articulation of the brain is perfected in the embryo, The First Mover turns to it, rejoicing over such a handiwork of nature, and breathes into it a new spirit full of power, ... a single soul that lives and feels and revolves upon itself.’
Canto 25, 67-75.
The emerging science of microscopy in the 17th century played a pivotal role in the evolution of Roman Catholic thinking about human embryos, and the belief put forward by Aquinas was not to last. Soon after Robert Hooke and Antony van Leeuwenhoek pioneered observations with optical microscopes, natural philosophers hastened to apply it to every available substance, including semen. Looking at the head of a sperm with these crude devices left much to the imagination, and the more creative among these early observers described tiny human beings curled up in the sperm head. Suddenly, the ‘true’ explanation of human development seemed apparent: the human body resided as a preformed entity inside the head of every sperm (Fig. 1).
Believing this as true, it followed that gestation entailed nothing more than the enlargement of a preformed human body, and so theologians found no need to delay ensoulment based on physical developmental milestones, as Aquinas and many others had believed. Even though we now know the preformationists were wrong – there is no tiny human being curled up inside the head of every sperm – their error played a significant role in discrediting the views of Aquinas and shaping current religious views on ensoulment and the beginning of human life. Important work on fertilization in the late 19th century reinforced this idea and coincided with Pope Piux IX’s decree that ‘hominization’ begins at fertilization. These days, the position of the Roman Catholic Church is that all human life deserves protection, defining human life as beginning from conception; it no longer considers physical milestones such as the development of the brain and nervous system, as prerequisites for ensoulment." Here is a link: https://dev.biologists.org/content/develop/144/14/2541.full.pdf

You are very confused about Christian theology, particularly Catholic theology.

No where in anything you cited does it say sperm contains the human.

You are mixing things up.

Masterbation is sinful because it is in violation of natural law. It’s not because sperm contains a person.

It’s because sex was meant for a twofold purpose... to bond a a couple in deep way... the deepest way possible. The two become on flesh. Any use of the sexual act that doesn’t serve the purpose of bonding a couple (to the point of dying for each other) with an openness to the possibility of the creation of new life (why contraception is wrong btw) is a misuse of nature... as also revealed in divine revelation.

Your entire thinking is confused in these matters.

About Augustine (where the issue of 40 days... even tho you are kinda wrong in how u convey it)....

The issue was about when ensoulment happened. It’s about when the soul enters the body. Quickening was thought by him and others to represent ensoulment. If that had not happened yet, then it wasn’t murder. He and they admitted they didn’t know.

Consequently, we have come to see that life begins at conception (which is also in the Bible in the psalms and in the story of Jacob and esau, and in leveiticus).

And hence the magisterium is clear on this. You don’t know of what you are speaking.

So, Quicken is

Out the Window and

So is Seed.

What happened to Tradition and the Teachings.

And, if the Biblical writers didn't know,

Who mad you

God.

Made, not mad, although it might be applicable to an angry God, or an angry you.

Just because a Christian thought something (even someone like St Augustine) doesn’t mean it’s the thinking of the Church.

Your simpleton understanding is on you.

You are God?

Or, does He/She come to you in visions?

If only... but I am a worm.

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Interesting that.

A few generations back, a bunch of people believed that my ancestors were not entitled to rights and if we were going to stretch things that only the locals influenced by these matters should vote on it. A number of people, acting almost exclusively out of religious conviction, thought otherwise.

Some people believed my ancestors were not really human. Some believed that all discussions of freedom and rights should occur only within the local polity.

Yet somehow a bunch of Northern abolitionist sought fit to legislate my ancestors out of bondage because it was "God's will". Somehow a bunch of British politicians managed to force the British navy into hanging a bunch of slave traders from the yard arms, largely driven by a minority of self-professed Evangelical Christians.

The imposition religious belief and the resulting abolition on a world that, supramajoratively, supported slavery was one of the largest goods in the history of the world. You will pardon me if I don't give a rat's ass about the motives of social reformers and only question the actual policies and results in play.

What you should then be in favor of is liberty. Southern Baptists had their religious beliefs that supported state imposition of slavery.

I am in favor of liberty. In fact I swore to "maintain the utmost respect for human life from its beginning, even under threat".

The question, like with my ancestors, is who is an individual possessing rights to liberty. This is a question beyond medicine (which sees no hard lines between conception and final maturation), but one which I am quite willing to see debated from a religious framework.

Certainly if we take a maximalist view of when human life attains a right to liberty the pro-choice position is untenable. If we place it up for a popular vote we end up somewhere around the end of the first trimester. And if let only the wealthy elite from political and legal societies write the line we end up with current law.

