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Trojan Horse

Posted By Don Boudreaux On September 17, 2012 @ 11:48 am In Myths and Fallacies,Other People's Money | Comments Disabled

Having heard and read several ditties lately from “Progressives” who insist that the failure of government to arrange to have birth-control supplied free of charge to women is a terrible cruelty to women, I thought I’d write a letter to the editor of some august publication pointing out just how inexpensive effective birth control is.  (And no, I’m not talking about abstinence – although abstinence does boast a solid track record of preventing unwanted pregnancies.)  But I got distracted by some inflation-adjusted household-income numbers.  (On which more in a follow-up post.)  So no letter.

Nevertheless, I priced some condoms and discovered that it’s easy to get name-brand condoms for about 50 cents each [1]. (I’ve seen some priced as low as 41 cents each – but let’s go with the 50-cents price.)

So let’s consider a hypothetical woman who earns only the federal minimum-wage ($7.25 per hour) and who works only 20 hours weekly for 50 weeks out of the year; this woman, we assume also, (1) has no other form of cash or non-cash income, and (2) partners only with men who insist that she pay for whatever birth control is used.

If this woman has sex twice each day of the year (with her partner using a fresh condom each time), she will spend $365 per year on condoms plus an additional, let us say, $18.25 (five percent of the list price) on sales taxes for her condoms.  Her total annual condom cost will amount to $383.25.

Bottom line: her annual supply of condoms will cost her 5.3 percent of her annual earnings.

Question: is this expense really a prophylactic against the use of prophylactics?  Asked differently, are we truly to pity – to the point of having the government tax its citizens in order to pay for other citizens’ birth-control – women who cannot alter their consumption budgets, or their sex budgets, sufficiently to pay for their own contraception, especially given how truly very inexpensive contraceptives are in modern America?

Or asked in yet another way: Is the myth of unaffordable contraception now a Trojan horse in which additional welfare-state intrusions will ride into and impregnate the body-politic with a further degree of childish dependence on government?

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