Baby Selling

Before visiting Guatemala a few weeks ago, I read this travel advisory:

In 2007 particularly virulent rumors of child stealing and of murder for organ harvesting have been reported in several different areas of Guatemala frequented by American tourists.   This year numerous Guatemalan citizens have been lynched for suspicion of child stealing.

Saturday the Post said

A year after Guatemala’s emergence as the second-largest foreign source of babies for adoption to the United States, a new push by the Guatemalan government to wrest control of the process from private agencies has stirred an emotional backlash from thousands of prospective adoptive parents in the United States. …

Guatemala’s solicitor general, Mario Gordillo, … worries that thousands of desperately poor Guatemalan women are being induced to conceive children for adoption by private brokers offering as much as $3,000 a baby.

"Guatemala has converted into a baby-producing nation," Gordillo said at his office in Guatemala City. "Our children come into this world to be products for sale. . . . It’s as if they were a car. What model is it? And who wants to buy it?"   The debate raging in Guatemala echoes previous controversies that have led to the suspension of adoptions from Romania to Cambodia. …


On top of the roughly $6,000 that adoptive parents pay U.S. agencies, many pay Guatemalan lawyers $20,000 to $30,000. Critics suggest that such sums are a huge markup over the actual cost of finding, caring for and processing the paperwork.  … Many lawyers contract with jaladores, Spanish for tuggers or touts, who fan across the countryside seeking women willing to relinquish their children. There is widespread suspicion that jaladores may be paying, pressuring or bamboozling women who would not otherwise choose to put up a child for adoption.

Payment is considered a particularly likely, and insidious, practice because if a woman gives in to temptation but then changes her mind before the adoption is complete, she or her relatives might hesitate to reclaim the child because they cannot pay back the jalador.  Manuel Manrique, UNICEF’s representative in Guatemala, … notes that it is common for the same woman to give up multiple infants for adoption.  "Why else would a woman have three successive children and put them all up for adoption?" he asked. "It’s as though with the first adoption, women are getting drawn into an adoption circuit."

This is amazingly sad.  It is in general a good thing if willing women are induced by money to have babies families want to adopt.  Not only do the woman and the family benefit, but the baby gets a life!  Positive externalities don’t get much larger than this.  We need lower, not higher, barriers to such exchange. 

To lower the lawyer’s cut, simplify the law and lower barriers to entry.  And why begrudge the mother $3000 when US agencies take a $6000 cut for "paperwork"? How does it help her to limit her options?  Do we really have good reasons to think mothers systematically misjudge such options? 

On my way to visit Tikal in Guatemala, my tour guide proudly noted how development agencies had helped the local village switch to producing art, rather than the usual exports.  It seemed such agencies valued art production well beyond the income it brings.  Their priorities, art over bananas over babies, are the opposite of mine. 

From an evolutionary psychology perspective this whole situation seems as strange as having to pay men to be sperm donors.   A genetically selfish tribe would want others to pay them to raise their children.

Added 4Dec: I agree that it is possible that mothers on average gain from being forbidden to sell their babies.  But clearly our default is not to limit a person’s options, so we need a substantial positive argument to overcome this default.  Surely each of these factors is not, by itself, enough to ban a choice:

  • Some people making this choice later regret it
  • Most people do not choose this option, when offered it
  • Many people disapprove of this choice and want it stopped
  • The people choosing are poor.
  • The people choosing are women.
  • The choice gains them money.

Are all these factors together enough?   If so, which factor combinations are enough?   Did I miss a factor important to this case? 

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  • http://www.saunalahti.fi/~tspro1/ Kaj Sotala

    And not only does the baby get a life, adoptive agencies are typically pretty picky about the families they accept as adoptive ones: the baby can be thought to be getting a better life than the average child that is born.

  • Z. M. Davis

    “From an evolutionary psychology perspective this whole situation seems as strange as having to pay men to be sperm donors”

    “Adaptation-executors, not–”

  • Oiknomos

    “It is in general a good thing if willing women are induced by money to have babies families want to adopt. Not only do the woman and the family benefit, but the baby gets a life! Positive externalities don’t get much larger than this. We need lower, not higher, barriers to such exchange”

    Ethnic Genetic Interests (EGI) is a concept developed by Frank Salter. It might help reveal why this analysis is too simplistic.

  • April

    I agree it’s reprehensible that the Guatemalan gov’t is seeking to “protect” women from making the choice to put their babies up for adoption. I’d only add that the wrong-headedness of such protection is exhibited in other related policy areas: access to contraception and access to abortions. In Guatemala, over a quarter of all births are unplanned (access to contraception is particularly low among poor women, and women living in rural areas – the very women who are handing over so many of their children to the jaladores mentioned in the article); combining unplanned births with abortions yields estimates that 32% of pregnancies in Guatemala are unintended(see this report from the Guttmacher Institute http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3213606.html#12). Since abortions, except to save the life of the mother, are illegal (yet more government protection from bad choices), most abortions are clandestine, and unsafe. As a result, mortality related to abortion complications are the third leading cause of death for women of reproductive age.
    Taken together, these policies seem to indicate rather little interest in protecting women, except from making choices that government policy makers (and the Catholic Church) don’t approve of.

  • Stuart Armstrong

    We need lower, not higher, barriers to such exchange.

    Given a few precautions (reasonable maternity wards, cash-on-delivery ^_^ rather than payment in advance, a limit of one baby per woman per two years, a simple legal framework sorting out what contact rights the mother may or may not have in future with her adopted child), I’m all for it. With one big caveat.

    Guatemala is a developing nation, which probably means strong family bonds and a lesser position for women (please correct me if I’m wrong here). If the value generated by a woman for getting pregnant is higher than the value of the work she does (which for poor Guatemalans wouldn’t be hard), then there will be huge pressure on the women to become nothing more than baby-factories. Not from touts (who can only offer money) but from family, who can offer guilt, ostracism, praise and everyday pressure.

