Bryan Caplan  

To Cut or Not to Cut?

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When I was finishing up The Myth of the Rational Voter, I weighed whether I should cut the paragraph on restricting the franchise:

But what -- if anything -- can be done to improve outcomes, taking the supremacy of democracy over the market as fixed?  The answer depends on how flexibly you define "democracy."  Would we still have a "democracy" if you needed to pass a test of economic literacy to vote?  If you needed a college degree?  Both of these measures raise the economic understanding of the median voter, leading to more sensible policies.  Franchise restrictions were historically used for discriminatory ends, but that hardly implies that they should never be used again for any reason.  A test of voter competence is no more objectionable than a driving test.  Both bad driving and bad voting are dangerous not merely to the individual who practices them, but to innocent bystanders...

I knew this paragraph might provoke hysterical hostility.  But I thought that (a) it made a good point, and (b) angry reactions would confirm my broader thesis that many people are democratic fundamentalists.  In the end, it made the cut - and probably ended up being the single most-discussed paragraph in the book.  Radio hosts brought it up again and again.

Now that I'm finishing up Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, another controversial passage is on the chopping block.  In the current draft, this paragraph concludes my discussion of cloning:

I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally.  Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet.  Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son.  Seriously.  I want to experience the sublime bond I'm sure we'd share.  I'm confident that he'd be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me.  I'm not pushing others to clone themselves.  I'm not asking anyone else to pay for my dream.  I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone.  Is that too much to ask?

My reasons to keep it, as before, are: (a) it makes a good point, and (b) angry reactions would confirm my broader thesis that many people senselessly oppose assisted reproductive technology.  The downside, of course, is alienating otherwise sympathetic readers.  The upside of the downside is that controversy is excellent publicity.  Should my cloning confession make the final cut?

Advise me.

Update: Check out many additional comments on MR.  My prediction: Once a few thousand cloned humans are walking the earth, sneering at clones and people who want them will become as gauche as sneering at IVF babies and people who want them.

Comments and Sharing

TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
TrackBack URL:
The author at Population Statistic in a related article titled Raising Yourself, Via Cloning writes:
    Economics professor Bryan Caplan is writing a new book, to be entitled "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids". And, as the following late-draft paragraph illustrates, he's taking "selfish" to unprecedented levels: [Tracked on April 20, 2010 11:41 PM]
The author at It Don't Mean Much, These Seats are Cheap. in a related article titled The Value in Cloning writes:
    Always one to ignite a firestorm, Bryan Caplan takes a fairly controversial stance on cloning: I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally. Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to m... [Tracked on April 21, 2010 10:54 PM]
The author at It Don't Mean Much, These Seats are Cheap. in a related article titled The Life of Bryan writes:
    The very extremely biased public has spoken. So without further adieu; here is Bryan Caplan, raising Bryan Caplan. [Click image to enlarge] It’s not the best, the product of 10 minutes’ work. Bryan should send me his manuscript as soon as p... [Tracked on April 23, 2010 1:45 AM]
COMMENTS (78 to date)
rapscallion writes:

You only live once and you're very lucky to have a position where you won't be fired for saying such things. Be bold. Write for the ages. Leave it in.

Contemplationist writes:

Absolutely Bryan.

Don't be intimidated to stay within the shackles of our fashionable, "progressive", PC age. Go Bold.

Doc Merlin writes:

For one, restrictions on voting are far too easy to abuse.

As to the cloning? Leave it in. You are in a position to say controversial things without strong negative repercussions, so go for it.

AMW writes:

Future Bryan arguing with his cloned son:

"Don't tell me I don't understand. I remember what it was like to be a kid in school. Hell, I remember what it was like to be *you* in school!"

Adam Ozimek writes:

I won't lie to you Bryan, that makes you sound a little crazy. I think you should keep it in because you have a valuable reputation as someone who is willing to say unpopular things you believe are true, and because it will generate controversy. But it really does make you seem like a nut. A critic might wonder if you'd also want to dance, ride a tandem bicycle, fall in love, and then marry your clone. I'm not suggesting this... I'm just saying a critic might.

Michael writes:

Leave it in. But my advice is to excise 'Seriously.' It signals that you are not serious, but contrarian.

