Photo: Courtesy of CSPAN
It has been one week since Rush Limbaugh first called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” but the controversy shows no sign of dying down.Now University of Rochester economist and former Slate blogger Steven Landsburg has jumped to Limbaugh’s defence.
In a blog post, Landsburg argued that while the talk radio host’s language may have been off-colour, Limbaugh’s logic was analytically shrewd. Fluke, Landsburg writes, “deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked, and jeered” for saying that women should have access to contraception.”
He adds that Limbaugh’s demand that Fluke and other Georgetown students post online sex tapes in exchange for contraception was actually a “spot-on analogy”:
“If I can reasonably be required to pay for someone else’s sex life (absent any argument about externalities or other market failures), then I can reasonably demand to share in the benefits. His dense and humorless critics notwithstanding, I am 99% sure that Rush doesn’t actually advocate mandatory on-line sex videos. What he advocates is logical consistency and an appreciation for ethical symmetry. So do I. colour me jealous for not having thought of this analogy myself.”
Unsurprisingly, Landsburg’s arguments sparked a mini-firestorm at the University of Rochester, prompting the school’s president to issue a public dissent. Landsburg has resoundingly dismissed his critics as “contraceptive sponges,” and devoted another blog posts to rebutting their arguments in favour of contraception access.
But Landsburg’s focus on the economic benefits and drawbacks of contraception have little to do with Fluke and her congressional testimony. Fluke was not, as Limbaugh and Landsburg have suggested, “demanding” that taxpayers pay for her to have sex; her testimony was originally part of a debate about whether religious institutions should be required to provide access to contraception. Her argument focused primarily on the medical (and non-contraceptive) uses of birth control.
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