    This would result in individual women choosing to get pregnant far more than they would desire; spread over an entire class, it would undermine long-term improvements to the country (those caused by better educated woman, or a larger female workforce).

    But if that problem can be sorted out (or never materialises) then I’m all for it.

  • http://www.stafforini.com Pablo Stafforini

    Not only do the woman and the family benefit, but the baby gets a life!

    It is not clear what do you mean when you say that “the baby gets a life”. You might be saying that a baby, who already exists in the womb, is delivered rather than aborted. Or you might be saying that a baby, who hasn’t yet been conceived, is allowed to develop in the womb until birth instead of never been brought into existence. Most people believe it is a neutral rather than a good thing that new people are caused to exist, provided that they are expected to live lives worth living (if their lives are not expectedly worthwhile, causing them to exist is a bad thing). So on the second reading, your claim is at best controversial. And if we go for the first reading, your justification doesn’t apply to those cases where the monetary incentives induce women to conceive when they wouldn’t have otherwise. The final paragraph in the quote above suggests that incentives have had this effect quite frequently.

  • tsonevski

    Excellent post. Guatemalan government may see such transactions bad but this is a perfect example for a Pareto efficiency. A tribute to Prof. Posner and Elisabeth Landes who had that idea in mind 20 years ago.

  • Stuart Armstrong

    On my way to visit Tikal in Guatemala, my tour guide proudly noted how development agencies had helped the local village switch to producing art, rather than the usual exports. It seemed such agencies valued art production well beyond the income it brings.

    A bit more context here? Was he proud of the fact that (his?) local village was producing art (a hint that it’s a good thing) or proud of the fact they were following the advice of a foreign agency (a bad thing). Are bananas truly more profitable than art? Which is a more risky strategy?

    Their priorities, art over bananas over babies, are the opposite of mine.
    Interestingly, they seem to value these in precise order of the skills they develop among the population. Something to keep in mind, there – maybe development agencies are more interested in developing skills that developing profitable industries.

  • Julian Morrison

    It’s just another application of division of labor. The people who are better at making babies end up having the kids for the rest of the economy.

  • http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com Mike Kenny

    I assume selling babies is outrageous because the idea is that you don’t give your baby away generally, that a mother has a strong disposition to stay with her baby, and that in the ancrestral environment mothers who traded their babies away tended to not pass on their genes readily. This might not be the case anymore, but it would take time for selection pressures to change the way we humans are naturally.

    Also, is there evidence that poor people tend to make less rational decisions? I thought I read something about that somewhere–IIRC, what I read explained that there tended to be a higher discount rate among poor people. Could it be that a poor mother sells her child because of a high discount rate, and then regrets it in the future, and that the government, or cultural institutions that program people’s reposnses to some extent, represent the voice of reason–sort of like an people making an intervention in the life of someone doing drugs?

  • Stuart Armstrong

    Could it be that a poor mother sells her child because of a high discount rate, and then regrets it in the future, and that the government, or cultural institutions that program people’s reposnses to some extent, represent the voice of reason–sort of like an people making an intervention in the life of someone doing drugs?

    Remember the other side of the coin. Governments (to some extent) and cultural institutions (massively) also determine what is reasonable. If abortion is demonised by an influential church, then anyone going through an abortion will suffer social ostracism; ergo the best thing for them is not have an abortion, advice that the reasonable church will be happy to provide…

    Taken together, these policies seem to indicate rather little interest in protecting women

    That worries me a lot, and is giving me cool feet. I’m wondering if when I saw money flowing happily to poor women through this deal, I’m not making the same mistake as those who advocate fair trade. I.E. the profits will not got to the poor woman/farm worker but to the father/husband/landlord, and will only end up making life much more difficult for the not-fertile women.

    (Apologies if I am wrong, and fair trade has a large positive impact – that was not my impression for the moment).

  • Caledonian

    Not only do the woman and the family benefit, but the baby gets a life!

    So not only are existing children who desperately need to be adopted passed over, but we have another mouth to feed – and a First World, American mouth at that, which will consume far more resources than tend Third Worlders combined.

    You seem to be ignoring the obvious negative consequences. Why do you think that is?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/robinhanson/ Robin Hanson

    April, yes, the abortion and adoption rules together limit plausible theories about what exactly is the concern.

    Stuart, I’d want more concrete evidence that improved female job options hurt females on net before limiting job options on this basis. I think he saw art as high status.

    Pablo, I think it is a very good thing that I was brought into existence.

    Mike, higher discount rates are not obviously less rational.

    Caledonian, I don’t think an American mouth has a net negative externality.

  • http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com Mike Kenny

    Robin, I should have probably said that the discount rate was hyperbolic (perhaps more so than what is normal in humans–I believe generally humans tend to discount the future too much). In other words, women who sell their babies might not realize how costly it would be for them in the future, in terms of say, depression et c. Perhaps taboos about selling babies represents the forgotten wisdom of the past, when people did such things and regretted it, and made the acts taboo.

    I would guess, then, that the price that would be demanded by mothers if they generally had a better sense of the full costs of selling their babies, would be so high there would be very few buyers. I assume the ones who don’t know as well the value would drive down the price for babies below what is sensible if people were rational and had more information. But they incur a cost on others around them who see the act and find it distasteful, based perhaps on their natures, fitted for the ancestral environment.

    Of course, evidence of this would probably be gathered by letting people sell babies, and see how they react.

  • http://www.stafforini.com Pablo Stafforini

    Robin, do you think your being brought into existence was a good thing because it was good for the human being brought into existence, or do you think it was good for other reasons?

  • Constant

    I would guess, then, that the price that would be demanded by mothers if they generally had a better sense of the full costs of selling their babies, would be so high there would be very few buyers.

    So you believe that American mothers who give up their children for adoption (for free – the mother makes no money) are all making a mistake? Every one? Not a single one has good reasons for giving up her baby? Does this extend to abortion? If there cannot possibly be any good reason for a woman to give up her baby for adoption, then does it follow that there cannot possibly be any good reason for a woman to have an abortion? Or is there some vast gulf between these two cases, making abortion often a sensible and wise decision but giving up for adoption always a foolish decision that no mother in her right mind would make?

