To Cut or Not to Cut?
By Bryan Caplan
When I was finishing up The Myth of the Rational Voter, I weighed whether I should cut the paragraph on restricting the franchise:
what — if anything — can be done to improve outcomes, taking the supremacy of democracy over the market as fixed? The answer depends on how flexibly you define
“democracy.” Would we still
have a “democracy” if you needed to pass a test of economic literacy
to vote? If you needed a college
degree? Both of these measures raise the
economic understanding of the median voter, leading to more sensible
policies. Franchise restrictions were
historically used for discriminatory ends, but that hardly implies that they
should never be used again for any reason.
A test of voter competence is no more objectionable than a driving
test. Both bad driving and bad voting
are dangerous not merely to the individual who practices them, but to innocent
I knew this paragraph might provoke hysterical hostility. But I thought that (a) it made a good point, and (b) angry reactions would confirm my broader thesis that many people are democratic fundamentalists. In the end, it made the cut – and probably ended up being the single most-discussed paragraph in the book. Radio hosts brought it up again and again.
Now that I’m finishing up Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, another controversial passage is on the chopping block. In the current draft, this paragraph concludes my discussion of cloning:
I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments
personally. Not only do they insult the
identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to
meet. Yes, I wish to clone myself and
raise the baby as my son.
Seriously. I want to experience
the sublime bond I’m sure we’d share.
I’m confident that he’d be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me. I’m not pushing others to clone
themselves. I’m not asking anyone else
to pay for my dream. I just want
government to leave me and the cloning business alone. Is that too much to ask?
My reasons to keep it, as before, are: (a) it makes a good point, and (b) angry reactions would confirm my broader thesis that many people senselessly oppose assisted reproductive technology. The downside, of course, is alienating otherwise sympathetic readers. The upside of the downside is that controversy is excellent publicity. Should my cloning confession make the final cut?
Update: Check out many additional comments on MR. My prediction: Once a few thousand cloned humans are walking the earth, sneering at clones and people who want them will become as gauche as sneering at IVF babies and people who want them.