Social Issues Do Parents Matter? Q&A with Bryan Caplan, Author of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids


In his best-selling book The Myth of the Rational Voter (2007) George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan demythologized the notion that American voters know what they are doing when they step into the ballot booth.

In his new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, Caplan does the same for the conventional wisdom about parenting. In a world of Tiger Moms and helicopter parents who monitor and agonize over every minor activity in which their children engage, the father of three says that parents actually have minimal influence over long-term outcomes for their children. Rather than fretting over whether junior is admitted into Baby Einstein violin programs, Caplan argues that parents should relax and learn to enjoy their kids' childhood.

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Caplan to discuss the research behind and the reception of his unconventional theory.

Shot by Jim Epstein and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Meredith Bragg. About 7 minutes.

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  1. People with kids do us all a favor by providing a clear and unmistakable signal not to invite them to anything fun.

    1. + 1,000

  2. I’ve never heard of “helicopter parents.” Is Ben Bernanke one?

  3. 300,000,000 is a sufficient number of slaves for this country. Why produce more? Let us all just die out and put ourselves out of our misery.

    1. Amen. Having kids just creates grist for the political class. Better to starve the beast.

  4. I’d like to hear about his expertise after his son throws a party for sixty kids, while he and the wife are hidden under blood splattered picture frames, and other junk with the wife on their bedroom floor

    1. why would they splatter blood on picture frames and then hide underneath them?

      Sorry, but wouldn’t this be like not listening to someone’s argument unless they have lived through the worst case scenario against it.

      1. Reference to blood splattered picture frames:…..olice.html

        My point: we all know kids that were fucked-up and they seemed normal. The nature VS. nurture paradigm is a mystery.

        Unless this guys kids are way into adulthood, he doesn’t know anything with his small study group

  5. To add to the type that agonizes over everything, I really despise how so many parents strictly and uncompromisingly filter everything their children read, watch, or listen to. My parents were Reds, and even they didn’t give a shit — I watched Reservoir Dogs when I was 8, porn by 12, and we even had horror movie nights (the more gore a movie had, the merrier my dad thought it would be). I could buy/ask for any movie or show and they didn’t check. I started shooting when I was 9, and my father bought me a shotgun for my 14th birthday. I didn’t even have curfews. I loved the freedom, and I haven’t murdered or raped or mutilated anybody so far. I haven’t flunked out of school. I haven’t hanged in the ‘hood with the homeboys, doin’ dem drugs.

    From what I’ve seen, parental totalitarianism is awful.

    1. It’s always been the kids’ duty to circumvent or defy the totalitarian rules of their parents.

      1. Also it trains them how to cope with their future master-slave relationship with the State.

        1. It reminds me of this:

          “Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy … censorship. When any government, or any church, for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, ‘This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,’ the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything. You cannot conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.” –Robert A. Heinlein, “Revolt in 2100”

          1. RPA, spot on regarding censorship and tyranny. As for raising kids sans rules, like you were? — Every kid is different. Some do self destruct. Its Darwinism, the stupid do stupid things. Doing stupid things does get you killed. For some reason Mommy and Daddy get upset when their offspring off themselves even if it is by accident.

    2. I had older siblings. So i saw plenty of stuff I had no business seeing. So what? Kids grow up in war zones and come out okay. Parents really are nuts today.

      1. On one hand, my neighbors a few houses down I made friends with asked me to teach their oldest son (other kid soon, as far as I can tell) to shoot, and they’re pretty great people to be around.

        On the other hand, you’ve got weirdos like the couple living two houses down on the other side of the street — they watch and read everything before allowing their kids to, and they make their children dress like SWAT for safety to ride a bike. That sort of parenting might have something to do with their kids acting and talking like automatons.

        1. There is pretty good scientific evidence that not taking risks when you are young both stunts your brain development and makes you a neurotic unhappy adult.

          1. It also gives you a leg up on your health department application.

          2. Screw scientific research. Did you see the Next Generation episode where Picard goes back in time and avoids being stabbed?

            1. I’m trying to make a time machine so I can go back in time and avoid seeing The Next Generation.

    3. Your parents played pro ball in cincy? Man, that must have sucked.

      Seriously, I watched every horror movie under the sun when I was a kid and I only killed a couple of people (and they weren’t even at camp!).

  6. So KMW thinks merit pay will smartify our special little retards. Meanwhile Caplan thinks genes are the only meaningful input for Princeton admission. Has the whole world gone crazy?

    1. Is that a trick question?

      1. Shush. He’s busy having an epiphany.

  7. Spare parts? Like a liver for a liver transplant.

  8. In a world of Tiger Moms and helicopter parents who monitor and agonize over every minor activity in which their children engage, the father of three says that parents actually have minimal influence over long-term outcomes for their children.

    Not sure I agree with that. I know several adult daughters of Tiger Moms and a surprising number of them had eating disorders.

    Maybe we can say that they have minimal direct intentional influence over the long-term outcomes for their children.

  9. Kids tend to model themselves after their parents. This is one of the things that makes nature/nurture so hard to disentangle.

    If you, as a parent, act controlling, insecure, fearful, and neurotic, then I have a pretty fair guess how your kids are going to turn out.

    1. Some of us saw our parents as a cautionary tale. As my daughter will no doubt see me.

      1. That’s the way I’m hoping it turns out.

  10. According to what I’ve read, the environment if a major determiner of behavior from ages 5 through 30, then genetics become more important than the environment.

  11. uh, reasontv? it is not a unconventional practice to let children enjoy their childhoods! the only reason you may see it that way is because most parents are religious wack jobs that rob their children of their childhoods, or they are just too stupid to know any better. the rest of us are doing fine thank you for not asking.

  12. My mother taught piano to many tiger mom offspring for 30 years. With one exception (the child was musically gifted), she says these children expertly played the piano at 100 wpm or more!

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