  • http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com Mike Kenny

    Constant,

    Very challenging questions. I’ll give a stab at answering them, though I think there’s some shakiness in my answer. Here it is:

    I don’t think giving a child up for adoption is a mistake necessarily. I imagine many mothers regret it, but the alternative may be more painful for them and the child. With adoption there is at least an illusion of altruism. “I’m not doing this for me, but for you, my little baby.”

    Selling your baby diminishes or destroys this illusion, which might be in part why its unpopular. I think it might be an inbuilt quality in humans, who are socialanimals, to want strongly to signal to others that we’re altruistic. If you consider selling your baby, it might make sense to consider the cost it will have on your reputation, which perhaps is steep (perhaps very very steep in the ancestral environment). If you put your child up for adoption, you diminish the damage or prevent the signal to others of your lack of altruism.

    My impression of abortion is it has more to do with a belief that the child has yet to become a person in some sense, and so aborting is preempting the creation of a child, the way wearing a condom is, et c.

    Anyway, I’m speculating on empirical questions, and am open to all evidence! One bit of useful evidence would be to allow baby selling and conventional adoption in one state and see how people choose.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/ TGGP

    David Benatar and Chip Smith argue that the greatest harm is being born in the first place and that the practice should be ended. The former wrote the book Better Never to Have Been and the latter has been writing an unfinished series on anti-natalism: one two three four.

    Oiknomos, you might be interested in what they have to say about Frank Salter’s ideas at Gene Expression

  • http://www.mccaughan.org.uk/g/ g

    As well as signalling to others, our actions signal to ourselves. (We have less direct knowledge of ourselves than we like to imagine.) Selling a child signals — not only to others but to yourself too — a not-very-high value on that child’s life (this isn’t rational, of course) and on bringing the child up yourself (this one is rational, I think). Therefore a society in which this happens a lot will tend to be one in which people are seen to value, and see themselves as valuing (and perhaps therefore actually value), their children less. This could be a very bad thing.

    (Disclaimer: I haven’t a shred of communicable evidence for any of the psychological claims in the foregoing paragraph.)

  • Oiknomos

    TGGP,

    I appreciate the link, its good to know what the web’s authoritative source on pop-sci has to say about the topic. However, I find the author’s objections to the theory of Ethnic Genetic Interests to be trivial.

    Contrary to what is maintained on that particular page, that website (GeneXP) had intensely political birth-pangs. This however belongs to that list of things one is not supposed to know about. Unlike the moral propriety of buying and selling Guatemalan babies, which incidentally is the topic of this thread.

    Oiknom.

  • http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2007/12/robins_rant.html EconLog

    Robin’s “Rant”

    On Saturday, Robin Hanson told me that he was going to blog a “rant” about Guatemalan baby-selling. As expected, Robin’s…

  • Mikael

    Robin, April and others,

    If a mother gives away her baby free – fine.

    If you can create such markets on babies – in Guatemala – that a mother can exercise her free will at all stages until final closure of the deal – fine. The problem is you can´t. And that is why the answer should be no.

    With very few exceptions, the preferences of mothers change dramatically after childbirth. The price at which they would sell their children will go from multiple to infinity relative to what it was during pregnancy. This is not due to the discount on advance payments we know from accounting, but to brain chemistry.

    If you create markets on babies, it will hardly feasible to effectively exclude that babies are sold before childbirth. Neither can it be excluded that the deals are signed with a huge discounts relative to the mother´s expected preferences after childbirth. Quite on the opposite, as markets would clear easier during the time period before childbirth, this would probably be the most frequent case (especially as your broker who gets his cut from the margin would be highly aware of this).

    In most civilized countries we have the moral and legal conception that a will/testament which does not reflect the true intent of the testor is not binding. A will is about money. Babies is something which most humans value even higher than money, at least mothers do. I don´t see why we should be less cranky about the concept of free will coercion when we deal with transactions on babies than with monetary values.

    As Stuart already pointed out in an above post, the negotiating power of poor Guatemalan women regarding their own choices is not quite what we would whish it would be. Due to this and to the expected excess in discount we thus risk a situation on the market on babies that a) mothers are not adequately compensated and/or b) mothers are deprived of their children under extreme pressure from their social environment.

    A market which does not respond to the legitimate need of protection of all parties involved quickly becomes a public issue -even if there are indirectly benefiting third parties such as unborn babies and adopting families. I believe this is what the Guatemalan government is at.

    Talking about biases – I believe most of us are wealthy Northern Americans? I would love to hear the biased opinion of a Guatemalan social worker.

  • Constant

    Talking about biases – I believe most of us are wealthy Northern Americans? I would love to hear the biased opinion of a Guatemalan social worker.

    The main opinion-forming element here being “social worker”, not “Guatemalan”. So we should restate the above as follows:

    “Talk about biases. I believe most of us are not government employees whose livelihoods depend on government having power over the lives of people. I would love to hear whether such a government worker will come up with reasons for keeping himself or herself employed.”

  • Psychohistorian

    Keep in mind the $3000 is a payment in (I believe) a black market. That price would plummet. Though if people are morally outraged by some women giving up their babies for $3000, presumably that would only get worse if they gave them up for $100, which is itself indicative of odd reasoning.

    Second, the buyers would probably get upset by this, both because of an aversion to paying people for their kids and outrage at the markups (If I could go there and pay $3000 (or less) cash, why am I paying $40,000 to some guy in a suit?). It would be likely that many Americans adopting these children would try to require they come from mothers who weren’t paid, though enforceability might be an issue.

    And it’s harder to attract people to adopt children from poverty-stricken people who had kids to sell them than from just plain-poverty stricken people who had kids.

