Nation of Beancounters

Is it ethical to have kids?

Posted in New Ideas by Navin Kumar on April 19, 2012

Because who knows how their life will turn out. Bryan Caplan says yes,

Having a child is no more “ethically risky” than saving the life of an unconscious stranger lying in the gutter.  Yes, it’s possible that the stranger will turn out to be the next Hitler.  But that’s an absurd argument against lending a hand.  The odds of this horrific outcome are vanishingly low.  Indeed, as I’ve argued before, the mere existence of civilization shows that the average person is a creator, not a destroyer.  (I flesh out this argument in much greater detail in my book and here).

You could even argue that creating a life is less ethically risky than being a Good Samaritan.  On the plausible assumption that violent people are relatively likely to become the victims of violence themselves, there is some extra reason to worry about the stranger you’re saving.  In contrast, if you’re the sort of person who ponders the ethics of having kids, you’re probably a peaceful, intelligent, disciplined individual who can reasonably expect to pass these very traits on to your child.

An interesting comment:

It strikes me as weird to talk about this in a general sense, it depends on who is having the child. A married a professional couple having a child is not ethically risky, a unmarried, jobless, meth addict having a child *is* ethically risky.

Caplan is a person who practices what he preaches. His fourth child will be born this week!

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