I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday, and he raised an interesting question: Is the increasingly-fast chumrah creep good or bad for Orthodoxy's numbers? And by extension, for those who care about such things, for the amount of Torah being learned and mitzvos being kept?
Of course, no one is cynically controlling the creation and maintenance of chumros, but if you could, how would adding chumrahs - or taking them away - affect the amount of people who identify as Orthodox? On the one hand, I think that the increasingly restrictive chumros raise the bar for entry to Orthodoxy, so that fewer people are willing to accept Orthodoxy than might have been if there were fewer restrictions and therefore fewer people are keeping (Orthodoxy's version of) halacha. On the other hand, chumros supposedly enhance the mitzvos that are being done, and practically, often act to create a barrier to leaving for those already in.
So if we could deliberately set the level of chumros/debatable halacha at a point to maximize the mitzvah-points being earned, the perfect blend of quantity and quality, where would that point be?