    In short, opening it up to the free market would probably induce a demand-side shift, so it seems foolish to assume the prices or mechanics would stay the same in any way.

    Oh, and Oiknomos – “This pseudoscience would change our expectations in X way” would have been a lot more useful than “This pseudoscience might change how you evaluate this if you think about it” without specifics.

  • Constant

    A market in which women are paid to have babies which they then give up already exists. These women are called surrogate mothers. Illegal some places but legal other places. A quick Google search suggests that surrogate mothers earn thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands.

  • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

    Robin,

    Did you just commit the lucky souls fallacy!?

    [T]he possible people implicit in couples’ germ cells are not actual people, and therefore do not have preferences. Conception and birth are preconditions for having preferences. I call this the “lucky souls fallacy”. Imagine pre-actual persons gathered outside the gate of existence. Each soul holds a number in its tiny incorporeal hands, badly hoping to be called. An ethereal presence stands at the gate shouting numbers. Lucky souls get to go to the front of the line, through the gate, and straight into a real pulsing zygote.

    Only thus does the “decision to have kids” create a “massive benefit” to the kid. Lucky soul! But Mr Mankiw is right. What childbirth does is create a life — a new nexus of benefits and harms, a new container of utility (to be reductively economistic about it). But by itself reproduction confers no benefit on the child produced, since there was no prior hollow soul longing to be filled by the breath of being.

    A good positivist, Mr Mankiw avoids talk of souls and simply speaks of what may be observed. He is to be commended for his professionalism. But his sound point is rather clearer if we dabble in cartoon theology. It is then vivid that the decision not to have the next child will leave some unlucky soul dejected and unrealised. If having a kid benefits the kid, then not having a kid harms the kid-that-might-have-been. Even on his own terms, Mr Glaeser has his priorities confused. Fertile citizens that have no or few children are creating massive negative externalities on the plane of inexistence. So these selfish louts must be taxed at punishingly high rates to induce them to stop causing so much pain and breed already. Who will think of the pure, shining, innocent baby souls?

  • http://www.mccaughan.org.uk/g/ g

    Constant, when you said The main opinion-forming element here being “social worker”, not “Guatemalan”, what was your evidence that that is in fact the main “opinion-forming element”?

    Also, could you explain in a little more detail how you got from what Mikael said to “I would love to hear whether such a government worker will come up with reasons for keeping himself or herself employed”; I don’t quite understand how any of “there should be a free market in babies”, “there should be heavy regulation on the buying and selling of babies”, or even “it should be absolutely forbidden to buy or sell babies”, has anything to do with whether social workers are employed or not.

  • Adirian

    Will Wilkinson -

    One can posit a positive externality for the production of a human being without referring to the concept of a soul – simply by assuming that most people have a net positive influence upon the world. (In terms of economy, say, by assuming – quite rightly, historically – that on average a human being produces more than he or she consumes.)

  • Constant

    Constant, when you said The main opinion-forming element here being “social worker”, not “Guatemalan”, what was your evidence that that is in fact the main “opinion-forming element”?

    Let me rephrase. How odd it is that the person I was quoting didn’t say just “Guatemalan” and instead said “Guatemalan social worker”. The reasoning leading up to the mention only mentioned our nationality and therefore only supported “Guatemalan”, not “social worker”.

    That unsupported insertion of “social worker” is rather odd and begs for explanation. If you don’t like my explanation, feel free to supply your own.

    I don’t quite understand how any of “there should be a free market in babies”, “there should be heavy regulation on the buying and selling of babies”, or even “it should be absolutely forbidden to buy or sell babies”, has anything to do with whether social workers are employed or not.

    I don’t understand how you don’t understand. Let’s try something similar. Do you understand how “pharmaceuticals should be regulated and not simply handed out freely by pharmacists” has anything to do with whether doctors are employed or not?

  • http://espelhofosco.blogspot.com/ Vasco Figueira

    Robin: «Not only do the woman and the family benefit, but the baby gets a life!»
    Pablo: «…you might be saying that a baby, who hasn’t yet been conceived, is allowed to develop in the womb until birth instead of never been brought into existence. Most people believe it is a neutral rather than a good thing that new people are caused to exist»
    Robin: «I think it is a very good thing that I was brought into existence.»

    Come on, Robin, you can do better than that. Either you admit your utterance is paraconsistent (when the baby “gets a life” either he/she already has one or has not, but in either case he/she can never possibly receive one, as he/she already has one or doesn’t exist) or you’ll have to argue a bit more, to avoid being labeled as a pro-life anti-rationalist. ;-)

  • kebko

    Boy, I’d like to be with you here. But, this borders on trafficking in people, so I think there are problems. We’re talking about people here. Just for starters, we’re talking about a 9 month gestation. Talk to any inventory manager in an industry with 9 month production times, and you’ll find it’s a bit hairy. It’s one thing to have a bunch of airplanes sitting in the hangar with no buyers. It’s another thing to have extra babies sitting around. Imagine that there is a string of hepatitis or something in Guatamalan babies, it hits the media & suddenly the demand for Guatemalan babies dries up. 9 months later you’ve got 5,000 unwanted babies piling up. That’s a hell of an inventory problem.

  • http://wolfpangloss.wordpress.com Wolf Pangloss

    I find it curious that I’ve come to the end of this thread about the buying and selling of babies and nobody has mentioned the elephant in the room: Slavery. Given that slavery is a great moral evil, is there a way to buy and sell children that prevents the evil of slavery? I don’t see any evil in adoption. Nor do I see any evil in a woman giving up a child for adoption, or in getting paid for her time and effort. The tout, the lawyer, and the social worker (whose livelihoods depend on putting up barriers against adoption) are in less morally clear positions. I do not believe that human life is a bad thing, but rather a good. And I certainly believe that free exchange of goods and services, leading to specialization, is a good thing.

    If the baby grows up to be a free, educated adult (not enslaved) who can make a positive contribution to society and humanity, without being abused along the way, then it’s all good.

