Bryan Caplan on

by Russ Roberts on July 22, 2011

in Books, Parenting

Nick Gillespie interviews Bryan about his parenting book. It opens with Gillespie reciting perhaps the greatest R-rated poem of all time, Phillip Larkin’s anti-paean to parenting. Bryan takes it in stride. Not the R-rated part, but the challenge implicit in the poem.

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Sam Grove July 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Malthusians should volunteer to be first to leave.

IU Student July 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I agree, but it must be done in an environmentally friendly manner.

Scott G July 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm


Your audience would grow at a greater rate if you reduced your talking speed a little. You might want to conduct an experiment in which you measure your words per minute in this video and compare it to Nick’s, and then determine if that speed of talking is pleasant to most people.


Brad Hutchings July 22, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Talking speed is probably genetic. Professor Caplan is probably better served by breeding more than by trying to alter his cadence to your liking.

vikingvista July 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm

“The ability to change others is overestimated, the ability to change yourself is underestimated.”
–Bryan Caplan

It’s a good day for Caplan quotes.

Greg Webb July 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

Excellent quote!

Jim July 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Great interview!

1. Given his celebration of the individual, I am surprised Caplan did not counsel parents to interact with their children as emerging ‘choosers.’ I speak to my son as an adult who does not yet know very much. IMHO he makes very good choices.

2. Having a child was very good for increasing my emotional intelligence. It is a compelling argument for having children younger rather than older:)

Methinks1776 July 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm

S**t. I shoulda had kids.

vikingvista July 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm

YOU definitely should’ve had kids. Many kids. As a public service.

Methinks1776 July 22, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Thank you for the compliment, VV. I hope you have at least a dozen for the same reason.

Gil July 23, 2011 at 4:20 am

Yet muirgeo did. Dah, dah, dahhhhhhhh . . .

brotio July 23, 2011 at 6:18 pm


Thanks for agreeing that your friend, Yasafi, is a muirpocrite!

muirgeo July 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Wow… libertarians joining the ranks of other religions telling their flock to go forth and multiply to increase the power of their leaders… yep it’s a religion and it’s as frightfull as any of them.

The Other Tim July 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm

You know that thing you did earlier today where you read something by Will, turned it into something entirely different, and then went on a rant over something the author didn’t say but you wished he’d said?

Yeah, you’re doing it again.

You don’t add anything to the discussion here, and if you get personal satisfaction from being a troll you need mental help, so I would suggest once again you leave and never come back, for the well-being of all involved.

brotio July 23, 2011 at 1:13 am

Glad that you brought that up! Yasafi left the Cafe a few years ago, vowing never to return. Yet, here he is. And he calls George Will a liar.

brotio July 22, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Not nearly as frightening as The Church of Anthropogenic Climate Change (formerly known as The Church of Anthropogenic Warming), which is led by His Holiness: The Divine Prophet Algore I.

Libertarians don’t advocating forced breeding, but members of The Church do advocate government-imposed breeding limits. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Grand Inquisitor: Cardinal Yasafi Torquemuirduck is one who advocates such limits.

muirgeo July 23, 2011 at 8:42 am

Yeah bro…studying science and math is a religion….science bad.

brotio July 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm

What you wrap in the cloak of “science” is Statist conjecture.

I do take note that you didn’t refute my assertion that your Church (and possibly you) support government-imposed breeding limits.

JoshINHB July 24, 2011 at 10:58 am

Yeah bro…studying science and math is a religion…

When did warmists start doing that?

Kirby July 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

That’s the beauty of libertarianism: There is no power, and there is no leader.

Kirby July 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

And there is no flock, and there is no telling , and there is no ranks

muirgeo July 23, 2011 at 8:46 am

“And there is no flock, and there is no telling , and there is no ranks”

Yeah no flock… all equal except those that are more equal…

vikingvista July 23, 2011 at 11:14 am

“all equal except those that are more equal”

You remind us daily that not all are equal in intellect.

muirgeo July 23, 2011 at 8:45 am

“That’s the beauty of libertarianism: There is no power, and there is no leader.”

Yeah it’s a very special kind of cult… when do you all leave society to lets the dregs fend for themselves while you all set up utopia.? That should be fun… and sine Texas hold 7 biliion you should consider that….. all hail High Preistess Ayne…. and Cardinal Greenspan…

anthonyl July 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Power must be checked and leaders must be ignored.

