Alex Tabarrok hates children

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

The population of Bulgaria is in decline. Alex Taborrok raises the question of whether this should be a concern:

A correspondent wrote me asking what to do. I responded what’s the problem? Of course, there are plenty of things one could do to make Bulgaria a richer and better place to live, some of which Bulgaria has been doing and some of which they have not. The more fundamental question, however, is why the number of a particular type of people located in a particular geographically proscribed area should be a measure of welfare?

If we are going to reject an absolute understanding of what constitutes the good life, then we are left with the idea that welfare is whatever an individual wants. If they want children, then that is what society should attempt to make easy for them. Or if they want to keep a particular culture alive, then that too is what society should attempt to make easy for them.

This issue of keeping a culture alive seems to be the rare cases when all the different definitions of “utility” converge to the same answer. Whether you take a religious view, or an absolute view, or if you look at individual preferences, you still end up with the same conclusion in this case: people in Bulgaria want to have children, and want to keep their culture alive.

So in this case, Alex Tabarrok is taking an extreme position, a sort of aggravated and obtuse militancy in favor of a very particular understanding the way economists sometimes talk about utility. He invokes a long tradition of talking about utility, in the field of economics, and he twists it into a kind of militant political implication.

It is a bit exhausting to watch smart people act stupid. It should be enough to point out that people everywhere want to have children, and society has a moral obligation to help them achieve their dreams.

It is also worth noting that people typically want to keep their culture alive, and the government will have to help them in this regard.