Sunday, June 20, 2010

Caplan Prep for Parenting

Libertarian economist Bryan Caplan has a Father’s Day-pegged piece in the Wall Street Journal that, like his new book, is aimed at convincing wary people it’s safe to go ahead and have kids without thinking it will wreck their lives. I don’t think there’s that big a problem with people avoiding childbearing (virtually everyone reproduces, and it was only yesterday that half the intellectuals were constantly whining about the planet being overpopulated instead of constantly whining about falling birth rates — every trend in every direction always being regarded as a crisis, of course). I suspect that someone who is around (individualistic) libertarians and (rational, cost-benefit analyzing) economists all the time is more likely to know cautious non-breeders, which may be why Caplan felt the need to write the article and book. Most people just plain love them babies.

So is Caplan convincing? I swear I’m keeping an open mind on the topic, but it’s interesting to me that he repeatedly assures the reader that having that first kid (according to the psych-survey response stats) makes you only slightly more miserable than those who never have kids. Having subsequent kids is, comparatively speaking, a breeze — and you can make parenting even easier if you assume, as current research supposedly suggests, that you don’t have that much impact on your kids’ personalities and likelihood of success anyway.

Only slightly more miserable — and irrelevant to the offspring’s mental development? You call this a sales pitch? On the other hand, I’m going to call Dad now, and I trust we’ll both regard it as a positive experience.


Dan Hand said...

I think that you need to take a serious look at differential birth rates, Todd. Certain demographic groups still love babies; others do not. The latter will eventually disappear– and many of their members, especially their elites, are so self-absorbed and solipsistic, or else ideologically demented and self-hating, as not to care in the least!

If you happen to think that the projected majority-minority America– which will eventually become a majority Hispanic (or even Mexican) America– is going to be more receptive to the ideas that you and yours hold dear, boy are you in for an unhappy surprise in your coming dotage!

If European-derived stocks do not shake off the malignancy of left-wing ideology, post haste, and begin to breed like it is the 1950s again, you will grow old in a dystopian world that would make even George Orwell long for the good old days of 1984. The new American majority will have as much love for America’s own Founding Fathers, and for their European predecessors, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, as the Visigoths and Ostrogoths had for Virgil and Homer.

Demography is destiny– and the future of Western Civilization looks bleaker with every passing year!

Todd Seavey said...

You raise an important point. Logically, the first step should be to discourage breeding or immigration by the continent that, within just the past few generations, invented Communism and Fascism. Which one was that again?

Dan Hand said...

P.S. As to how one’s kids turn out, parents actually have the most profound effect upon them: it is called DNA. Half of the statistical variance in personality traits and life outcomes is attributable to one’s genes at the moment of conception. Half of the rest is attributable to what happens congenitally, in utero. The remaining quarter, from one’s environment after birth, takes in everything from diet to exposure to gamma radiation from outer space. The social-psychological and socio-economic factors that the Tabula Rasa Crowd obsesses over are only a small part of what is actually meant by “environment”– which is literally everything other than one’s original genetic draw upon conception.

If one wishes to do his or her prospective children the greatest possible good, marry knowledgeably, wisely and well, and then breed with a clear conscience– and do so before age deteriorates the DNA that is to be passed along! Nature and evolution do not give a whit about ideologies….

Dan Hand said...

If you tell me which continent(s) and/or culture(s) you prefer to Europe and/or European culture, Todd, I will be happy to compare and contrast them. I was under the impression that you derived your belief system in opposition to collectivism– which is hardly a European invention!– from strictly European antecedents….

Todd Seavey said...

Ideas are a better proxy for real freedom than genes, and are changed by means other than alterations in genes. Why use a crude proxy? It’s like noting (accurately) that tall people are more likely to commit violent crime than short people and crusading against the tall instead of against violence per se. Fight belief in the welfare state and change minds instead of fighting Mexicans per se, in short.

Dan Hand said...

If one knew that a certain group of people were more likely to commit violent crimes than other people are, why in the world would any sane person invite more of those very people who are predisposed to committing such violent crimes to immigrate into one’s country? How best to combat violent crime within a society might well be an open question; whether to admit more people from a group known to be more prone to such crimes certainly ought not be one!

For the record, Todd, I am against all mass immigration– not just of Mexicans, or Hispanics, or Third Worlders. I believe that mass immigration is deleterious to any cohesive nation-state– not just to America, or other Western nations. Your confidence in your ability to change the immigrants before the immigrants permanently and deleteriously change the country and its culture are insufficient surety for such an outsize bet.

Jacob T. Levy said...

“It’s like noting (accurately) that tall people are more likely to commit violent crime than short people and crusading against the tall”

Sounds like a plan! Who do I make my check out to for the crusade?

[I don’t really want to debate the crazy race theory under consideration here– but I can’t help noting the… oddity… of Dan’s contrast between Mexicans and “European-derived stock.”)

Dan Hand said...

What “crazy race theory” is that, Jacob? The crazy theory that race is not a mere social construct? I would be happy to debate that claim with you– despite the fact that my earlier posts here do not mention race at all– but, since you “don’t really want to….” Certainly the late left-wing icon Susan Sontag believed in race: “The white race is the cancer of human history.” (Do you suppose that she was referring to herself when she wrote that, Jacob? No, I don’t think so, either.)

Regardless, Mexicans are not an ethnicity, let alone a race; Hispanics are an ethnicity, of sorts, but certainly not a race. Even Mexicans who are clearly as white and European as I am– say, journalist and ethnic cheerleader Jorge Ramos– do not see themselves as being like us “gringos” in America. It is they, their co-ethnics in America, and politically correct Americans who have created the pseudo-race of “Hispanics” (courtesy of the Nixon Administration), and who believe that the Jorge Ramoses of this brave New World are “persons of color” simply because their ancestors came from south of the Pyrenees Mountains rather than from north of them, and despite such people’s having no indigenous-Amerindian extraction whatsoever.

As I would have hoped would be obvious to all of those bright enough to be reading Todd’s blog, by “European-derived stocks,” I was simply referring to people who are descended from indigenous European peoples, rather than an admixture, and who view themselves as being of European extraction alone, as I do myself– i.e., we of the supposedly malignant “white race” that Ms. Sontag and her ilk have so bitterly despised.

The overriding issue as to immigration and social cohesion is about culture, not race, and especially about language. The same dynamic can be seen all over the world, from Canada to Belgium to China, without race (in the modern sense) ever entering into the picture. As even Harvard’s Dr. Robert Putnam belatedly admitted, after sitting on his own results for several years, because they did not conform to his own “liberal” illusions about its many blessings, diversity breeds systemic distrust throughout society– even between those who are similar to one another. It is not our great strength; it is arguably our single greatest threat.