MWG July 23, 2011 at 3:36 pm

As NotSure says below; you’re the one with the FDR avatar, but we’re the cultists.

NotSure July 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm

muirgeo, you truly are a buffoon. Check out all the users here and the leaders they have added as their avatar. I see only one, and that a-hole was not libertarian !

Ken July 22, 2011 at 10:59 pm


Thanks for the Friday night laughs again, muirgeo. Yes you’re right, since libertarians have some believes that religious folks have, libertarianism MUST be a religion, amaright? Which would be very convenient for you because otherwise you’d have to come up with an intelligent, logical, fact based argument to counter libertarianism. Since you have trouble with all three of those things, it’s just easier for you to think of libertarianism as something it’s not.


tdp July 23, 2011 at 11:52 am

To borrow a line from the immortal Maddox, reading muirgeo is like being bukkaked with stupid. He posts the same ignorant, completely incorrect tripe every time- some form of rant about how the rich are oppressing the poor and libertarians are selfish assholes. He will never learn because there is something wrong with his brain and he has a masochistic urge to get beat down intellectually on a daily basis. Do not even bother responding to his posts anymore. I issued him a challenge to prove himself right with evidence but he will never accept because there is no evidence to support his lunatic ideas. Everyone else on this blog would be better served by trying to convince intelligent members of the general public that power hungry politicians, especially on the left, cause society’s problems by tanking the economy, pissing away people’s money, and manipulating the poor into a state of dependence. Remember that every time muirgeo’s beloved socialists fuck up the economy, the poor are the ones who lose jobs and can’t afford goods whose prices are jacked up because of government strangling the markets.

anthonyl July 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm

If the unemployment rate does’t prove anything… nothing can.

Sam Grove July 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Remember that every time muirgeo’s beloved socialists fuck up the economy, the poor are the ones who lose jobs and can’t afford goods whose prices are jacked up because of government strangling the markets.

And then they have to blame libertarians and free markets because they are too dishonest to own up to the fruit of their schemes.

Why the Left Fears Libertarianism:

Ken July 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm

“bukkaked with stupid”

Ugh! What an awful description. Grabs the attention, though. Well done.


maximus July 24, 2011 at 9:42 pm

“bukkaked with stupid”

I agree. It hurts to even read it.

anthonyl July 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I don’t think Bryan was suggesting a libertarian breeding program just that we shouldn’t worry so much about how many kids you have. I don’t have any but I love that other do have as many as they want. Every kid is great to have around even when they are misbehaving. What kind of religion says that everyone makes up there own mind? That everyone has free will and can think whatever they want up to the point where they deny another the same? Lumping all ideas into religion misconstrues both.

GP Hanner July 22, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Amazing! I oppose abortion on moral grounds, but pragmatically, I don’t really care if some woman who wants an abortion gets one — or two — or three or more. I’ve long thought what Caplan claims: genetically, those who choose to abort their offspring will die out.

Ken July 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm

The other nice thing is that many liberals and progressives believe the earth is overpopulated, thus don’t have kids or only have one. Meaning that the next generation of this group of people will be at most half what it is in the current generation.


Dan J July 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Yeah, but they go out and take jobs in teaching our youth. I am always getting involved in their studies. Nave to keep an eye on those teachers.

Ken July 23, 2011 at 1:23 am

I’ll home school my kids. Of course, that will mean having to leave Maryland, since I will have to get permission from the Maryland gov and provide curricula, etc., and even then I may get arrested. You know, for the good of my children.


Dan J July 23, 2011 at 1:27 am

Imagine having to abide by state legislation that your kindergartener must learn about homosexuals. I don’t even talk to them about heterosexuals at that age. Uuuggghhhh!!!

tdp July 23, 2011 at 11:56 am

What part of Maryland do you live in? The public schools in Montgomery and in Fairfax and Arlington in VA are good, and parents have far more influence on their kids’ political views than teachers or schools. Not to mention there are a ton of private schools in the DC area.

Ken July 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm


Many schools are rated as good, particularly Montgomery and Howard county. And I can afford to live in all but the most expensive places in MD. But these places are heavily infested with scum leftists who are more interested in indoctrination rather than education.


