I have no idea who wrote this small article reviewing views of procreation by economists, but it’s so rare to see antinatalism being discussed in any sort of media that I thought I should point it out.
This is confused. Yes, people generally prefer existing. But the possible people implicit in couples’ germ cells are not actual people, and therefore do not have preferences. Conception and birth are preconditions for having preferences. I call this the “lucky souls fallacy”. Imagine pre-actual persons gathered outside the gate of existence. Each soul holds a number in its tiny incorporeal hands, badly hoping to be called. An ethereal presence stands at the gate shouting numbers. Lucky souls get to go to the front of the line, through the gate, and straight into a real pulsing zygote.
Only thus does the “decision to have kids” create a “massive benefit” to the kid. Lucky soul! But Mr Mankiw is right. What childbirth does is create a life — a new nexus of benefits and harms, a new container of utility (to be reductively economistic about it). But by itself reproduction confers no benefit on the child produced, since there was no prior hollow soul longing to be filled by the breath of being.