8 writes:

The government doesn't even leave hairdressers alone and your argument is too weak to spark any controversy. Leave it in, but say that you want to intentionally harm or deform the clone in utero and that this should not be illegal. Then you will have a controversial paragraph.

GiaNT writes:

Because of stuff like this I'm reading this blog.

Sally writes:

I agree with Adam Ozimek, it does make you sound crazy.

SB7 writes:

I'd leave it in, but it's not as strong a paragraph as the one from MotRV. I'm not sure exactly why, but here are two candidates:

"...the sublime bond I'm sure we'd share." — How can you have any confidence in the difference between the bond with a clonal child and that with a "normal" child without having experienced both? You seem to be taking a leap of faith that sharing DNA, or being aware of sharing DNA, will lead to a qualitatively different experience.

"I'm confident that he'd be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me." — Similar complaint here. I know you're being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but aren't you presupposing that your clonal child will want the same things you want? Perhaps you address this in other paragraphs, but it is worth repeating that genes code for proteins, not behaviors and certainly not cognitive states.

Matthew Gunn writes:

Would restricting voter eligibility suffer all the problems associated with gerrymandered districts? As implemented in the real world, wouldn't the incentives be for incumbents to define voter eligibility in such a way as to benefit themselves at the expense of outsiders?

You could imagine wars over the definition of "college educated." Eg. does University of Phoenix Online count as a college? And would the positions of Republican and Democrat legislators be based on some principle or the statistical correlation with party registration?

Restrictions on suffrage is a provocative policy proposal, but I think it suffers from a classical policy failing... it is not robust to implementation by greedy, self interested politicians.

Sara writes:

It depends on why you're writing the book. If the point is self-expression, putting your thoughts down for posterity etc., then leave it in.

But I have to agree that it makes you sound crazy and extremist to most people. If you hope to actually convince people to have more kids, take it out.

Logically, your argument about having more kids should stand on its own. But in reality, people take advice based largely on the how much they trust they advice-giver. Take it out if you want to be trusted.

Will Wilkinson writes:

There is an excellent story possibility here. Man who thinks genes matter more than they do raises a clone of himself. Teenage child, disgusted by his own narcissism, murders his narcissistic father/clone to prove to himself that he is not a puppet of fate. The murderer's DNA cannot be distinguished from his victim's and so the killing is ruled a suicide. He is adopted by his twin older brothers/sons.

martin kennedy writes:

... alienating otherwise sympathetic readers.

That's my category.

Tom Davies writes:

It makes you sound as though you have preconceived ideas of how you want your child to turn out, implying that you might not accept him (or how about a female clone -- just one less Y and another X, almost the same as you) if he turns out to be more different from you than you expect. Of course we all do have preconceived ideas, and we don't accept everything our children do, but most people try to downplay that.

Steve Sailer writes:

What does Mrs. Caplan think about Professor Caplan's desire to create a child untainted by Mrs. Caplan's genes? Does Professor Caplan intend to have Mrs. Caplan bear his clone for him? Does Professor Caplan intend to have Mrs. Caplan pick up after his clone for 21 years? Will Mrs. Caplan appreciate it when she and her husband's immature clone get into an argument and Professor Caplan sides with his clone against his wife?

Matthew Gunn writes:

Just to expand on my point, if the current Congress passed a bill limiting suffrage, would the groups most likely to lose the right to vote not be the least educated but bankers, free market economists, people making over $250,000 a year, smokers, and whoever else is a popular villain of the day.

Badger writes:

I'm totally serious when I say that I wouldn't like to have myself as a father. And that by itself makes me think that I wouldn't like to have myself as a son.

Tom writes:

Not having read your published books but as an EconLog reader who's read several of your works on your homepage, I think you're nuts (in a normally quite interesting and non-pejorative manner) already and won't be offended, and I suspect book readers will think the same. Other people will, I believe, share Adam Ozimek's view and simply think you're nuts.

agnostic writes:

I say keep the line about "I'd love to be raised by me" -- great line. But to add something not quite so self-centered, maybe add in another one about how cool it would be to see how your genes (or spirit or soul) would build your body and mind growing up in a different environment, plus just the role of chance -- the clone would wind up very similar due to shared genes but different due to different environments.

