From Cannibalism to Baby-Selling

Given that I may be "in league with the forces of Darkness," baby-selling seems like a worthwhile topic to follow cannibalism.

In an interview conducted by Howard Bashman, Judge Richard Posner mentions the controversy surrounding his advocacy of "baby-selling." In fact, Judge Posner never argued in favor of actually selling babies - that would be slavery - rather, prospective adoptive parents would pay the biological parents for the right to raise a child. This would discourage abortion as well as end the current shortage of babies in the adoption market (Adoptive parents tend to prefer new-born babies over older children).

Glen Whitman discusses some possible drawbacks to a "baby-selling" regime: namely, if both parents - the birth mother and birth father - are given a legal right to make decisions regarding whether or not to go through with the adoption, then there can be a potential hold-out problem. And even if this hold-out problem can be solved, there is yet another problem: in marginal cases - where the benefits of having a baby just outweigh the costs for the mother - if the father gets a share, this could inefficiently tip the scale against bringing the baby to term, because the mother must bear all of the costs but can only enjoy a portion of the benefits. Although Glen admits this is a problem, it would still be better than the current regime.

Returning to cannibalism for a moment, there may also be an economic argument in favor of permitting consensual anthropophagy. Consider what might happen if we do punish acts of consensual cannibalism as murder: instead of going to the trouble of finding willing participants, those who have a strong desire to slaughter and eat humans will be much more likely to kill innocent people against their will.

Finally, it may be interesting to note how these kinds of economic arguments play out in the real world - a world where the majority of people are not familiar with the economic concepts such as efficiency and marginalism. In addition to Posner's baby flap, I can think of at least two other cases where well-established, non-controversial economic concepts were taken out of context and displayed to the public in a way that infuriated many people. Most recently, Robin Hanson's "terrorism futures market," as adopted by Darpa, was scrapped after economically illiterate politicians labeled it "ridiculous," "grotesque," "stupid," and "very sick."

A few years earlier, Lawrence Summers - then Chief Economist for the World Bank, now President of Harvard - wrote an internal memo that was later leaked and used to embarrass both Summers and the World Bank in general. The memo, available here, outlined a number of reasons why we would want to transfer pollution from developed countries to less developed countries. Although to many people unfamiliar with marginalism, this memo may seem "totally insane," I suspect the same is true with regard to other fields like sociology or philosophy, whose conclusions are nonobvious, counterintuitive, and often politically incorrect, but noncontroversial within the field itself.

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Given that I may be "in

Given that I may be "in league with the forces of Darkness"...

Is that anything like the Legion of Doom?

If so, where do I sign up?

I like the consequential argument against laws against consensual canibalism. I wonder if the outcome of this sort of paternalism was even pondered in the minds of those who think it should be illegal.

As with those who oppose

As with those who oppose payment for organ donors, opponents of bringing money into adoption process are economically illiterate. A good many potential adoptive parents go childless because, from the point of view of the birth parents, it's comparatively cheaper to plow the crop under than bring it to market (if you'll excuse what's not intended as a callous metaphor). Of course, I suspect part of the motivation is that many of the most ideologically driven feminists have an instinctive aversion to adoption as a propaganda challenge to abortion rights.