    But if the baby grows up to be an enslaved adult, or one who is unable to make a positive contribution to society or becomes a parasite or criminal, then it’s bad.

    How can adoption, even adoption with pay going to the mother, be structured to maximize the first probability and minimize the second? Are government adoption agencies able to achieve these goals or should adoptions be handled by churches or some other types of (for profit) organizations rather than governments?

  • Adirian

    Vasco, you’re ignoring the net externality of a higher population. I generally don’t side with Robin, but I am definitively siding with him now – a higher population is, all other things being equal, a good thing. It permits greater mental connectivity – the same number of people across a greater span of time cannot produce the same level of invention, for the simple reason that they cannot engage in bidirectional communication. One genius may develop only upon his own ideas, and those before him – two geniuses may develop upon the ideas of one another, expanding upon the limits each individually would come up against, whichever order they would otherwise have come in. Thus a positive net externality for a birth. (Not to mention the economic benefits that specialization brings.)

    And a positive benefit for the baby, in that it is being adopted by a first-world family which is more capable of providing for it.

    And a positive benefit for the birth parents, at least genetically. (Indeed, fantastically well, genetically) Potentially positive benefits also include a “way out” of abortion, which has been mentioned above.

    The only negative impact I see is upon the genetic efficiency of the host mother and father, who, after all, are devoting resources to developing somebody else’s children.

  • http://www.mccaughan.org.uk/g/ g

    Constant, I thought the most obvious reason for inserting “social worker” was because social workers are good candidates for people who have met a lot of poor and/or vulnerable people and paid attention to their quality of life. (So it didn’t, and still doesn’t, seem to me like an odd insertion at all.)

    As for social workers’ keeping themselves employed, etc., thanks for the clarification. It’s entirely unobvious to me from the WaPo article just what sort of supervision the Guatemalan government is proposing to put in place and whether it would actually mean a lot more work for social workers or only for bureaucrats, but let’s suppose for the sake of argument that regulating baby-trafficking would in fact provide more jobs for social workers.

    Then: 1. I agree that a Guatemalan social worker’s opinion would have some bias in it. (But, duh, Mikael already admitted that. “I would love to hear the biased opinion of a Guatemalan social worker.”) 2. It seems like you’re suggesting that this bias makes their answer a foregone conclusion, but I don’t see why. It’s not as if saying “no more regulation” would mean they’d be out of a job. (Any Guatemalan social worker, as such, *has* a job despite the current low level of regulation.) And it seems easy to think of questions to which one answer would mean plenty more work for social workers but to which most social workers would answer the other way. (“Should it be compulsory to get an evaluation from a social worker before getting married?”, “Should every person in the country, without exception, have an assigned social worker who meets with them for an hour every day?”.)

  • Nick Tarleton

    And a positive benefit for the birth parents, at least genetically. (Indeed, fantastically well, genetically)
    The only negative impact I see is upon the genetic efficiency of the host mother and father

    Not morally relevant.

    Stuart: Great point.

    People have a “yuck” reaction to money being mixed with childbirth (or organs, sex…). Also, people are appalled at conditions where a woman sees it as a good option to become pregnant and give up her child for $3000 – $11 a day – but they see the transaction as a problem rather than the conditions (possibly because they just don’t want to be reminded of poverty).

  • http://profile.typekey.com/robinhanson/ Robin Hanson

    I guess I should write a post soon explaining why I think it is good to create people whose lives are worth living.

  • http://wolfpangloss.wordpress.com/2007/12/03/baby-selling-and-slavery/ Wolf Pangloss

    Baby Selling and Slavery

  • Constant

    It seems like you’re suggesting that this bias makes their answer a foregone conclusion, but I don’t see why. It’s not as if saying “no more regulation” would mean they’d be out of a job.

    Metrics or vouchers don’t mean that public school teachers would be out of a job, but guess how public school teachers feel about metrics and vouchers.

    And it seems easy to think of questions to which one answer would mean plenty more work for social workers but to which most social workers would answer the other way.

    Yes: questions where there is no easy way to disguise the self-interest of taking the self-interested position.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/ TGGP

    Oiknomos, godless was rather candid about their political origins fairly recently at 2Blowhards, but he hasn’t posted any topics at GNXP for a while now and in general the contributors seem less political (perhaps I came to the site too late to know, but I suspect some of them edged too close to the neocon bandwagon and got mugged by reality).

    Some relevant writings on the current topic are Steven Pinker on infanticide and Judith Harris on maternal selection.

  • A woman’s POV

    It is in general a good thing if willing women are induced by money to have babies families want to adopt. Not only do the woman and the family benefit, but the baby gets a life!

    This assertion isn’t only controversial; it’s absurd. The comments here appear to have a male bias.

    Women don’t benefit from being economically pressured into producing babies. The men do, however. A woman’s pregnancy is no way comparable to a male’s sperm donation. Nobody here seemed to mention the physical strain of carrying a fetus for nine months. The fetus is essentially a parasite, drawing nutrients from the pregnant woman. If food is limited, the food the woman eats is diverted to building up the muscles and tissue of the fetus. She also loses a lot of calcium, which may weaken her bones in the long run.

    On the other hand, a man’s contribution to reproduction is only his DNA.

    If a woman “benefits” from having a baby in exchange for money, why do women with more economic freedom choose to not have children, even if it’s against their genetic interests? It’s silly to reduce a woman’s “benefit” to only her “genetic benefit”, as genetic benefit itself seems to be biased in favour of males.

    This–in addition to issues concerning transnational adoption that the author seems to be unaware of which harm the adoptee–makes me very disappointed in this blog. I am saddened that I have to witness such a degree of bias in a blog about overcoming bias.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/sentience/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    I am saddened that I have to witness such a degree of bias in a blog about overcoming bias.

    Yay! Robin Hanson gets these comments too! I’m glad I’m not the only author here who occasionally ticks people off.

  • http://espelhofosco.blogspot.com/ Vasco Figueira

    Robin: «I guess I should write a post soon explaining why I think it is good to create people whose lives are worth living.»

