Every Clone a King or Queen?
August 10, 2001
Human cloning presents many moral and ethical quandaries. However, the economic impact of cloning is usually not considered. While many governments ban or are in the process of banning cloning, many believe that it will proceed anyway.
Researcher Gilles Saint-Paul suggests that, economically, cloning high-talent individuals is the only sensible measure. And even then, cloning would only be economically justifiable if ability is transmitted genetically. This is an unresolved empirical issue:
- Correlated test scores among separated twins support the view that DNA matters; but the high returns to education suggest a more limited role for inheritance.
- However, unlike the offspring of highly talented people today, a clone would be assured of having the desirable genetic traits of the original.
How might a company profit from cloning? Since most nations recognize human rights, slavery or serfdom would not be an option. The author hypothesizes that:
- Companies could sell clones information about their heritage.
- Companies could copyright certain genomes for other cloning companies.
- Top universities could invest in cloning high-ability individuals to increase attendance and the quality of their students.
Source: "Brave New World," Economic Intuition, Spring 2001; based on Gilles Saint-Paul, "The Economics of Human Cloning," Center for Economic Policy Research, Discussion Paper No. DP2674.
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