And the cool thing is that it wouldn't be like two identical twins marveling at their similarities and differences: the different environment for your clone would be due to differences across time. Imagine if you came of age during Generation X's hey-day, while your clone came of age during the Millennials' hey-day.

That makes it sound like you're stepping back from Bryan Caplan the individual and arguing on behalf of an eternal set of genes that should be able to build up a full human being across any time and place. Most of the pushback against cloning will be from religious or spiritual types, and this sounds more spiritual than "it would be awesome to raise myself."

Fenn writes:

anyone familiar enough with your writing to gauge your self satisfaction will probably be surprised you didn't lead off the book with it.

cut it since it's already understood

Andrew_M_Garland writes:

Leave the paragraph in, but make it the last paragraph in the book.

() Offended people won't stop reading in the middle of the book.

() Many people won't see the paragraph at all. (smile)

azmyth writes:

You've branded yourself as an innovative, contrarian thinker. I would guess that bizarre ideas is what a lot of people buy Caplan books for. Packing as many controversial ideas as you can into books you write, whether you believe them or not is probably your best profit-maximizing strategy.

Peter Twieg writes:

I thought it was was weird and consequently you'll be discounted as such by some (if it's not too late already), and undoubtedly people who don't like you in general will only use it as a salient example of how weird you are, but ultimately it didn't risk being offensive in the same way that musing with a restricted suffrage is to a lot of people. I don't think it'll push people's buttons as a sociocultural issue as much as your (brief) discussion of geoengineering would.

I ultimately don't think it'll do much to turn people off at the margin, however.

fmb writes:

I don't think you've struck the right balance.

Suppose that instead you weakened the strength of your hope by not using words like "dream", "sublime", "delighted", etc. Your positive goals of making a good point and generating useful controversy will be achieved to almost the same degree by merely suggesting you "might" want to do this and that you "have reason to think" it would work out in your case. But you'd materially dial down the crazy/alienate-readers index.

In other words, dial the craziness up or down until the marginal benefit equeals the marginal cost. I think you're over that line now.

Note that people confuse 'clearly a good idea' with 'clearly will work out well' (which I'm sure you understand is a higher standard). You sound like you think it will 'clearly work out', which would seem unwarranted to almost everyone, and that's what (IMO) signals craziness.

Azazello writes:

The "Rational Voter" paragraph makes you sound contrarian and coldly rational; that's not such a bad way for you (and your book) to be perceived. To be honest, I think the cloning paragraph makes you sound creepy and narcissistic -- a much more distracting and unflattering perception.

If you leave such sentiments in, it might be a good idea to edit to make them less "personal" and more hypothetical.

Les writes:

Tests or hurdles for voters seem like excellent ideas. Why should those who are more informed and more productive have the same single vote as a person of no achievement? I say extra votes for extra accomplishments.

As for cloning, having another son or daughter is fine. But in my opinion having a clone reeks of narcissism.

Scott writes:

"I'm confident that he'd be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me."

If this is the case then it's almost certain that your clone/son would think likewise and choose to do the same as would his clone/son as would his clone/son ad infinitum.

A critical mass of likeminded people would indeed revolutionize the field of twin studies over generations.

Daniel writes:

I'd agree with a lot of others here. You're an innovative thinker, so it would probably work out OK. That is, OK for everyone but one reader...your future clone son. I would guess that a son reading that as the reason you had him would think, "Wow, my dad is an asshole!"

Then again, no matter how genetically identical he is to you, he's going to think that a lot in his teen years anyways!


Morgan Price writes:

Bryan, I think you're overestimating how much your clone/son would be like a younger twin. And are you planning to raise your clone by yourself?

Also, I'm sure you realize that cloning mammals is not (yet?) reliable or safe -- I think it is odd not to mention this in your concluding paragraph.

Swimmy writes:

I love this paragraph, but it is much weirder than the one in MotRV. Critics will dismiss the entire book because you're a "weirdo." Irrational? Yes. Good publicity? I'm not so sure.