    Good for us that are already here, not good for the to-be-born-or-not baby. My point is that the decision of having or not a baby is morally neutral *with respect to* the baby himself. When he’s born (or conceived), he’s born. End of story. There is no “Good, the baby gets a life!”. Either it doesn’t exist (and there’s no subject) or he does and has been given a life. A baby cannot not be given life.

    (I think this also replies to Adirian.)

  • Adirian

    Yes, it does, Vasco.

    As for the individual who claimed genetic selectivity is not morally charged, that genetics are not morally relevant – there is nothing more important to morality than reality. The theory of morality must describe something related to reality, in order to be meaningful – say, a utility function to maximize happiness.

    To say that anything, anything at all, is not morally relevant – is to say that that something is not real. Everything has moral relevance. I choose to favour my own genes over those of others – for reasons I regard as moral. After all, I am the product of a genetic investment whose repayment is in my own reproduction. I fail to be worth the expense my genetic predecessors put into me if I fail in that regard – after all, I fail to pay the only price of my own existence, the natural contract by which I came into being. There is a great deal of moral relevance there, and a great topic for moral debate. Agree or disagree, the idea that genetics are morally irrelevant is nonsense.

  • Adirian

    “It’s silly to reduce a woman’s “benefit” to only her “genetic benefit”, as genetic benefit itself seems to be biased in favour of males.”

    - I didn’t, at least. There were two benefits I mentioned. The first is a way out of dangerous illegal abortions – legal abortions are better, of course, but a socially acceptable alternative should not be ruled out because the best choice isn’t available.

    And to say that genetic benefit is biased in favour of males does nothing to eliminate said genetic benefit to females. Males almost always get the better genetic deal, after all – the disparity in initial investment is constant. The mother benefits in this case to as great a degree as a female may without expensive intervention of modern medical techniques, whose cost in this case would be prohibitive. The mother still pays, essentially, the absolute minimum in genetic cost, while getting back, genetically, significantly more than could otherwise be the case. (Her child is not only raised, but raised in much, MUCH better conditions than she could otherwise provide.)

  • A woman’s POV

    My point is that “benefit” for a woman is not equivalent to “genetic benefit” for a woman. What is in the woman’s best interest isn’t necessarily the same as what is in her genes’ best interest.

    That arrangement–giving birth to a child and selling it–may be optimal in terms of genetic proliferation, but it is not necessarily optimal in terms of other goals, such as the woman’s happiness, for example.

  • Adirian

    I didn’t mean to imply that it was, nor that it should be held to be an individual’s exclusive goal. I regard genetic proliferation as a virtue in itself – but would not, even were I to think it would maximize such a virtue, go around raping individuals, for the simple reason that this infringes upon fulfillment of other values, of which personal freedom is one of them. It is simply one of many things that may be considered, when weighing a decision.

  • http://www.mccaughan.org.uk/g/ g

    Constant, would you like to present some actual evidence that social workers’ opinions on this subject would be so biased as to be useless, or do you prefer to go on blowing smoke?

    AWPOV, whether “having a baby in exchange for money” is a net benefit to a woman could surely depend on how much money and how valuable that money is to her. More or less parallel: would you argue “If a person benefits from doing a job in exchange for money, why do independently wealthy people often not take jobs?”? And, on the face of it, the fact that they’re prepared to do it suggests that *compared to the other options open to them* they consider it a benefit.

    (Other commentators have suggested some reasons why they might be wrong, or why their actions might not actually indicate that they consider what they’re doing a net benefit to themselves. They may very well be right.)

  • Stuart Armstrong

    Stuart, I’d want more concrete evidence that improved female job options hurt females on net before limiting job options on this basis.

    That should be easy enough to figure out – either through a pilot program or looking at other countries where pay-for-adoption is more the norm (implicitly or explicitly).

    Yay! Robin Hanson gets these comments too! I’m glad I’m not the only author here who occasionally ticks people off.
    I did a few posts, and never got any serious accusations of bias – I must be doing something wrong! ;-)

  • Constant

    Constant, would you like to present some actual evidence that social workers’ opinions on this subject would be so biased as to be useless, or do you prefer to go on blowing smoke?

    Someone picks out, specifically, Guatemalan social workers, instead of simply Guatemalans, and I am not allowed to question this curious choice aloud? Frankly, the point I’m making seems rather obvious, and it is easy to support, and I’ve already supported it, and I can further support it. For whatever reason, you don’t think the reasons I’ve so far given constitute “actual evidence”. What would constitute “actual evidence”? Do you want me to find actual online articles that support my contention that social workers can be relied on, because of their economic position, to give kneejerk support to paternalism, given that the social worker is the foot soldier of paternalism? Sure I can supply those, but so can you by Googling. I Googled and easily found many links like this one to JSTOR. I don’t know if it’ll work – it has weird characters. The article is titled “Paternalism Among Social Agency Employees.” I will quote a bit from the article in case the link does not work.

    It was argued then and is still argued now that social agency employees have a paternalistic attitude toward those they serve – the poor. According to some observers, staff members in social agencies regard their clients as irresopnsible and thus in need of being treated like children

    The article is here is not speaking on behalf of the authors (who could have their own minority view) but relating well known views by way of introduction (“it is still argued now” and “according to some observers”). References such as this one are easily multiplied. I should not need to link to them however, because the point is so obvious.

    If you look at the comment I was replying to, it was paternalistic through and through, consisting of an argument from beginning to end that people can’t be trusted to make the right decisions for themselves because of the situation they are in. Right after making this paternalistic argument, he appeals to social workers. It’s somehow wrong of me to point out the obvious here? My original point was no more than a brief reminder of the obvious. You want to drag it out. Fine.

