A market for kids

(Originally posted February 24, 2008)

Deep within my bright and merry neural pathways, I recently pondered the issue of abortion. Over 45 million kids have been aborted in America since Roe v. Wade began a new era. If not for immigration, America’s population would actually be declining each year. Usually even the staunchest pro-choice advocates, when given these statistics, will provide some lip service to the notion that abortion rates are too high. I wondered if there might be an easy solution to this problem.

Apparently, society just doesn’t value human life very much. So I thought to myself, Drew, how could we solve this problem?  After all, human lives do have value. At least that’s what we always tell people who are on the verge of suicide:  “Your life still has meaning! Don’t kill yourself!”

Even the suicide bombers in places like Israel usually acknowledge their own value. Suicide bombings are not free. Rather, some group like Hamas will typically agree to pay thousands of dollars to the family of the bomber after his death. Saddam Hussein used to fund these suicides. Perhaps most importantly, the extremists’ God will reward the suicide bombers with fifty-two sexy, heavenly virgins for their sacrifice. This reward seems like relatively decent compensation.

In contrast, people kill themselves (or others) for free when they stop valuing human life, or when they undervalue it. This undervaluing occurs when individuals see only the cost of life, and not the utility. Showing people the true value of human life would help reduce these deaths, improving the national welfare. Logically, America could diminish the incidence of abortion by demonstrating firsthand the value of (potential) babies. A market solution is the answer. We should allow people to SELL THEIR INFANTS.

There is, of course, a significant demand for young kids. People who sign up to adopt children usually get put on a waiting list for some amount of time before they can obtain their new baby. One professor once told me that “lines are the result of socialism.” With my solution, these wannabe parents could just pay the standard price, and then they could buy as many babies as they chose.


Once the market becomes established, any woman pondering an abortion will have to ask herself, “Why should I abort this baby when I could make a few grand off him instead?” Obviously, the price would ultimately progress toward the marginal cost of production in a perfectly competitive market, but in the market for children, each kid would be unique. Mothers would therefore command a certain amount of monopoly power. Low-income mothers could actually derive substantial income from any accidental pregnancies.

Likewise, if any couple decided that a pregnancy would be particularly troublesome, they could easily adopt a kid instead. This purchase would eliminate the need to wait nine months before obtaining the baby. Buyers could even pick out the gender and other characteristics. There would be no need for that random genetic nonsense. If you wanted a boy with blonde hair, you could just go choose one from the baby exchange. In fact, one might call this a very “pro-choice” solution.

Websites like eBay would also probably make an excellent forum for the selling of babies. “But Drew,” the critics will argue, “fraud runs rampant on eBay! How could you guarantee that the eBay postings offered accurate descriptions of the babies?” Simply, I say. When they find good deals, people routinely buy cars and even houses over eBay. Buyers can pay third-party companies to inspect the cars for mechanical problems before purchase; such inspectors could perform a similar service for baby buyers. Besides, if anyone really dislikes the kid he orders, he can always just sell it off to someone else. Or if worse came to worse, the buyer could sue for breach of contract – or leave negative feedback

Of course, the government might need to impose some minor regulation.



David the Magic Elephant posted,
“I think you knew that this was a completely insane idea, but you posted it anyway. Neverthless, I appreciate your ability to think outside the box! Now thinking about it, I’m not even really sure why it wouldn’t work, except that people would certainly deem it unethical. The human race, in its resilience, can survive almost any problem that it causes for itself.”
(02-25-2008, 3:48 am)

Julianna posted,
“I disagree with your magic elephant….as disturbing as this sounds, it’s probably true. Economic incentative is one of the most powerful forces on people, particularly americans. You and I discussed this topic recently and I love that you were willing to consider that prohibition might not provide the results that would satisfy your values. Of course, this forces me to face the fact that abortion is often an extremely selfish act because if a woman would choose to have the child because it pays….rather than costs…well that says it all, really. I do not believe all abortions are selfish acts, though. I believe many women get them for very sad, unselfish reasons and in those cases would accept no payment to go through with the birth. Case in point…babies who have horrible genetic diseases that will render their life short and painful. I think the magic elephant missed your last sentence about regulation, but then again I rarely trust the government. Did you know that during World War 2 the U.S. government injected pregnant women ,unbeknownst to them, with radioactive iron at Vanderbilt University. This was released during the Clinton administration along with information about other nuclear testing done on civilians without their permission (orphans fed radioactive substances every day). I’m sure there was a greater good in mind but that goes against everything our country is suppose to stand for, doesn’t it?”
(03-16-2008, 7:33 pm)


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