Dan J July 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Like with the new mandatory curriculum of passing a ‘save the planet’ class in order to graduate in MD?

brotio July 23, 2011 at 1:17 am

Except for one muirpocrite at this Cafe.

Yasafi rails about overpopulation on a regular basis, but that didn’t stop him from adding to the overpopulation.

vikingvista July 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Physician is a real good occupation for an overpopulation misanthrope.

Chucklehead July 22, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Nick has improved his interviews quality over the last few years. He was always good but he seems even better now. With a little more time and work he could be the next Peter Robinson. I am glad he lost his leather jacket, and have even seen him in brown shirts on occasion. Could a blue shirt be next?

The Other Tim July 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

For a while after I realized I was a libertarian I thought leather jackets were part of the dress code.

Chucklehead July 23, 2011 at 12:37 am

Me too.

John Galt July 23, 2011 at 11:18 am

She Was Too Good For This Life – Another Good One By Philip Larkin

Come to Sunny Prestatyn
Laughed the girl on the poster,
Kneeling up on the sand
In tautened white satin.
Behind her, a hunk of coast, a
Hotel with palms
Seemed to expand from her thighs and
Spread breast-lifting arms.

She was slapped up one day in March.
A couple of weeks, and her face
Was snaggle-toothed and boss-eyed;
Huge tits and a fissured crotch
Were scored well in, and the space
Between her legs held scrawls
That set her fairly astride
A tuberous cock and balls

Autographed Titch Thomas, while
Someone had used a knife
Or something to stab right through
The moustached lips of her smile.
She was too good for this life.
Very soon, a great transverse tear
Left only a hand and some blue.
Now Fight Cancer is there.

politicaljules July 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I would really like to see the bit about “free will” expanded alot more. We are made up of genetics + ??, with the ‘??’ being a huge chunk of who we are. Free will is very responsible and it is also a gift we were given that separates us from the animals.

An animal’s offspring is affected by genetics only. Humanity crosses that line when we throw in the free-will to make our own choices.

I would argue that “free-will” is a very foreign concept to most liberals.

vidyohs July 23, 2011 at 9:56 pm

“An animal’s offspring is affected by genetics only.”

Really now? Then please explain toolmaking demonstrated by Chimps and Crows.

Please explain why animal young that grow up with no mother to attach to are observed to grow up confused and erratic, then please explain why those same orphaned young who find another animal or thing to supplant the mother in its need for comfort, will grow up relatively well adjusted to its expected behavior. For instance orphaned monkeys who are given a stuffed animal to cuddle against turn out healthier and better adjusted than an orphaned monkey who is only given nourishment with nothing to love or attach to.

vidyohs July 23, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Personally I am amused at the hubris shown by young people who offer their parenting advice to others, when the evidence that they are successful is still in the making and won’t be available until their children make and complete a successful life.

No one but absolutely no one has the knowledge or wisdom on how humans develop their character or their behavior.

The truth is that humans breed and produce young while they are young, strong, and smart, when humanity would (IMHO) be much better off if humans bred and produced children when older, at the peak of physical capability, and wise. Give me a wise leader over a smart one any day. And, make no mistake, parents are leaders, it is not a position that can be cast aside. One is either a good leader or one is a bad leader, no other choice as a parent.

Genes, environment, enculturation, yeah the hubris of people who claim to be able to say one or the other.

Genes? If it is genes, why do Jeffrey Dhalmer types and Audie Murphy types come from the same parents; and why do their female siblings turn out totally different in character and behavior from the scum and the hero? Why does one from the family fight for the Unionists, and the brother fight for the Rebels if behavior and character are predominantly genetic? But yes, genes do play some part in our development but mostly in the physical and instinctual side of things.

Environment, or the anthropological term Enculturation, has more to do with the development of character and behavior and Caplan admits that when he says that free will can allow an individual to change. Free will can overcome enculturation but free will is not going to overcome a genetic pattern. Do we inherit enculturation? Well yes we do in the sense that our parents are basically the first to provide that enculturation.

However, it is easy to say free will allows an individual to change behavior or character, but for free will to do that, the individual must first do enough introspection to understand that he needs to change or be told and convinced that the change is desirable.

It is easy to see that most humans grow to maturity operating more on enculturation than personal will and control. This is true because operating on enculturation means not having to think, just to react, and most humans are basically lazy and find enculturation is good enough for nearly all activities of their life.