  • bjk

    If we really wanted to maximize efficiency, you could set up a hospital where Guatemalans could volunteer for drug trials, deliver their babies for sale, sell organs, etc. That would be right next to the tourist brothel and up the street from the toxic waste unloading dock. The really enterprising Guatemalan could unload waste in the morning, sell her organs in the afternoon, and serve tourists at night. And who would want to limit her options?

  • Mikael

    Constant,
    You got your explanation from g already:

    “I thought the most obvious reason for inserting “social worker” was because social workers are good candidates for people who have met a lot of poor and/or vulner-able people and paid attention to their quality of life. “
    I thought it was obvious too, sorry for the confusion. Key here is that those Guatemalan moth-ers’ preferences, due to way markets function, are the most intriguing part of the whole baby business. I believe a Guatemalan social worker would have lots of relevant information for all of us. With this, I hope we can leave the supposed tendency of various government employees and doctors to employ themselves aside.

    In my remark that most of us are Northern Americans I was insinuating that we tend to side with the interest of those we have the strongest social bonds with, but seldom as clearly as in this de-bate. I apologize if you feel offended.

    “A market in which women are paid to have babies which they then give up al-ready exists. These women are called surrogate mothers. Illegal some places but legal other places”

    I suppose this came in my direction too? Let´s at first take a wild guess why it might be illegal in some places:

    In most civilized countries the system works in such a way that the mother has a more or less effective exit option. However, we have good reasons to assume that mothers in other countries – such as Guatemala – don´t (if you think this is not a problem, I have very little more to say to make you convinced). Further, we can’t address this tendency of the market.

    I babbled a lot on i) the structural discount problem with signing the deal before delivering, ii) value of the exercise of free will and iii) the poor negotiation power of Guatemalan women, which build up to above statements. Last, I wish to point out that, without diving into details, surrogate mothers is not quite the same as the baby business this topic is about.

    Overcoming biases is an intellectual game, but if it’s part of a public issue as well, there are some real world fundaments that need to be taken into account. We have no use of the positive externalities in the baby market, when market actors di-rectly involved in the production risk being seriously deprived of what is commonly perceived as their legitimate rights.

  • Mikael

    Constant,

    “If you look at the comment I was replying to, it was paternalistic through and through, consisting of an argument from beginning to end that people can’t be trusted to make the right decisions for themselves because of the situation they are in.”

    Do you also think that regulation on child labor is paternalistic? Or regulation on working conditions? Or regulation on dangerous contents in foodstuffs? Or antitrust control? Regulation of the financial markets?

    I could give you many more examples of regulation that protects weak and uninformed market agents, prone to negative consequences of actions of more powerful agents on an uncontrolled market. What absence of such appropriate regulation leads to has been tested over and over again. Take the subprime loan crisis as a recent example.

    Unless you are a hunter gatherer, you will recognize that you yourself are protected by regulation that you would never want to give up, which by all standards is equally “paternalistic” as government control in the baby business.

    If you don´t need protection in the Guatemalan baby business, maybe somebody else does?

  • Constant

    The comment about surrogate mothers and how much they are paid was in response to Psychohistorian, because he/she was talking about how much women would be paid to have babies if the practice were legalized. I pointed out that surrogacy is in fact legal in some places and women get paid well for it.

    As far as exit options go – most people selling most things do not have exit options. Once the thing is sold, it is sold. I cannot recover that antique which I sold and which subsequently gained in value. I question the necessity for the existence of an exit option as a moral precondition of my freedom, or anyone’s freedom, to make a sale. Of course, “exit option” can mean many things. It can mean that someone’s economic situation is so bad that they have little choice but to do something like sell their baby. But if you then prevent them from selling their baby, then you are throwing them back on that bad economic situation, which was even worse than selling the baby. So you are strictly making them worse off. So here, too, I see no moral justification for preventing someone from making a sale because of their limited options. You can, of course, act in a strictly positive manner by offering them options (e.g., offering them charity). But you can do that without restricting their freedom to sell their baby. If they nevertheless sell the baby, then your charity simply was not enough, and once again, if you forcibly prevent them from selling the baby you are making them worse off, and this is not morally justified.

  • Constant

    Do you also think that regulation on child labor is paternalistic? Or regulation on working conditions? Or regulation on dangerous contents in foodstuffs? Or antitrust control? Regulation of the financial markets?

    Yes. However, each of these is a large topic which we might debate for weeks. I have gotten past the point in my life when I was debating things all evening long for weeks or months on end, so I am not going to pursue this. Besides, blog comments aren’t really a good forum for such discussions. There is, of course, plenty of libertarian literature out there on why radical individual freedom does not equal social disaster, if you want to pursue the issue on your own.

  • Constant

    Let me make a simple point, though: in the absence of government-provided regulation, the market will produce substitutes, and in some areas already does. For example, Underwriters Laboratories tests devices for safety. They are the organization behind the ubiquitous UL that you see on electronic products. UL is not a government agency, but is private.

  • http://www.mccaughan.org.uk/g/ g

    Constant, re paternalism, your original claim (or at least insinuation) was that the fact that someone is a social worker makes their opinions on a topic like this worthless because all they care about is keeping their job. When asked for evidence, what you produce is a journal article (of which I can’t read more than the first paragraph and a bit, and I see no sign that you have done so either) that says that some people think government-employed social workers are paternalistic. This fails in so many ways to support your original claim that I’m having trouble believing you’re serious.