My girlfriend excitedly proclaims, "No, keep it in there!" She is also a little weird, and so am I; I think it would be a shame to see it go.

Kurbla writes:

The purpose of democracy is not to ensure high quality of political decisions.

The purpose of democracy is to allow political changes on peaceful, non-violent way. Instead of counting guns, we count votes.

This is essential difference, and in every discussion on democracy, every public lecture, it should be one of the starting points.

Quality of the political decisions is - hopefully - improved through education, discussion, research. It is largely orthogonal issue to the problem of peaceful change. Both are important.

Kurbla writes:

I forgot on cloning - yes, it is OK. I'm on your side.

mobile writes:

This passage isn't as related to your thesis as the one from Rational Voter. Someone who accepted the arguments in MotRV would naturally be willing to think about changes in enfranchisement as a natural policy response to discuss.

I'm not sure the new passage follows so clearly from the arguments in your new book. Someone could not like cloning, but still accept all the other arguments in your book. The passage could make the book a lightning rod for people with strong views about cloning, and it would be harder to persuade otherwise thoughtful people with reservations about cloning.

If you want to make an argument for the selfish reasons to clone yourself, I think you should put it in another book. Or put it in the 2nd edition when it's time to drum up interest in your book again.

kebko writes:

After just listening to the most recent Russ Roberts/Mike Munger podcast, this seems to fit into the category fit for gift-giving. You come off as narcissistic if you get your own clone, but it makes a wonderful gift. Maybe you could change it to getting your wife a clone for her birthday. Maybe you could even make it a clone of yourself....Well, that makes it seem even more weird.

[link added--Econlib Ed.]

Daniel writes:

I'm not sure how related it is to your main claim. If you want readers to buy into your main argument , they presumably will have to sympathize with you:

"Oh yeah, Lemony Snicket! I read that to my son every day" versus going down a slippery slope to thinking of where genetic engineering efforts *have* gone in the past. "If I think like this Caplan guy I've never met, will my friends marginalize me/think I'm a racist?" I think in order to win over the laity they have to at least think that they can recommend the book to a friend without possibly being shunned and labeled over an isolated paragraph.

I agree with your position, but think you should cut it because it would discredit your credibility among the laity.

Bryan writes:

I say leave it in. It's surprising, personal, and provocative.

It may alienate a few people, but so what? Better to be interesting.

[N.B. The commenter is a different Bryan, not Bryan Caplan--Econlib Ed.]

SydB writes:

You might as well leave it in so you will have more opportunities in the future to write blogs posts boasting about how awesome, brave, iconoclastic, and cutting-edge you are. And then the people who read you will be able to cheer and stroke your ego as in the comments above.

Win win. No downside. Go for it.

Sean Boag writes:

This is the best Econ Log entry ever ! Followed by the best econ log comment ever too (Steve Sailer??) !

mike kenny writes:

for me, just stylistically i hate reading moralistic stuff in which people take things personally and kind of look down their noses at me...mainly because i feel like i can't get a word in...because, well it's a book.

on the other hand i love moralism when i agree with it, so if you want to preach to the choir, moralism is probably great, but if you want to preach to others, moralism i think is probably a bad tactic...though i think maybe moralism and harsh words that the reader doesn't agree with might be good when the moralism amplifies the milder view of the reader...

maybe the attitude that ethics is this simple thing is a turn off to some. the paragraph sounds just kind of like you lack sympathy for the other sides--and i guess that could be true and fine, but at the same time if viewing an ethical problem as simple is going to piss people off and consequently hurt the propagation of your ideas, i suppose strategically you might want to take another approach...maybe a simple approach would be to say something like, 'realizing this issue is a challenge, my own take thus far is...' tyler cowen is super good at those comforting disclaimers.

Robinson writes:

Leave it in- it's a great plan.

However, I think we're all interested to hear what your spouse thinks!

Jeremy H. writes:

Those arguing against disenfranchisement on general grounds are ignoring the reality that most U.S. states do restrict the voting franchise already.

