Population, Fertility, and Liberty
by Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan argues that declining world populations aren’t such a good thing after all. While we may have dodged the “population bomb” predicted in the 1970s, the world still benefits from more suppliers — and demanders — of new goods and services. Friends of scientific and cultural advancement should want more people around. All of which leads him to a question: Are there ways to incentivize population growth without sacrificing individual liberty? Caplan suggests several methods, including open immigration, tax incentives for children — and the direct, ultimately private argument that having more kids is more fun than most people realize.
The Ultimate Resource — For How Long?
by Gregory Clark
Gregory Clark argues that, while Caplan may more or less accurately describe the history of economic development, mineral and other reserves in the West have been significantly depleted. What holds true today will not hold true indefinitely regarding food, energy, and basic mineral commodities. The balance between population growth and resources only recently tipped toward abundance, and it will likely tilt in the other direction soon.
Clark agrees, however, with Caplan’s suggestion that on the margin, middle-class families stand little to lose and much to gain by having more children; cultural assumptions in the West likely overestimate the importance of nurture, and as a result, middle-class Americans probably do overinvest in their children.
Pro-Natalism’s Checkered Past
by Matthew Connelly
Matthew Connelly reviews the history of pro- and anti-natalist policies around the world. He finds them both full of coercion, perverse incentives, misogyny, and — if states try hard enough — atrocity. Population trends, however, are very stubborn, and the payoff to such policies is low. In his words, “economists do not know where babies come from.” Not, anyway, such that they can motivate people without destroying their autonomy. If libertarians are recruited to the pro-natalist side, as Caplan urges, their enlisting could come at the price of individual liberty itself.
Parents Are Unhappy. But Why? And Should We Care?
by Betsey Stevenson
Betsey Stevenson agrees that parents are often generally less happy than otherwise similarly situated nonparents. But she casts doubt on the theory that excessive parental worry is the source of the unhappiness. The most worrying parents, those who spend the most time on childcare, are also the ones who report relatively higher levels of happiness. There is, moreover, more to life than self-reported happiness, and parents may very well have other desires and values than just this one. Neither self-reported happiness nor economic utility are all that there is to our various ideas of the good life. We still need to learn more about why parents describe themselves as less happy before we can prescribe more children and less worrying as the remedy.
- Want to Bet? A Reply to Greg Clark by Bryan Caplan
- Connelly’s Fears by Bryan Caplan
- The Psychology and Economics of Parenting – Reply to Betsey Stevenson by Bryan Caplan
- Sure, I Can Make a Bet by Gregory Clark
- Economists Still Do Not Know Where Babies Come From by Matthew Connelly
- Clark’s Muted Malthusianism by Bryan Caplan
- Fertility and the Gift of Life by Bryan Caplan
- When It Comes to Fertility, How Can All Other Things Ever Be Equal? by Matthew Connelly
- What About Iceland? by Gregory Clark
- The Cost of Natalist Tax Credits, the Magnitude of Coercion, and the Value of People by Bryan Caplan
- Population, Land, and Movies: Another Reply to Clark by Bryan Caplan