Robin Hanson, impish mind

A lunch with Robin is better than an email from him, but at least I can offer you the latter:

Reasonable economic cases can be made for allowing people to sell their organs, and for allowing people to buy the ability to immigrate into our country.  Cautious people avoid such proposals, because they push too many emotional buttons.  Mischievous folks like myself, however, wonder what happens if we push all the buttons at once: what if people could enter the country if they give up a kidney, or similarly valuable organ?  Would those who worry about the loyalty of immigrants who just pay cash to come here be reassured by the symbolic loyalty of giving up an organ?  Would those who fear that organ sellers are exploited be reassured by the huge value immigrants gain from living here?  Impish minds want to know.

Comments

I would fear
a) a glut of organs being wasted because of incompatibility issues
b) massive provocation of citizenry of high emmigration nations, and more broadly provocation of anti-americanism
c) negative externalities to immigrants who got in without donating organs.
d) medical expenses associated with unnecessary donations that impaired net health.
e) with respect to refugees this would be far more coercive than buying organs

The idea of national identity is severely compromised if you openly sell citizenships. When something is "not for sale", it carries a lot of symbolic meaning. And for countries, attaching high levels of meaning to their citizenships is called "national pride", which boosts overall productivity levels, among other merits.

The organ issue is the same thing. If organs become a for-sale item, the ideal of a "complete human" is compromised. Humanism is grounded in the inherent value of a complete, healthy, happy human. If you start saying that our core organs are for sale, our humanist moral views are severely threatened and we react accordingly.

Well, if you just sell citizenships, this is true. But if you sell green cards, with part of the cost going to fund the bloodwork and background check that keeps known criminals, terrorists, and people with contagious diseases out, I don't see the problem. Among other things, this would make it possible to control immigration without having a political battle to micromanage how many people of what kinds are to be allowed in, what industries are to be permitted to hire foreigners and which citizens jobs are to be protected at all costs (at least till the next election), etc.

Everyone has a 'spare' organ - not everyone has the cash to buy a citizenship. Selling citizenship (or green cards, which is better for obvious symbolic reasons) would be less likely to create perverse incentives; giving up a piece of your body is a desperate act, which I would expect to bring in poorer-quality migrants than requiring some amount of money.

Robin...you are one sick puppy. Some ideas make you laugh, and then when you think of them again you loose it all over again. Maybe I've been spending too much time with Republicans who think the wave of immigrants is ten times worse than the thermonuclear face-off we endured for 30 some years. Or maybe with patients who need us to actually get serious about organ availability.

Wasn't it but 3 days ago "hit and Run" got the film of the DEA agent who was shooting himself and then persisting bravely with the lecture about gun safety... and even calling for his assistant to bring forth what looked like an assault rifle?

"And for countries, attaching high levels of meaning to their citizenships is called "national pride", which boosts overall productivity levels, among other merits."

Since when? All we seem to get from "national pride" is protectionism and war. If people acknowledged who they were really working for -- themselves and their families, not some political abstraction -- THAT would boost productivity.

The right of individuals to sell their organs is derived from the principle of self-ownership. The right of the U.S. government to sell the right to immigrate to the U.S. (and exclude non-payers) is derived from the principle of political sovereignty. Immigration restrictions violate the right of residents to sell land and buy labor from non-residents. I suggest that a consistent libertarian should unequivocally support self-ownership and reject political sovereignty that infringes on self-ownership.

Comments for this post are closed