Democratic Fundamentalism and The Baby Business

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Bryan Caplan calls Deborah Spar (The Baby Business) a democratic fundamentalist, because she (supposedly) supports whatever regulation emerges from the political process:

My objection is simple: Almost all of the regulatory evils I’ve listed are ultimately caused by “political debate.” The public irrationally opposes technological innovation and mutually advantageous exchange in the baby market. But as long as this market stays below the public’s radar, it remains unregulated and progresses rapidly. Whenever voters notice what’s going on, in contrast, they cry out for restrictions, bans, and a bunch of arbitrary “safeguards,” and their leaders oblige them. The result — sometimes intended, sometimes unintended — of these policies is to impede two great goods: creating and adopting children.

Under the circumstances, only two strategies merit our attention. One is education: To clearly explain why popular complaints about the baby market reflect economic illiteracy, if not sheer malevolence. The other is stealth: To help the baby industry keep a low profile so it can survive, thrive, and gradually triumph as a fait accompli. If Spar managed to inspire a grand political debate, in contrast, the probable result would be heavier regulation of what exists, and an outright ban on much of the progress we would otherwise see. Debate? We don’t need no stinkin’ debate!

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