"I'm Basically a Libertarian."


I'm basically a libertarian. I don't want to restrict anyone from doing anything unless it's going to harm me. I don't want pass a law stopping someone from smoking. It's just too dangerous. You lose the concept of a free society. Since we are genetically so diverse and our brains are so different, we're going to have different aspirations.

That's James Watson, Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of DNA, talking in the January 2007 issue of Esquire. More of that here (full disclosure: the Esquire page seems to be missing random words of Watson's wisdom).

In the Fall 2005 issue of New Perspectives Quarterly, Watson was asked whether there should be "some legal restriction[s] on genetic research." His answer:

I would say no. I am very libertarian. If someone discovers one day that we can add a gene so that children can be born more intelligent, or more beautiful, or healthier—well, I do not see why not to do it. I do not believe that suffering does any good to a person. Some people say: "Christ suffered, therefore men also need to suffer." I do not buy this argument. Today, we do not have the ability to improve humanity in this way. If someday we can, why not do it? Some people allege that this would favor the rich, but there is no novelty there.The rich always buy the new technologies before other people.

Full Q & A here.

And in July 2003, Watson told Discover this in reaction to a hypothetical in which he's "put in charge" of what the country should "do" about genetics:

My sensibility is very libertarian. Just let all genetic decisions be made by individual women. That is, never ask what's good for the country; ask what's good for the family. I don't know what's good for the country, but you can often say what's good or bad for the family. That is, mental disease is no good for any family. And so if there's a way of trying to fight that, I'd let a woman have the choice to do it or not do it. Not give in and have the state tell you to have a certain sort of child. I would be very frightened by the state telling you one way or the other.

Whole thing here.

Hat tip to the folks at The Institute for Humane Studies.

Reason's Ronald Bailey discussed biopolitics–and why individuals, and not states–should be allowed to make genetic decisions here (among other places).

Reason's January 2006 cover story, "Who's Afraid of Radical Human Enhancement?," was a heated debate on related topics. Read it here.