Economist Bryan Caplan recently published a book entitled Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. And now he’s getting all kinds of media publicity for his preposterously named tome. We expected this to be a pamphlet-sized argument. Why? There are no reasons to have kids that aren’t selfish. Zilch, zip, zero. None!
In fact, this cavalier attitude on the part of most parents that played a significant part in inspiring us to write our book, Enough of Us: Why we should think twice before making children.
It’s like writing a book entitled Selfish Reasons to Eat Food, or Selfish Reasons to Stay Warm, or Selfish Reasons to Live in a Dwelling. Duh.
Caplan implies that limiting the number of children parents plan to have may be selfish. “How can you focus exclusively on whether another child would make you happier? What about the child? Unless your child is truly unlucky, he will almost certainly be happy to be alive. Aren’t you?” asks Caplan in the introduction to his book.
Mr. Caplan is clearly someone the Men in Black must capture and send back to his home planet of Yoorkydding. He actually believes that most people live happy lives unless they are “truly unlucky,” a term that, at the very least, requires some degree of definition. Even in relatively prosperous times, millions of Americans are profoundly insecure, broke, losing their homes victims of serious crimes, etc.
TV talk shows are saturated with stories of childhood depression, bullying, cyber-bullying, high drop-out rates, inadequate education, two million adults living incarcerated, spousal abuse, divorce, broken homes, drug addiction . . . whew! We’re running out of mental breath.
Two couples we know – educated, well-off, loving couples – have had daughters who went to prison. Others have had kids with drug addictions. Ellis has known four – count ‘em, four – people who have shot themselves in the head.
Caplan goes on to proffer: “If you have to make yourself a little less happy to give a son or daughter the gift of life, shouldn’t you?” Hell no. Are you kidding? “Give a son or daughter . . .”? Give whom? They don’t yet exist. If you have not yet created that child, to whom are you giving the gift of life? And if the author’s reasoning maintains, then couples should keep having uncontracepted sex until the well runs dry, so to speak. After all, at what point do you start denying sons or daughters the gift of life, assuming you have the cash and living space?
Are all couples to become the Duggars, the Arkansas couple with 19 kids (the latest of whom was born premature with a series of medical complications as long as your arm and whose gestation almost killed his mother) who believe God wants them to procreate ad infinitum, environmentalists be darned (they’re pious people, so we don’t want to use offensive language)?
A key problem overshadowing all of Caplan’s reasoning is the big picture. Many ecological and biological scientists estimate that by 2050 half a million species will go extinct, mostly due to human behavior bollixing up the planet. Paging Bryan Caplan . . . Hell-o-o-o!
To illustrate the shallowness of reasoning by so many parents, would-be parents, and parenting advocates, we present an excerpt from a review of Bryan Caplan’s book, written by Jonathan V. Last on The Wall Street Journal’s wsj.com. “It would be better for all of us if Americans had more children than they currently do. (The average college- educated woman today has just 1.7 babies over the course of her life, which is not enough to sustain America’s population in the long run.),” argues Last.
There is a presumption here that sustaining America’s population is a good thing. In the first place, this shows just how unconscious of environmental issues so many Americans are. Secondly, thanks to immigration and increased longevity (whether or not those extra years are ones of quality) America has kept its population growing, along with all of the social and environmental problems that go with it. We presume that Mr. Last, like so many others, believes that we need the Ponzi scheme of ever-increasing population to thrive in order that succeeding generations flourish.
Enough of Us, in fact, disproves the contention that we must be fruitful and multiply ad nauseam in order to succeed as a society.
If Caplan’s premise is that by not having children many Americans are being selfish, and that he alone is offering an alternative approach – one by which even those who are having children can be selfish – it sounds like he is living in the world of George Orwell’s 1984. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
There are Enough of Us.