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July 31, 2009

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Two comparisons, before I get up and get busy, to show that "one size fits all" needn't apply:
We restrict "loan sharking", loans at very high interest, because a person at need entering into such nightmare loans is crippling himself or herself to a degree we find excessive. But we do let people get loans. People take risks for money or for other reasons. It is not obvious that the iatrogenic/medical-error risks of the surgery, or the evidently quite small risk incurred by losing one kidney, puts a kidney sale out of the scale of risks that we should accept that people take.

The question of selling a hand would be a different question: no matter how good a mechanical replacement (and would you get one?), you would be giving up the use of one hand. This would be a downside-taking, literally a crippling one, that we might decide was too much, along the lines of not letting a person go to a loan shark. The loss of one's second kidney doesn't entail this sort of curtailment of options.

"russell - Actually we are meat. Or we are souls that live in meat, depending."

Yes, that's true. But as I see it, the "depending" part means that we should not treat each other as meat.

Your comments on the distinction between selling a kidney and selling yourself into chattel slavery are apt, however I note that they're less relevant to, frex, selling yourself into indentured servitude, which is something we no longer tolerate.

Allow me to also say that I appreciate your point of view here:

"For offending "the way the world should be", in my feeling or yours - and not having hurt anyone or violated anyone's rights - purely for outraging me or you - a person deserves not. One. Day. In. Jail."

You're quite right to note that the basis for my objection to selling organs is rooted in my understanding of the proper moral relationship between humans. You're also quite right to note that not everyone will share that.

My language in this thread has been somewhat strident. To some degree, that's a liberty I've granted myself -- a self-indulgence if you will -- because I know that my words will have absolutely zero chance of affecting actual public policy. We're all just talking around the water cooler here, and that gives us, perhaps, some room to vent.

My language is also, deliberately, strong because, to be honest, I hadn't really seen the basic moral quandary of organ selling discussed, and IMO it's a pretty important part aspect of the debate. The conversation seemed to center on either a pragmatic calculus -- a risk/benefit analysis -- of what the seller might get out of it, or a libertarian argument that selling your own bodily organs should be considered simply another form of contract between consenting people.

Both of those arguments fail, IMVHO, to account for the brutal and dehumanizing aspect of selling yourself off by the pound to the highest bidder.

I'll go perhaps one step further afield in the interest of trying to explain where I'm coming from.

To me, the most toxic aspect of American culture now is the tendency to view all social interactions as various forms of commercial contract. We live in a society whose most urgent social impulse is to monetize everything that isn't nailed down, and even most of what is nailed down.

Our goal as a nation appears to be to turn the entire freaking given world into money.

The end result of this will, IMVHO, inevitably be a brutal, cruel, and callous culture. IMVHO, we're already there.

Selling your bodily organs just seems like another species of this, to me.

I appreciate your objection to having public life governed by the whims of what some folks find personally offensive. I recognize that my argument is open to that interpretation.

What I'll say is that we all do, or at least ought to, draw the line somewhere.

Selling your organs for money falls on the other side, from my point of view.

Fortunately for us all, my influence on public policy is negligible.

Thanks -

"Maybe not structurally different, but so what? They're different in that one can be justified for maintaining military order necessary for defending the country and the other can't."

So the means are okay as long as the ends are justifiable - which you say they are in this case. You don't have a problem with selling yourself, just that it has to be for the 'right reason'. The 'right reason' in this case is that there is a human being dieing whose life this transaction could save.

The Right to Private Contract gets trotted out to justify all manner of ugliness.

"Ugliness" is apparently anything which produces an end you do not agree with but whose means you admittedly have no problem with, as in the case of military contract.

These mere concerns for the well-being of our fellow man cannot stand in the face of the All-Mighty Contract!

Your fellow man has his own set of concerns that are subjective to him. He seeks only to better himself by signing the contract.

You know, it was all so obvious all along. Why didn't anyone consider that selling your kidney was a type of Contract? It's okay! It's a Contract! ...See?

The paper merely represents the intentions of the signers. I'm not sure everyone IS considering the intentions of the donor. If you were, you'd let him express it with his signature rather than substituting your preferences for his.

Let's bring back indentured servitude. Screw that, let's let people sell themselves into chattel slavery.

Why stop at a kidney, let me buy your whole damned ass.

Why not?

You tell me why the poor are better off by having the option of selling themselves into slavery denied to them.

The difference is that the long term harm of slavery is demonstrable, while the long term harm of selling your kidney is not (or at least has not been demonstrated).

Surely, in my view, that - whether the activity is actually bad for you, or is actually destructive to one's interests if one engages in it, and how much it is - is the defining thing as to whether the activity should be called exploitative or exploitation. Begging the question of that, and saying it's supposedly a matter of worship of almighty Contract excusing exploitation, seems to me to tack away from the center question, which I don't think is really branded.

I agree, Alex. I was responding to an argument that seemed to turn on "worship of almighty Contract excusing exploitation." And it was not yours.

The 'right reason' in this case is that there is a human being dieing whose life this transaction could save.

That's certainly a valid argument, but not one that I recalled you explicitly making, my good pencil. If I missed that, my apologies.

"Ugliness" is apparently anything which produces an end you do not agree with but whose means you admittedly have no problem with, as in the case of military contract.

Okay. How about "unnecesary ugliness?" There is some amount of ugliness that goes along with military service. But without it, we have no defense of state. Without a state, we have no state defense of person or property. It's an imperfect world, I know. That doesn't justify all ugliness, but it does some.

Your fellow man has his own set of concerns that are subjective to him. He seeks only to better himself by signing the contract.

That's nice. Sometimes people are exploited, and other people would like to prevent that. Just show that there isn't a potential for a level of exploitation that would justify a ban. Maybe there isn't. I don't claim to know for sure.

The paper merely represents the intentions of the signers. I'm not sure everyone IS considering the intentions of the donor. If you were, you'd let him express it with his signature rather than substituting your preferences for his.

People, by way of law, prevent others from doing damage to themselves for various reasons. Sometimes it's because of the potential for exploitation due to an imbalance of information or resources that can't otherwise be compensated for. I think that's okay. Maybe it's not necessary in this case, but I don't have a problem with it as a matter of general principle.

Is that lights out, then?

That was good talk, anyway.

Less radical then either mandatory organ collection from the deceased or the creation of an organ market would be to switch driver license sign-up as an organ donor from optional to the default.

As effort thresholds tend to do, this should greatly increase participation & hence organ availability while allowing opting out for whatever personal reasoning applies.

That it also avoids the unattended consequences of establishing another humans-as-means market should appeal to the Burkeans in the audience.

"Less radical then either mandatory organ collection from the deceased or the creation of an organ market would be to switch driver license sign-up as an organ donor from optional to the default."

And it's almost as if this has been mentioned various times before in this thread.

The difference is that the long term harm of slavery is demonstrable, while the long term harm of selling your kidney is not (or at least has not been demonstrated).

You'd better coordinate messaging with the other conservatives out there. The argument now is that being sold into slavery and transported to America rescued black people from generations of misery in Africa, and that over the long run they were better off.

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