From the Preface of My Next Book
By Bryan Caplan
Who This Book Is For
When I tell people that I’m writing a book called Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, the
most common response is, “Because they’ll take care of you in your old
age?” Now’s a good time to issue a
disclaimer: That is not what I’m
saying. Indeed, I doubt that “They’ll
help me out when I’m old,” has ever
been a good reason to have kids. Love
tends to run downhill; as an old saying ruefully observes, “One parent can care
for five children, but five children cannot care for one parent.” In any case, there are more cost-effective
ways to provide for your old age than starting a family. In a backward farming community, you can take
the money you were going to spend on children, use it to buy land, then rent it
out when you’re ready to retire. In the
modern world, self-help is easier still.
Invest in a retirement fund, or buy an annuity. No muss, no fuss.
Admittedly, an especially devoted or successful child might
end up being a high-yield investment.
But that’s a long shot. The only
promising way to meet the “What’s in it for me?,” challenge is to appeal to the
intrinsic or “consumption” benefits
of children. If someone asks, “Why
should I buy a high-definition t.v.?
What’s in it for me?,” you don’t assure them that their HDTV will
provide for them in their old age. You
tell them that their HDTV will be “fun,” “neat,” or “awesome.” Perhaps, like Blockbuster Video, you’ll
promise customers that they’ll “Go home happy.”
In the same way, if someone asks “What’s in parenthood for me?,” you’ve
got to highlight kids’ cool features: They’re ridiculously cute; they’re
playful; they’ll look like you; they’ll share half your genes; it’s all part of
the circle of life. You might also
promise prospective parents that, “You won’t regret it,” or even assure them
that “You’ll be happier with kids.”
Now I’m going to level with you. If kids’ “cool features” have absolutely no
appeal to you, then you probably don’t
have any selfish reasons to have more kids – or any kids at all. If you don’t like what’s on t.v., a sales
pitch about HDTV’s great picture and sound quality is a waste of your
time. Similarly, if the phrase “my son”
or “my daughter” leaves you unmoved, none of my arguments are going to sway
you. In neither case will a customer buy
a product if he rejects its basic premise.
That’s OK by me. I’m
not trying to convince everyone to have kids.
I’m trying to convince people who are at least mildly interested in
being a parent that they should have more
kids than they originally planned.
Fortunately for me, that’s a big audience. Over 80% of Americans eventually have kids. Even among the childless-by-choice, many
decide against kids because the sacrifice seems too great – not because the
thought of having kids fills them with apathy.
As long as you belong to the vast majority of people with the seed of a
desire to be a parent, we have much to discuss.