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Archive for July 24th, 2009

Stephen Dubner (of Freakanomics fame) has a post on the recent corruption scandal, mostly in New Jersey, but stretching across the globe.  He makes sure to point out that some of those involved dealed in black market body parts:

Note that the case even involved some trafficking in human organs:

“Another man in Brooklyn, Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum, was accused of enticing vulnerable people to give up a kidney for $10,000 and then selling the organ for $160,000. Mr. Dwek pretended to be soliciting a kidney on behalf of someone and Mr. Rosenbaum said that he had been in business of buying organs for years, according to the complaint.”

Remember this story the next time someone brings up the need for a legitimate, regulated market for human organs, as we’ve discussed here many times in the past. Many people’s objection to such a market is that poor people would suffer because a) they won’t be able to afford to buy organs; and b) they may be coerced into selling them. But with the current black market, poor people are already being excluded from getting organs (because there’s a scarcity of donated organs) and being lured into selling them — although in this case, it appears that a middleman got to pocket $150,000 while the “donors” got only $10,000.

To summarize Dubner’s logic: if it exists, make a market of it.  Since criminals are already dealing in body parts, we could do better by allowing (regulated) trade, on an open market, so normal, hard-working individuals can buy and sell as if body parts were like candy bars.  I wonder if he would make the same argument for the already-existing black markets in sex slavery, narcotics, or industrial waste? (though Larry Summers beat him to the punch on the last one)

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