From Mobility to Misanthropy
By Bryan Caplan
Scott Winship’s written a good piece on ingenerational income mobility… with one highly objectionable passage. Ponder the underlying philosophy here:
[R]educing the number of unplanned pregnancies would unquestionably
reduce the number of children experiencing divorce and other
disadvantages. Since it is more common among parents in the bottom than
elsewhere, reducing unplanned pregnancy would lower the number of
children starting out at the bottom and thereby reduce the number of
children stuck there down the road.
If we take Winship literally, his “solution” to the problem of persistent poverty is for people likely to be persistently poor to never be born in the first place. This is an awfully misanthropic position. A lifetime of relative poverty is a lot better than no lifetime at all.*
A charitable reading is that Winship, like me, thinks that would-be single moms should delay child-bearing until they – and hopefully the fathers of their children – are ready to support a family. But I fear that Winship meant what he said. When you dwell on an aggregate outcome like “social mobility” long enough, you tend to lose perspective. Improving the outcome becomes an end in itself. It’s easy to forget that what really counts isn’t “outcomes,” but individuals.
* To quote Tsunami Bomb‘s “5150”:
Be grateful that you have a brain for thinking
And legs to take you places.