Moral Mandates Revealed In Regression Analysis

Moral mandates revealed in regression analysis

By Lisa Earle McLeod

What do Jesus and a University of Chicago economist have in common?

They both believe in the freeing power of the truth.

Just as Jesus called upon would be stone throwers to examine their own lives, rogue economist Steven D. Levitt, co-author of the mega best-seller “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side Everything” ($27.95, William Morrow), reveals some uncomfortable truths that challenge our moral assumptions.

Utilizing economic models Levitt, with co-author Stephen J. Dubner, provides an unflinching analysis of dicey issues like abortion, drug dealing, and even what does (and doesn’t) make a perfect parent.

I believe the truths they reveal call us towards spiritual solutions.

Huh? Economics and spirituality?

It’s not as unlikely as you might think. In the book, Levitt says, “Morality it could be argued, represents the way people would like the world to work – whereas economics represents how it actually does work.”

The most controversial “Freakomics” finding is that Roe vs. Wade is directly linked to the crime drop of the 1990s because thousands of would-be criminals were aborted.

If you’re pro-life, wait a minute before you throw up and follow their logic. According to the economist, “Unwanted children are at risk for crime, legalized abortion reduces unwanted children, therefore, less crime.”

Levitt’s theory isn’t a moral argument. Instead, he derives this conclusion after rigorously analyzing mountains of data, statistics and studies related to crime and abortion.

Levitt says, “People’s reaction is to feel nauseous, offended and disgusted. But there’s almost no question about the logical chain.”

So how does knowing that legalized abortion reduces crime call us to spiritual solutions?

Consider another question addressed in Freakonomics: “Why do drug dealers live with their moms?”

Because the drug business is like McDonalds, Levitt writes.

Street corner dealers are the fry cooks and the fat-cat franchise owners make all the money. Drawing on first-hand accounts and actual financial records from a drug gang, Levitt actually makes you feel some empathy for the guys who sell crack.

Stripped of moral judgments and seen through the lens of Levitt’s research, it becomes clear that most drug dealers are simply uneducated young men who risk their lives to work their way up to the top of one of the few industries open to them. They live with their moms because they can’t afford to live anywhere else.

So does that mean abortion is the spiritual answer to the drug problem?

Not exactly.

However, spiritual answers begin to emerge when Levitt explores “What makes a perfect parent?”

Using regression analysis, he demonstrates why the trend towards hyper-parenting is wasted effort. Paying for piccolo lessons won’t make your kid any smarter. But two factors that do correlate with a child’s high test scores are having educated parents and a mother 30 or older at the time of her first child’s birth.

By analyzing abortion, drug dealing and parenting, Levitt provides facts that reveal a spiritual solution for improving humanity and solving many of our problems.

If women who spend their teens and 20s in school are less likely to give birth to a future crack dealer, it seems like we have a clear moral imperative to educate young at-risk women. In fact, one might go so far as to say, if we want to reduce the number of drug dealers, and reduce the number of abortions, the spirit of God is calling us to get every poor young woman in America into college right now.

Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

Levitt isn’t a religious prophet. He’s a skinny man in thick glasses who claims he’s “not a spiritual person.” Yet the truths he reveals in his book challenge much of what society accept as the status quo.

That’s the beauty of the truth. It doesn’t need to be cloaked in political or moral arguments to make sense.

It doesn’t matter whether we hear it from Jesus or a geeky guy who specializes in algorithms, once we know the truth, the spiritual high ground is the only place left to go.

© Copyright 2007, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Satisfaction in the Life You’ve Already Got and the YOU You Already Are.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at

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