But hey, that is just me. What would I know? The youngest baby I ever successfully delivered was just 26 weeks. I was totally unable to tell if it was a person or just a clump of cells.

I think you were able to tell...

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The placenta was a clump of cells. The thing with eyes, fingers, toes, a mouth, a nose, hands, genitals... the thing moving and responding to stimuli, with distinct genes... that if not acted upon would no longer be metabolizing... it is alive. It is human. It is distinct genetically from both its mother and father... that thing is a person. A human person... with unalienable rights; the supreme of which is its right to exist.

Let’s work backwards and identify its genesis. When did it become a distinct member of the human specifies? At conception. That’s the beginning, when it’s genetically distinct development began. Thus, the beginning of a new human person. And when we have a new person, we have a new member of our species... with inherent rights. At no other moment can we point to as the origin of this new member of our human family. Thus, human life begins at conception. And if humans have any rights at all... they possess them at that moment for the first time. Shame on those that pretend it isn’t human so that they can deprive it of their human rights for financial gain.

Your theological beliefs are your own.

At the time of Christ, people believed the semen contained the complete human, and the female was simply where the seed was planted. They had no knowledge of genetics.

By that definition of life, masturbation, or spilling the seed, was the killing of a human,

Your theological position must be founded by the Founding Father.

No they did not. Even in the Old Testament you will find the concept of conception. You are simple wrong here.

The early Christians and the Greeks followed the concept of the Soul, which is different than conception, which explains the discussions of ensoulment. Do you think the early Christians understood what a skipped period meant? "For him, ensoulment occurred 40 days after conception for male fetuses and 90 days after conception for female fetuses, the stage at which, it was held, movement is first felt within the womb and pregnancy was certain."

oy vey man.

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Ok doesn’t meet theology to arrive at the conclusion that ending the development of a genetically distinct member of the species homosapien is selfish and wrong. One just needs to conclude that it is human and living. I can arrive at that conclusion based on science alone. Much like i can conclude slavery is an injustice and wrong based on the scientific conclusion that slaves are members of the human species. Hence the slave owners assertion that they are not actually human beings.

But as has been said... It Is difficult to get a person to understand something when their financial interests depends upon their not understanding it.

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Oy so many typos....

One doesn’t need theology to arrive at the conclusion that ending the development of a genetically distinct member of the species homosapien is selfish and wrong. One just needs to conclude that it is human and living. I can arrive at that conclusion based on science alone. Much like i can conclude slavery is an injustice and wrong based on the scientific conclusion that slaves are members of the human species. Hence the slave owners assertion that they are not actually human beings.

But as has been said... It Is difficult to get a person to understand something when their financial interests depends upon their not understanding it.

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Third and likely possibility is many of those women found alternate means to have abortions, which would invalidate both prior observations.

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Evaluating distance alone is going to be deceptive without looking at the waiting period laws, and Wisconsin has one. It's not that you have to travel an extra two hours, but that you need two days off work and possibly a hotel room. It's not a mild price increase.

An abortion is also something people don't budget and save for: it's unexpected, and by the time you could save, also possibly illegal.

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I have yet to meet a person who can think through these issues rationally and absorb what is interesting and valid in each of those two perspectives.

You're asking us to 'think rationally' about hiring a perverted gynecologist to dismember a child in vitro, or soak it in caustic brine. As ever, 'libertarianism' is applied autism.

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There’s a third perspective to be considered. Presumably, some women are on the fence about having an abortion, and the lack of clinic availability may tilt them towards giving birth.

Additionally, for a blog which routinely suggests that people don’t think clearly about important issues, it’s remarkable how much weight is put on the idea of consumer value preferences. If consistent access to reasonably affordable, reasonably good health care is a positive (and I would be shocked if Tyler and Alex are uninsured), then it shouldn’t matter if an individual places a low personal value on such coverage. At least half of government is the state making people behave more responsibly and ethically than they otherwise would, which is why the individual mandate made a lot of sense (for my part, I would like a stiff carbon tax, because while I have pro-environment views, I often lack the willpower to align my consumption decisions with my political principles).

Finally, I suspect that most people whose health insurance decisions are price sensitive are in the middle and lower income/wealth quintiles. The general quality of insurance at that level probably isn’t great to begin with, so a decision to forego coverage may reflect a product specific perspective, rather than a person’s overall view on the value of health insurance.

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Surely increasing the distance people have to drive to vote to more than 100 miles would caused voting to decrease. Does that mean voting is not important? Yes, ideal citizens would find some way to vote no matter what the obstacles, but is that a rational way to organize a society? If something is a right, shouldn't a well-ordered society make it easy to exercise that right? The Wisconsin legislature is pursuing this path because they do not think abortion is a right, and want to decrease them. Voter suppression efforts work the same way, by making voting harder. The fact that something can be increased or decreased by making it more difficult has not bearing on whether it is a right, or whether it should be encouraged.