The largest categories are non-citizens and convicted felons. And the numbers are not insignificant. Nationwide, roughly 8.6% and 2.0% of the voting age population are ineligible for these two reasons. At the state-level the extremes are: 18.9% of California adults are not citizens; and 7.5% of Alabama adults (31.5% of black males) are ineligible due to criminal records.


blink writes:

Yes, it is provocative. I wonder if it would not be read as a "the grass is always greener" sentiment, though. Are you prepared to answer the critic who asks: What's wrong with your biological kids? Don't you have a sublime bond with them? Aren't they satisfying? Still, as a true feeling, it probably belongs in the book.

Jeff writes:

I would leave it in, of course.

As for the actual substance of the comment: a potential downside might be that it would alienate your existing, non-clone children. It seems very possible that they'd become overly sensitive to issues of fairness or favoritism, they (and others, I would add) might come to see you as vain, or become jealous of the "sublime bond" you develop with your genetic twin/child.

I don't see it as ethically objectionable, just throwing that out there.

Alex writes:

Have you considered the externalities of another human being (particularly one who is genetically identical to yourself /snark)?

zack writes:

makes YOU seem, that should be.

Martin writes:

This is a fascinating idea, and I have no moral objections. On a practical level though, I really doubt it's going to work out the way you seem to expect. Frankly, I wouldn't include it because it seems to betray a lack of wisdom.

I'm not convinced that your clone child will seem particularly different from a natural child. Genetics is not predisposition.

Normal children already suffer from not living up to their parent's expectations. I fear your clone child would find himself under a more uncomfortable microscope than most.

You see this is a great idea from your adult perspective, but parents don't rebel from their children, nor do they generally understand why their children rebel from them.

If all your expectations are met and your clone child does in fact share a "sublime bond" with you, don't you think your wife would find herself in an unpleasant Freudian situation for any of a number of reasons?

DK writes:

I'm confident that he'd be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me.

LOL, Bryan, "confident"? Sorry but you can't be that/i> stupid.

And a piece of advice: Better screen that oocyte donor really well and hope for some luck. Something in her mitochondrial genome happens to not play well with your nuclear genes and the little Bryan might end up with issues you never had.

Lenin3 writes:

Dr. Caplan,

Doesn't this really reek of endowment effect of your genes?

And what of your wife? Or even your children now? Do the 'non-you' genes really make that connection so difficult? Are you really that much of an egoist? Isn't human connection really much more about relationships and not the attributes of those with whom you have relationships?

R. Pointer writes:

It depends who the selfish actor is in your title?



Your Genes?

John Galt writes:

To give a little attention to the first paragraph:

The driving analogy is a sloppy one. We can all easily agree on what should be in a driving test (more or less). Any test to qualify as a voter will reflect the ideology of whoever makes the test, and is thus contentious. Even to make it a test on economic literacy and not something else reflects an ideology. Yours. Much less the questions themselves. Even if you, Bryan, got to be drafter of this test, and tried hard as you might to neutral (let’s set aside that you’d think libertarianism IS neutral), it would be open to manipulation by less-benevolent folks as time goes by.

Short answer is you can’t there from here. We’d have to already have a non-democracy, else we’d have to vote on qualification requirements. For the same reasons, you of course wouldn’t want all the uneducated riff-raff voting on the voting requirements, so you’d need to establish qualifications for them. Ad infinitum.

Rama writes:

Isn't it sufficient to "know thyself?" Must one raise oneself also ?

David writes:

It's good and you know it is so put it in.

SydB writes:

"gauche as sneering at IVF babies and people who want them."

Not only do you purposely draw attention to yourself, but you also work overtime playing the sympathy card (for your poor twins and yourself in the present case).

SydB writes:

For the time being, the question is really moot. From the national academies report:

"To date, five mammalian species -- sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, and mice -- have been used extensively in reproductive cloning studies. Data from these experiments clearly illustrate the problems involved and are quite compelling, the report says. Typically, very few cloning attempts are successful. Many clones die in utero -- even at late stages or soon after birth -- and those that survive frequently exhibit severe birth defects. In addition, female animals carrying cloned fetuses may face serious risks, including death from cloning-related complications. Human reproductive cloning is likely to have similar negative outcomes.

Because many eggs are needed for human reproductive cloning attempts, human experimentation could subject more women to adverse health effects -- either from high levels of hormones used to stimulate egg production or because more women overall would be sought to donate eggs, which involves surgery with its own inherent risks, the panel noted.

