By Bryan Caplan, here. An extremely swift convergence on Godwin's Law too. This is an especially bad paragraph (which came after arguing that eugenics doesn't have to be misanthropic... because Bryan argues that at least we can trade with all those sub-humans, so of course there's nothing wrong with separating the human wheat from the human chaff as long as they can trade). The offending paragraph on Malthusianism, though:
"Malthusianism, in contrast, is intrinsically misanthropic. By
hook or by crook, population has to go down. Sure, they'd prefer
voluntary sub-replacement fertility. But if that's not in the cards,
the next steps are government pressure to discourage fertility, then
caps on family size, followed by forced sterilization, mandatory
abortion, and finally mass murder."
No Bryan. Mass murder does not follow from Malthusianism. But if you do worry about the things Malthus worried about, you are practically the opposite of a misanthrope because your whole concern revolves around the prospect of human suffering and starvation as a result of resource constraints. Granted, human starvation is precisely a prospect that Bryan recently embraced as the only ethical outcome of a dilemma where some humans are more naturally equipped than others.
He goes on:
"My claim is not that, "Malthusianism is false
because Hitler believed it." Hitler presumably believed that the sky is
blue. My claim, rather, is that Malthusianism is a more dangerous doctrine than eugenics.
If the whiff of eugenics leads you to say, "We should be very careful
here, because these ideas can easily lead to terrible things," the whiff
of Malthusianism should inspire even greater trepidation."
Why??? Bryan claims he's not just doing Nazi guilt-by-association, but when you scrutinize the post all he offers is Nazi guilt-by-association!!! Malthusianism, in a given period, is either right or its wrong. This is not a morality play. Until the industrial revolution, Malthus was essentially right. The industrial revolution changed that in many parts of the world, and then Malthus was wrong. We're going through a period of exponential population growth right now which would suggest that Malthus will rear his ugly head again soon... but not necessarily. We're going through a period of exponential economic growth too, such that so far we have been able to provide for all our needs. But there are two potential problems:
1. The explosive economic growth may not continue... unlikely in my opinion unless there's some exogenous institutional disturbance.
2. Unintended consequences cause more problems - say, with climate change - than we can solve in time. This I consider much more likely.
But the point is Malthusianism is either a relevant fact of human society at a point in time or its not. If it is a fact at a particular point in time we shouldn't shy away from it the way Bryan suggests. If it's not a fact at a particular point in time, then we shouldn't worry about it.
But if it is a risk, I don't see what in Bryan's brain reaches automatically for mass murder as the solution. I would have thought the solution would be innovation, migration, and careful public and private planning.
I don't know what's up with Bryan Caplan - he's had some very questionable stuff on the blog lately.
Tuesday New York Times Smackdown: Eric Wemple
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