The Supply and Demand of Behaviors
When I was younger, I wondered why people acted the way they did. Why some people seemed to be well behaved and others just seemed to have no self-control at all. At times, I attributed it to religious convictions but I eventually saw too many Christians not living out the faith they prescribed to. It had to be more. When I was in my mid-20s, I discovered the field of economics and was hooked. One thing seemed to stick out to me. The Demand Curve. This is a graph that shows when many things becomes cheaper, people will want more of it. It also works the other way, if those same things become more expensive, they will want less. A classic example we have all experienced is how most people eat the fruits and vegetables that are in season. When strawberries are in season in the spring, they are very inexpensive and so we consume a lot of them and in the fall, we eat apples and drink apple cider. Now we could drink apple cider all year long and eat strawberries any time we wanted, but we would have to pay a higher price. Most people are not willing to pay that higher price when they are not in season and so we say demand goes down.
Does this same principle apply to behavior?
This is the blog post I have wanted to write for a long time.
Here is the Demand Curve for reference. This one includes numbers but I could have just as easily chosen one without.
When talking about behavior and price, I need to make the distinction that I am not necessarily talking about money. Money could be a factor but will rarely be the main factor. If I asked, what is the price of shoplifting? it could include things such as having a criminal record, having trouble finding a job in the future, affecting reputation in a negative way, monetary outlays for lawyer fees and court costs, etc. You see, money cost could be a factor but is by no means the deciding factor in this example.
The behavior I would like to focus on though is abortion. I believe that the cost of abortion has radically changed since Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). This landmark Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in all 50 states. The radical change has accounted for the increase in the demand for abortion and the behaviors that lead a person to seek an abortion.
The price of abortion has been reduced radically for a number of different reasons. Three of which I have listed below.
The first and foremost is its climb out of illegality. When it was illegal, there was a very high price to be paid for having an abortion. There was potential for being arrested, as well as the procedure being performed in an unsafe way. There was so much of a risk involved that few people were willing to take this risk and the few who did might have instantly been stricken with buyer’s remorse as they had to “pay the piper” so to speak. I found this old picture from the National Police Gazette which reveals how abortion was viewed many years ago.
The second is the rise of the welfare state. This severely lessened the cost of being an unwed mother and being a single parent. As the cost of these things fell, the behavior that led to them increased. One of the externalities, or unseen costs, of this increased demand has been an increased demand for abortion. The reason for this is that many times the woman either did not plan on getting pregnant when engaging in risky behaviors or she had changed her mind about keeping the baby.
The third is the change in the stigma attached abortion. The stigma has changed so that it is not as looked down on as it used to be (lower cost). The church has played a large role in this by embracing a grace heavy theology. No, let me be clear, God will forgive anyone for any action when we come to him with a truly repentant heart. That being said, there has clearly been a shift towards a “more accepting God”.
When taken as a whole, these three things have drastically reduced the price of abortion leading to an increase in its demand. This is part of the larger idea of the demand for behavior. Although I believe that humans demand behavior based on price. I would never stand here in judgment against anyone who has been put in a situation where they feel this decision is something they have to do. If you or someone you know has been put in the place to make this decision and they would like help, there are options, organizations that can help. Below is one of many that are there to provide help and support.