A Eugenic Experiment
By Bryan Caplan
Imagine a Eugenic America where citizens who earn less than median income are forbidden to have children. Enforcement isn’t perfect, so 5% of all kids born are “illegals.” Over time, this leads to a substantial stock of people who weren’t supposed to be born in the first place.
Pundits have the predictable range of positions on eugenic policy. Liberals demand amnesty for the current stock of illegals, and pledge stricter enforcement of eugenics in the future. Conservatives oppose amnesty – partly because they don’t want to reward law-breaking, and partly because they don’t trust liberals to help them strictly enforce eugenics laws. “Think-outside-the-box” thinkers occasionally chime in, “Fertility policy should be skill-based! Letting talented low-income people breed is good for America.”
As this morally blind debate rages on, a libertarian arrives on the scene. He vocally proposes “Open Breeding.” Abolish eugenics laws, and let any woman who wants a baby have a baby. Mainstream reactions are diverse, but uniformly negative.
Liberals demur, “These new births will drive down wages, especially for the poorest Americans. Open Breeding is a windfall for the rich, but regular Americans will suffer terribly.” And “That sounds compassionate. But until we’ve taken care of everyone who’s already here, we can’t afford to allow any more needy births.”
Conservatives huff, “These poor babies will be a massive fiscal burden. Think about all the money we’ll have to spend on schools, health care, and welfare.” And “Civilizing the next generation of Americans is already an uphill battle. These poor kids are just too culturally distant from us to co-exist in the same society.”
Even many self-styled libertarians back the eugenics laws. “You can’t have Open Breeding and the welfare state. Milman Friedton said so.” And, “Public opinion research shows that the poor are less libertarian. When these extra babies grow up, they’ll vote away our freedom.”
Regardless of your political standpoint, you probably think the libertarian advocate of Open Breeding has right on his side. Suppose then you were transported to Eugenic America. How would you rebut your side’s stereotypical objections to free reproduction? How convincing would you be? If your honest answer is, “Not very,” what does that tell you about your compatriots?
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