07 Aug 2009

We’ll Get Through This Depression, Really

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As with most of my writing, my previous blog post on this topic did not receive the attention it deserved.

I don’t think I specified clearly enough why we are all fantastically rich, were it not for dumb government policies.

Just take organ markets. If the government made trade in body organs as regulated as, say, trade in perishable food, that would overnight add about $90 trillion in wealth to the U.s. population, at current market prices. OK, so prices for hearts and kidneys would come way down with the liberalization, so let’s call it $5 trillion to be super conservative.

I have no idea if they’re accurate, but I’ve seen estimates that the market price for a good kidney right now is $160,000. Now imagine you sold the rights to all of your body organs to some third party group. (You adjust your will so that after your death, you bequeath any salvageable body parts to the group.) How much would they pay you upfront for that right? It would depend on the characteristics of each person, of course, but I bet it’s worth at least $300,000 for a healthy 30-year-old.

So if I did the math right (and it’s tough with so many zeroes), then $300,000 per person times 300 million people in the U.S. is an increase in marketable wealth of…$90 trillion. Like I acknowledged above, presumably the price of a kidney comes way down once ten million people opt to sell their spare ones off, so the $90 trillion is way too high. But my point is to get you to see how rich we are, were it not for dumb laws.

Even if you chose to retain your kidney, you would still be wealthier. You would now have that $160,000 (or whatever) as an emergency backstop. And if the idea of signing away your body parts freaks you out–you don’t want the third party group cutting deals with ambulance paramedics!–then you can just leave your body to your own heirs. (You’d be like that tree in the Shel Silverstein book.) Knowing that Billy would get the farm and your heart, kidneys, eyeballs, and so on, you could safely contribute less to your 401k etc. Freeing up more present income would make you richer right away, even if you retained full rights over your body parts while alive.

Last point, more ominous: It’s possible that the State could transform this into a monstrous new development, just like other types of “deregulation” often blow up. For example, if I owe a lot to the IRS or my mortgage lender, I don’t want the executives telling me they were seizing a kidney. So with a predatory State looking on, the leftists are quite rightly concerned about commercializing the human body (even more so than our culture has already done).

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