A reply to Matthew Connelly.
1. When I wrote Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, I tried to review the whole literature on the effect of natalist incentives. But this wasn’t my focus, and based on Connelly’s references, I confess that I may have overlooked some relevant research.
Fortunately for me, as I pointed out in my target essay, the cost/benefit ratio of additional fertility is so favorable that we can drastically reduce our estimate of the benefits, drastically increase our estimate of the cost, and continue to enjoy a free fiscal lunch. This is an argument for tax cuts that almost all non-libertarians would find compelling. Can a libertarian really be less sympathetic?
2. Connelly writes:
Bryan insists that the crimes of anti-natalism are far worse than those of pro-natalism, and describes them as a thing of the past—even though dozens of countries keep abortion unsafe and illegal.
Did I say or even suggest that coercive natalism is a “thing of the past”? I don’t think I did. He continues:
I do not know how to compare the human cost of pressuring or compelling someone to bear multiple children against their will—and at risk to their health—to that endured by those who felt pressured or compelled to agree to use an unsafe contraceptive or endure assembly-line sterilization.
Question: Is this a general agnosticism about weighing one form of coercion against another? Or is it specific to the issue at hand?
3. I’m puzzled by Connelly’s claim that, “Fertility is not, after all, a good in and of itself, unlike liberty, prosperity, or good health.” It seems to me that, all else equal, it is very “good in and of itself” when one more person gets to enjoy the gift of life. Yes, you can point to downsides and trade-offs. But you can do the same for prosperity and health.
Matt, why are you so much more worried about “fertility cults” than “prosperity cults” or “health cults”? All can be rationales for oppressive policies. All have been. But as I said in my previous reply, libertarians have more convincing ways to defend liberty than flatly denying the goodness of these ends.