The Economist's Free Exchange limns an amusing colloquy among economists about the utility of existence. Worth reading in full, but I just want to rebut this one part of FE's analysis:
Mr Mankiw avoids talk of souls and simply speaks of what may be observed. [But if admit such talk,] it is then vivid that the decision not to have the next child will leave some unlucky soul dejected and unrealised. If having a kid benefits the kid, then not having a kid harms the kid-that-might-have-been.
Of course this conclusion is not ineluctable. For instance, when Sam Kinison's parents announced to him that he was “old enough to be on [his] own," Kinison noted:
You know, before I was your little son. Before I was your baby — before I was your loan — I was a free spirit in the next stage of life. I walked in the cosmos, not imprisoned by a body of flesh, but free, in a pure body of light. There were no questions, only answers. No weaknesses, only strengths. I was light, I was truth, I was a spiritual being, I was a God!!!
But you had to F*** and bring my ass down HERE!
I didn’t ask to be born! I didn’t call and say: ‘Hey, please have me so I could work in a f***in’ Winchell’s someday!’ Now you want me to pay my own way? F*** YOU! PICK UP THE F***IN’ CHECK, MOM! PICK IT UP!
I can't be sure, of course, but I read Kinison as pretty much disagreeing with the FE's analysis.