Some proponents of human reproductive cloning have argued that voluntary, informed consent would give people the option of making their own decisions about participating in research. But when critical information is lacking, as it would be in this case, fully informing patients of potential health effects is difficult or impossible. Moreover, the cloned offspring -- who would face the greatest risks of abnormality and death -- would not be in a position to offer consent. These circumstances provide additional reasons to exercise caution, the report says."

marko writes:

I'd like to have myself as dad. And I'm pretty sure my clone would LOVE to have me as his dad, since that is his only chance of ever being born.

But, I'm not really sure I would like my wife to see her son in 30 years and think about sex she was having with me when I was his age.

eccdogg writes:

I would drop it.

1) I don't believe it follows naturally from the rest of the book or your main thesis.

2) It makes you seem egotistical and unwise (I don't think you are).

3) It will turn off readers who may agree with your broader point and make all your ideas suspsect.

Now these points are mainly coming from the assumption as quoted on your website that you actually want to change people's behavior and get them to have more children. If your goal is to sell more books then I say leave it in.

Marc writes:

I think you should leave it in. It's completely changed my opinion of cloning. I hadn't thought deeply about it before, but I had a instinctual negative gut reaction. Having pondered that paragraph, I've changed my mind, and would be pro cloning.

My experience might not be common but at least you can use it to justify why you left the paragraph in when people (rightly) accuse you of deliberately courting controversy. Tell it as a homely "joe the plumber" story and you may even sell the excuse to some conservatives.

Tim writes:

I still find the whole chapter a distraction from the rest of the book. I think you risk both losing and alienating readers. That said, if you're going to keep the chapter (and that graff) you should rewrite it with the intention of *not* losing readers. You'll have dragged a lot of people to this point in the book because the rest of it is entertaining and thought-provoking. It would be shame to have them stop when they're most of the way through.

Bob Murphy writes:

My quick scan suggests that there hasn't yet been a Mini-Me reference. Come on guys.

Zdeno writes:

^^ Why settle for billions (of clones) when you can have.... MILLIONS

Trevor H writes:

I vote no, for selfish reasons. What I know of your thesis encouraging more natality is that broader acceptance of it will be good for the public, and thus for me. Adding this useless provocative paragraph might be good for Bryan Caplan if it sells more books, but I think will probably reduce its social utility by discrediting that thesis - whether that's a fair outcome or not.

Now I concede there is uncertainty about both the sign and magnitude of that thesis discrediting effect, but my intuition is that the risk is far below the efficient frontier, if I may get all MBA on you.

Brian Clendinen writes:

Thanks for bringing this up, this is the fundamental problem with human cloning, the consequence of the trial and error/reject process.

If one is Pro-choice then I can see how one would believe it is rational position. Still a lot of ethical issues to consider but the position makes sense.

However, if one is pro-life and believes life starts at conception, human cloning is worse than the Nazi's and Japanese’s human test in world war two on live human subjects. The number of humans one would have to destroy to get one viable clone that would live even a few days as a normal infant would is atrocious. Add into the high likelihood of shorter death, numerous other health issues, and we do not even know the types of mental handicaps cloning could have on brain function at first or how long it would take to get rid of them. One would have to create and allow to die hundreds of thousands if not millions of clones even pro-choicer would consider human before we increased quality so the death/mutations of a clone was roughly equivalent to test tub babies. I do not find the justification and creating maybe tens of millions of sub-humans to justify finally being able to give someone a good clone of themselves.

So any pro-lifer will always be against human cloning. If one is pro-choice there still is the sticky issue of a poor quality of life for clones for decades possible centuries until enough medical history was compiled and solution were devised and tested to eliminate the quality variances between clone and non-clones.

Therefore, since you are pro-choice , you need to explain in your book when a fetus/embryo becomes a human? Then from that point you would need to justify the estimated human cost of progress. Do that or leave the statement out. It is to simple and generic of a statement with-out explaining the rational of why the cost justifies the means. The line about It being about personal right is only relevant if one believes a Clone is a human child (many do not believe that which I find silly), and is from a practical standpoint on all sides not really any different from having one the natural way (which is what you are missing).

frankl writes:

keep it in and drop "Seriously" since it's redundant

truth=freedom writes:

If I were you, I'd leave it in. Expand on it even.

