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Clone of Contention
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April 21, 2010, 05:12 AM
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Should Bryan Caplan clone himself?

Julian Simon acolyte Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason U., wonders whether to include this paragraph in his upcoming book:

I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally. Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet. Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son. Seriously. I want to experience the sublime bond I`m sure we`d share. I`m confident that he`d be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me. I`m not pushing others to clone themselves. I`m not asking anyone else to pay for my dream. I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone. Is that too much to ask?

Unfortunately, Professor Caplan doesn`t inform us what his wife thinks about his desire to create a child untainted by her genes. Does Professor Caplan intend to have Mrs. Caplan bear his clone for him? Does Professor Caplan intend to have Mrs. Caplan pick up after his clone for 21 years? Will Mrs. Caplan appreciate it when she and her husband`s immature clone get into an argument and Professor Caplan sides with his clone against his wife? Will she be concerned that he might favor his clone in his will over their mutual children?

Of course, that`s assuming that Bryan`s assumption that he and his clone would be Best Friends Forever is correct. More likely, the opposite would be true.

Generally speaking, people who would like to clone themselves tend to be arrogant and lacking in common sense. Their children will tend to also be arrogant and lacking in common sense. The interpersonal dynamics between cloner and clonee would likely be disastrous.

Are families in which the sons are exactly like the fathers happier? I don`t see a lot of evidence for that. In fact, I see a lot of evidence from memoirs and fiction that strong-willed fathers tend to have strong-willed sons, and the two clash relentlessly over who will be dominant. Too much similarity does not always make for happiness within a family.

Of course, this whole cloning thing might be useful if a husband was trying to pawn some illegitimate kid he had with a stripper off on his wife to raise: "Hey, honey, sorry that I forgot to mention it, but I had myself cloned! Be a doll and clean up after little Me Jr. for the next 21 years." This might work on an exceptionally clueless wife.

That reminds me. I once pitched a screenplay to that old HBO comedy show about a sports agent, Arliss, in which one of Arliss`s clients, a narcissistic gay Olympics superstar modeled on sprinter Carl Lewis, wants Arliss to arrange for his cloning:

Arliss is setting up a grudge match race between a Carl Lewis-style track superstar and his arch-rival, an extremely juiced-up looking Ben Johnson-type. Client Carl shows up, accompanied by his best friend / sister Carol. Carl says he isn`t interested in reproducing the old-fashioned way, and asks Arliss to help him clone himself. Carol will carry the clone/fetus and raise the baby. Carol takes Arliss`s secretary Rita aside to suggest that they try to get the cloning over and done with real fast. She breaks down and says it`s a ruse she`s putting over on Carl because she`s pregnant — with Ben Johnson`s baby. Arliss asks Carl that in return for making the arrangement at a pet cloning clinic to get the clone signed up for a lifetime deal. But, Arliss is heartbroken when Rita breaks the truth to him.

In general, I have fewer problems with cloning in the abstract than I have deep doubts about the specific type of person (e.g., Bryan) who would want to get himself cloned.