Those that dismiss environment and enculturation do so on the flimsiest of motives. A family that consists of two parents and one child will likely see the child grow up in a fairly consistent family environment…….but not necessarily so. The parents might come to detest each other in a few short years and the environment changes for the child.

In other words the environment we all experience from our birth to our death is constantly changing, and frequently very rapidly, and explains why a child that behaved well in his first 5 or 6 years becomes a little monster in his adolescence. We all know of children about which that is true. It also explains why little monsters who somehow wind up in good nurturing environments turn their lives around.

The word environment encapsulates so very very much more than just a family life or community life. One boy from a family is aggressive, outgoing, athletic, and makes friends easy – his brother two years younger (same family, same genes) is shy, introverted, clumsy, and finds few friends.

Same family, same genes, same community, etc. yet different environments for the two boys, even though the parents try to ensure that both have the same in every thing.

Go ahead youngsters, point the finger at the most likely source of our character and behavior, just allow me my laugh.

Dan J July 23, 2011 at 11:13 pm

There is no such thing as equal outcomes In life. Experiences are all unique. We may share many, but thru the lens of our own perspective we interpret them differently and even experience them slightly differently considering they all happen under different circumstances, times, places, with different people, etc.,……our parents are our biggest contributors to our behaviors, but more so from learned one’s.
The phrase ‘it takes a village to…..’ should not be interpreted to mean the responsibilities and obligations of ‘the village’, but to the parents who need to understand that ‘the village’ comprises of the rest of the people who come in contact with your children and that the parent needs to be aware of the surroundings and to contradict the ‘village idiot’. It is a warning to the parents rather than a directive for authority to mandate behaviors.

vidyohs July 24, 2011 at 11:55 am

Dan J, I see you understand exactly what I said. Yes, each of us sees our environment through our own lens of perspective, and it is our view of our environment that shapes us. People who dismiss environment as the major shaping factor are those who haven’t looked that deep into understanding what environment really means to each individual.

I see you also have thought about the “it takes a village to raise a child” maxim in more depth than most.

I laugh at those who believe it is an expression of socialism or collectivism intent.

The wisdom in that comes from a time when people lived in villages where everyone knew everyone else, and beliefs, customs, mores, and purpose was almost universally shared. Within that context parents taught their children, and the village reinforced those teachings through monitoring the child’s public behavior and either reporting back to the parents or instantly correcting the bad behavior of the child. The parent instead of confronting his neighbors, appreciated their efforts in the parents behalf and corrected the child with instruction or punishment as fitting.

Our present day life in America has destroyed the village; and it is not the size of the communities that is the agent of destruction. The agent of destruction is those inventions that make social interaction for entertainment, enlightenment, and friendship almost totally unnecessary, so that even in small communities neighbors no long know each other, much less share common character traits or beliefs.

Ryan Vann July 25, 2011 at 7:21 am

Your final observation does seem apt, and lamentable. I was raised in a small community in Southern Oregon, where the things you described were definitely happening in a big way. A hear about the place now, and it seems the camaraderie, unity, and even the rivalry within the community simply isn’t there, and a lot of the kids are absolute idiots as a result.

Observer_Guy1 July 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I can’t figure out how this guy got an advanced degree in anything. Something is seriously wrong with the government-funded educational system. You mean to tell me that some of my tax dollars helped this guy get through school? What a waste of precious resources!

vidyohs July 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Frankly dude, from the content of your comments you’ve posted on the Cafe lately, you aren’t fit to carry Caplan’s jockstrap for him, much less offer criticism on his thoughts or opinions.

bruce July 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm

i saw the interview when i was browsing through the channels of tvhod. if you listen carefully i think there is a sense on what he is saying. well if not the interviewers should have atleast cut his interview out.

Ryan Vann July 25, 2011 at 7:16 am

Bryan should never affront us again with his atrocious attempt at a beard; that I can say for certain. As for parenting, I’ve nothing cogent to add to that discussion, as I’m 26, have no children, and don’t intend to for a few years at the least.

YetAnotherTom July 27, 2011 at 10:47 pm

If I could influence my future children’s upbringing in any way, it would be to choose their peers. Even a very bright child would lose ground if his peers expectations of him were to ignore school or engage in drug culture.

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