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I agree about the role of government in incentivizing behavior, but the turn toward being a "gigantic insurance company" in Peter Fisher's phrase leaves "environment" way down in "Other," scarcely on the chart.

Meant in reply to Sean K.

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"There are (at least) two possible responses to such results, and that is without even getting into one’s underlying view of the ethics of abortion"

If you think it's wrong, which it is, papers normalising it aren't neutral.

Your view must be, then, that anyone with an opposing view should not be listened to, or follow their own beliefs.

Well, at least you're consistent.

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Some how both does seem to apply... as I would venture to guess a 100 mile distance is a barrier only to the rather poor women in these circumstances.

These results are interesting from a quantitative POV. Sort of like how assigning a monetary value to a human life is interesting. It is important, however, not to discard ethics in matters such as this otherwise we can easily descend in to eugenics. A cost/benefit type decision on the worthiness of real living human beings right to live.

The marginal value of a slave is an interesting quantitative question... unless one is the slave... then not so much.

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You would need to look at it using behavioral economics, quite clearly in the case of health insurance. People smoke, drink and over eat all the time, even when doing so costs them money and ruins their health, just as an example of why typical economic analysis isn’t going to help you much. Maybe Agnes Callard and akrasia is a useful starting place?

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Given Tyler's statement about failing to find anybody able to discuss this topic "rationally," this must mean that even his usually fairly intelligent regular lunch companions from GMU must have turned into a bunch of drooling and ranting nincompoops like so many of those posting on this thread, especially the religious fanatics who claim that their beliefs are in line with "science."

You are ok with going inside the womb of a woman and cutting a living things head off, sucking its brains out with a vacuum and throwing it in the trash because you don’t want to take care of what you made. According to any logic that is monsterous. So you just pretend it isn’t a person like slave owners did.

Phrasing something using words with high emotional content is designed to impair reasoning.

Or stating the facts as they are.

If you stated the facts you would use the term zygote. Or, embryo.
"An embryo is termed a fetus beginning in the 11th week of pregnancy, which is the 9th week of development after fertilization of the egg. A zygote is a single-celled organism resulting from a fertilized egg. The zygote divides to become a ball of cells that eventually implants in the wall of the uterus."

How many chickens did you have for breakfast this morning, er, fertilized chicken eggs? What do you do with the extra fertilized eggs that come with invitrofertilization procedures? They are human beings in your mind.

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A classical liberal utilitarian would say abortion is morally neutral, which is my view. A fetus has no utility function nor self awareness. Neither do most animals or the mentally disabled.

Extrapolating from this as Peter Singer does, the conclusion is that infanticide or killing of the disabled or old has less moral valence than killing a healthy person in the prime of life. A baby has no self awareness or sense of self.

Utilitarians arguing with Christians is pointless and stupid. They believe in the sacred and the profane. Utilitarians believe in utils.

The new position emerging on the left is an optimization function of minimizing suffering. Negative utilitarianism is all the new rage.

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Abortion or not might often be a marginal decision, with high costs on both sides.

That travel might tip this balance maybe tells us more about how people make difficult decisions than about how much they value abortions.

For example, maybe people want to not think about it but the clinic being there makes them. Or maybe travel makes it necessary to lie to people about it.

Re health insurance. Maybe this tells us something about how tight people's budgets are.

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The effect of closure needs to be compared in numbers as well as percent to see the effect of closures on births not through the abortion channel.
No greater “congestion” or no greater use of remaining clinics?
The racial/ethnic effects of clinic closure need to be modeled as closures are not RTC’s.
The answer to both questions is that even small negative transfers of income may be important to low income people.

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Why do we never see studies of the costs of regulation in these symbolic policies -- abortion, drug testing of means-tested benefits, Medicaid work requirements/not expansion? Do they show up on interstate comparisons of governance?

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The same issue comes up with Obamacare. If the price of health insurance goes up, quite a large number of people decide to go without coverage. Is the size of that number a measure of the human tragedy resulting from the price increase? Or is it a measure of how little those people actually value health insurance? Or somehow both?

I'd think an economist would understand opportunity costs.

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yet to meet a person etc? is this staggeringly arrogant in that you're the judge in this hypothetical?

You must be new here.

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The apparent low value of health insurance has a simple explanation: in the US if you have none, you just go to the emergency room and get help for free. (Sometimes even in non-emergencies.) In fact, if you are poor enough to qualify for only a small subsidy but are forced to buy insurance, you may very well be unable ever to use that insurance due to a high deductible; in that case insurance has a large negative value to you.

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