The Price of Free Love

The Price of Free Love

by George Liebmann, June 25, 2022

The wails of anguish surrounding the anticipated abortion decision bring to mind Mencken’s jaundiced view of the ‘family planners’ of the 1920s: “Nor is the moral virtuoso made more prepossessing when he takes the Devil’s side and howls for license instead of for restraint. The birth controllers, for example, carry on their indelicate crusade with the pious rancor of prohibitionists.”

What engages political passion is the cause of free love. For those careless about their sexual partners or unlucky with birth control, abortion is the ultimate backup. The advent of ‘the pill’ was not alone sufficient to produce a liberalization of sexual mores, as the present Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and her Nobel Prize-winning husband George Akerlof demonstrated in studies appearing in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the Brookings Review in 1996.

Since more unmarried women put themselves at risk, the number of births out of wedlock increased rather than declined. Many judges, including Justice Harlan in his Roe v. Wade concurrence and Judge J. Edward Lumbard of the Second Circuit in his decision declaring the Connecticut abortion law unconstitutional assumed that the reverse would be true. But many women who rely on the availability of abortion procrastinate, lack means, are pressured by parents or consorts, have residual religious feeling, fear that they will not be able to bear children when they want to, or are affected by physical and psychological changes inducing them to protect the fetus.

Abortion on demand has thus not been the expected social boon, but a public policy catastrophe. Births to unwed mothers increased from 4.9% in 1965-9 to 29% in 2018 and among blacks from 34.9% in 1965-9 to 71% in 2018. The ‘deal with it’ syndrome associated with freely available abortion has reduced the percentage of consorts contracting ‘shotgun marriages’ from 59.2% in 1965-9 to 9% in 2018, The cost to society has been immense, in the insecurity of adolescent children, especially males, and in efforts to provide state substitutes for the missing fathers: the feminization of poverty.

But the debate over abortion proceeds entirely in terms of religion and constitutional law, not of social policy. The two-thirds fall in births to teenage mothers since the welfare reform law of 1996 suggests that stiffened legal rules become known on ‘the street’ and affect sexual behavior. Yet neither the media nor the ‘scientists’ of the CDC educate the public about the statistics and effects of unwed motherhood.Were they to do so, a stiffening of rules at least to the Western European level would engage the sympathy not only of religious believers but of a larger portion of the taxpaying public.

As with abortion, so with ‘gay rights.’ If one is a skeptic , one must be opponent of love. But it is worth remembering that the Stonewall demonstration in New York that launched the movement was not about love, but about money, specifically about access to health insurance, difficult to obtain when the practice of sodomy was viewed not as a constitutional right but as an “abominable and detestable crime against nature.” There is no hint in the relevant Supreme Court decisions that there are any particular hazards in anal intercourse or any reason for the historical prejudice against it, and the CDC, though mentioning them sotto vocce, cannot be accused of shouting them from the housetops.

Several years passed before San Francisco, over the objection of ‘civil libertarians’, shut down the bathhouse culture. It is accepted that the risk of transmission of venereal diseases is 12 to 15 times greater as between unprotected anal and unprotected vaginal intercourse, and for the receptive partner perhaps twice as high as that.

When AIDS was regarded as a fatal disease, the venereal disease rate fell sharply, but with the development of the ‘AIDS cocktail’ of mostly patented drugs, faithful pill takers could attain a normal life expectancy. There are said to be 1.2 million Americans who have tested HIV-positive and in 2019 the lifetime cost of HIV treatment was over a million dollars per person, or $420,285 if discounted to present value at 3%. The annual federal AIDS budget alone, for this 1/3 of 1% of the population, exceeds $28 billion. Male homosexuals also account for from 53% to 70% of all syphilis cases.

Here again, costs are not counted, even promiscuous male homosexuality is presented as a normal life style, and admonitions to continence, let alone abstention, are muted indeed.

We descend by gentle stages to the newest fashion, transgenderism. What is now called ‘gender dysphoria’ was previously viewed as a rite of passage for many adolescents, who mature at different rates of speed. Boys may be subjected to ridicule and bullying; girls may compensate for insecurity with bulimia and anorexia. These conditions used to call for counseling, not sex hormones and surgery at a going rate of $20,000 to $50,000 with concomitant demands for public subsidy and insurance coverage. This is so even though 50% of the males under treatment and 30% of the females are said to have attempted suicide, and a Swedish study showed a suicide rate among the treated transgender population 19 times that of the population at large.

There was a time when John Stuart Mill was the prophet of liberalism and the utilitarian calculus–the greatest good for the greatest number–the touchstone of social policy. Now all social interests, and the insights not only of the natural sciences but of the ‘dismal science’ are cast aside. Only individual desires and fashionable mores, imposed on society not by elected legislatures but by one man, or five, determine public policy. Yet the examples of the English restoration, the relevant stages of the French and Russian revolutions, and the Weimar Republic suggest that regimes of total license do not last. It is odd, however, that the duty to point this out falls to iconoclasts, not scientists.

The writer, President of the Library Company of the Baltimore Bar, is the author of numerous works on law and history, most recently Vox Clamantis In Deserto: An Iconoclast Looks At Four Failed Administratrions (2021)

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