Breed Like Beckhams
By Bryan Caplan
Journalists usually love a good debate. If there’s one protectionist economist for every hundred free-traders, they’ll still make an effort to “ask both sides.” A glaring exception: Today’s piece in The Guardian on the Beckham’s fertility. The headline:
Beckhams a “bad example” for families: With a fourth child, the couple have joined the ranks of the irresponsible, population experts say.
Ahem. I, too, am a “population expert,” and I couldn’t disagree more. The Beckhams are a great example for families. The world is sadly underpopulated. And considering the unusually high probability that the Beckham kids grow up to be star athletes, singers, and models, we should thank them on behalf of their millions – or possibly billions – of future fans.
What about the environmental effects? As I explain in Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, restraining your fertility to help the environment is using a sword to kill a mosquito:
If the birth of a human being has a lot of positives and a few negatives, the constructive response isn’t to denounce “people.” The constructive response is to selectively target the negatives. Name specific problems, and figure out the cheapest way to handle them.
Selective targeting requires more imagination than mass sterilization, but it’s worth the extra mental effort. If you want to do something about man-made global warming, you don’t have to reduce the number of human beings on the planet. You just have to get humanity to reduce its carbon emissions. A carbon tax is one simple way to get from here to there. To discourage emissions, make emissions more expensive, then sit back and watch lifestyles and technology adapt. The same principle applies to virtually any population problem you can imagine.
A final thought: The Guardian‘s article’s experts repeatedly distance themselves from the evils of China’s One-Child Policy. Question for Tracy McVeigh, the article’s author: If even population pessimists admit that population pessimism is dangerous in the wrong hands, don’t you think it would have been a good idea to talk to a bona fide critic?