But, to be clear, the reason is that I think the idea, as you describe it, demonstrates your complete failure to grasp the relative influence that development has as opposed to one's genetic make-up. More compellingly than anything else you could write it trumpets your ignorance of biology and psychology.

So, please, leave it in. It'll serve as a warning sign to so many people who might otherwise be tempted to believe you have something valuable to contribute.

Chris writes:

Either you're fine with all of humanity spending a third of its child-rearing (not to mention -bearing) resources on selfish hits to the diversity of the gene pool, or you regard yourself as exceptional ("superior" probably [your tone certainly suggests it], but--more meaningfully--"ready to take for himself what others will not"). Will you say which it is? The spirit in which we do the things we do bears as heavily upon our trajectory--as humans and as humanity--as the things themselves. But to answer your question, maybe it threatens to upset a delicate balance? You can pull off selfishness OR conceitedness but both is probably more than your brand can carry. And a person can only be as controversial as he is relevant.

Brandon Minster writes:

Just a question: if you did have a child who was your own clone, in addition to the kids you already have, do you think you'd have a problem with favoritism?

Steve Roth writes:

Not knowing the whole section of the book:

I'd say that if you've given the best possible arguments against cloning (especially societal/systemic impacts), presented in the most convincing possible manner (no straw men, etc.), and refuted them, you should include it.

gabe writes:

Copyrights imply the right to copy. Cloning is the copying of one's genes.


Bryan Caplan copies his genes through cloning


strong property rights on copyrights in the United States


Bryan Kaplan owns his clone


People are more free now than in 1890, as they have more property rights. QED

Nan writes:

"I'm confident that he'd be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me."

Your clone isn't you. He's himself. He may be genetically identical to you, but his experiences and environment will be radically different, starting from the moment of conception onward. He's his own person.

I've known a number of fathers who viewed their sons as little copies of themselves and it rarely turned out well.

Loof writes:

When ordered by a narcissist personality one “loves” to look in any mirror. And, believing nurture is next to nothing, nature becomes almost everything. A clone is a way to mirror selfish love for a material socialist, potentially forever.

Bill writes:

I bet it wouldn't be as cool as it seems. Any substantial failure on the part of the clone will make it seem like you screwed up on the nuture end. Any succcess of the clone that outshines you will make you second guess what you have accomplished (like if your clone's wife is way more or way less hot).

UVR writes:

Leave the cloning paragraph in, but "fix" the logic in it. "I'm confident that he'd be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me" isn't cogent, for technically speaking, you wouldn't be the one being raised, your clone would. So this should either be

() (backward looking) ... because I would have loved to have been raised by me (but you weren't; you were raised by your parents)
() (forward looking) ... because I would love to raise myself

Of course, there's still the fact that your clone, despite being generically identical to you, wouldn't really be "you." That's ok, though.

Neil writes:

Hi there, I have an extended response here:

Gene Keyes writes:

It's a keeper. I've posted an s-f romantic comedy (in adjoining English and Esperanto versions, no less), The Me Clone / La Mi-Klono
which also dwells on philosophic and practical implications.

John Culhane writes:

Of course you're going to keep it in. This isn't a serious question. But the substantive issue you raise DOES raise serious questions, and we as a society have not done a good job debating them. I also question what appears to be the underlying assumption that your clone would be "you" -- good luck with that. I address the point further on my blog:

[Home link replaced with relevant permanent link in comment text.--Econlib Ed.]

NancyH writes:

a friend linked this post to start a discussion of cloning... which has been interesting!

on the cloning snippet: i think you have a point about identical twins, and about the possibility of using cloning as a reproductive technology. however, i think you should leave out the part about how great you think raising a clone of yourself would be :) i wouldn't say most children appreciate the gift of genetic material from their parents, and i don't see why a clone child would be any different.

ERIC writes:

Aren't we all our parents half-clones?

You are just taking it a step further.

I'd keep it in and perhaps explore this idea a bit.

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