    (Do I need to enumerate them? Very well; here are some. 1. The article, so far as can be told from the bit that’s available, merely says that some people think government-employed social workers are paternalistic. As you remark (though you don’t put it that way) the rest of the paper could be devoted to refuting that idea. 2. Your claim wasn’t merely that social workers are paternalistic, but that they advocate paternalism for the sake of their employment prospects. The article, so far as I can tell, doesn’t make or even report any such claim. Plenty of other possible explanations — assuming the paternalism is real — seem just as plausible to me. 3. Widespread paternalism among social workers is a reason for being uninterested in their views only if it’s ill-founded. Presumably NASA employees are unanimous in rejecting flat-earth-ism, and presumably they’d be in danger of losing their jobs if that belief became standard, but that doesn’t justify ignoring them when they say that the evidence available to them indicates that the earth is not flat. I see no sign that the article you cite has anything to say about whether paternalism among government-employed social workers is justified. 4. The article appears to be concerned specifically with social workers in the US; the forces influencing paternalism among social workers might be different in Guatemala for all sorts of obvious reasons. 5. Supposing it established that Guatemalan social workers advocate paternalistic policies for the sake of their employment prospects even in some cases when there is no good justification for them, their opinions on this issue could still be interesting: their rationalizations, while not themselves much evidence for anything, might still contain useful information, and of course — since we’re agreed that not even social workers will advocate *every* paternalistic policy — there’s always the possibility that they’ll take an unexpected line on this issue, which would be very interesting indeed if they were as strongly biased as you claim.)

    Incidentally, a bit of googling suggests that actually the paper is offering a comparison between social workers whose work is targeted at poor people, and social workers whose work is targeted at the middle classes, and saying that the former are — I don’t know by what measure — more paternalistic than the latter.

    Of course no one ever said or suggested that you’re “not allowed to question” Mikael’s mention of social workers. (What a silly idea! Why would anyone try to forbid you?) And of course what you actually did wasn’t to “question” it but to make baseless assertions about Mikael’s reason for mentioning them, and to offer a nonsensical and insulting “restatement” of what he’d said. And of course no one is suggesting that *that* is forbidden either.

    Constant (and others) re the more fundamental problem being the bad situation that would make someone see selling their babies as a good option, yes, certainly. The question is whether the externalities of baby-selling, and the (alleged, but somewhat plausible to me) factors that might lead some people to misjudge the downside of selling their babies, mean that unregulated baby-selling actually makes the bad situation worse.

    Mikael, just out of curiosity, why all the hyphens?

  • http://www.hooverhog.com Chip Smith

    I guess I should write a post soon explaining why I think it is good to create people whose lives are worth living.

    Looking forward to it.

  • Mikael

    “As far as exit options go – most people selling most things do not have exit options. Once the thing is sold, it is sold. I cannot recover that antique which I sold and which subsequently gained in value.”

    It seems that you did not read my original post very carefully, and I certainly won’t accuse you for it. I suggest you read it because you might get a better picture of my argument there, but I will one last time point out why baby business is not business as usual, as in your antiques case.

    i) due to brain chemistry involved in childbirth, the sellers i.e. the mothers systematically change their preferences after childbirth, and prices rock from everything between multiple to eternity;

    ii) babies will systematically be sold on pre-childbirth prices because the markets will clear better, brokers know this and will exploit it;

    iii) as a result of a mother’s social standing, she will have no means to back out even if she would want to (even if the family could afford to return the advance payment the woman might not be in control of the economic means and/or if she would be, in most cases the money would probably have been spent irrevocably). It’s like getting somebody awfully drunk and make him sign a deed that gives you his house in exchange for one more pint. When he sobers up, his preferences change but the house would still be yours… – if it wasn’t for the “paternalistic” interpretation of law that says that such deeds are not legally binding.

    The bottom line is there will be too many cases where mothers are trapped and no “freedom to sell you baby” really exists.

    However, if you really don’t think that any of the other regulation already mentioned is of any use, I agree this is not the forum for debating it. If there is plenty of libertarian literature that backs you up, I would be thankful if you gave me three good references. Could you?

  • Mikael

    g,

    My keyboard is very small and I’m clumsy enough to erase what I wrote from time to time. I used word and didn’t notice that I copied the hyphens into my post as well…

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robinhanson Robin Hanson

    See my Added to the post above.

  • Constant

    It seems that you did not read my original post very carefully

    Or maybe you needed to read my response with more thought. So you don’t accuse me again of not reading you carefully, I will restate in my own words the points I think you are making. People change their minds about the value of things. Some people do this in a predictable way. Other people take this into account in order to get a good deal. People sometimes spend the money that they made on a deal, so they can’t give it back to cancel the deal. People sometimes are pressured by other people to make (or stick with) deals which they would not otherwise make or stick with.

    I will address these one by one.

    1) Yes, people change their minds. This is a general fact of life. But the whole point of a contract is that people are thereby obligated to do things that they would not otherwise be inclined to do. If changing one’s mind is sufficient to free a person from his obligations under contract, then we may as well completely do away with the institution of contracts, because it undermines the very idea. Do you want to do that? Do you think we would be better off without contracts?

    2) Yes, people are predictable sometimes. Yes, other people use this predictability to their benefit. I wait for after-Christmas sales, because I predict that stores will be slashing prices to move merchandize. Is this wrong? Should I be prevented?

    Bah, interrupted. Sorry, I have to go, something came up in real life and I’m not going to get back to this I think. If you want something on “regulation is bad”, there’s an interview between Coase (the economist) and Reason magazine in which Coase mentions that he took part in and/or was aware of a lot of empirical research where the universal conclusion was that regulation always and everywhere is bad, makes things worse. Coase himself is modest in the conclusion he draws, but I think a more radical conclusion is justified. URL is http://www.reason.com/news/show/30115.html, the bit in question surrounds the lines:

    Coase: I can’t remember one that’s good. Regulation of transport, regulation of agriculture– agriculture is a, zoning is z. You know, you go from a to z, they are all bad. There were so many studies, and the result was quite universal: The effects were bad.

  • Constant

    Well, I guess I should complete the thought. My basic point is this: the points you raise about women selling babies are general issues. They have analogs any any area, any kind of contract. You can get out of contracts generally, if you’re willing to pay the price. Contract law isn’t law from hell. It’s not totally unreasonable. So I don’t see why the issues of selling babies can’t be accommodated there, instead of being specially targeted for regulation. That’s generally what I was going to spend a lot of time constructing an argument getting at. As for being pressured by other people in her life, that’s also a general problem in life and there are general ways of addressing it.

  • http://www.scheule.blogspot.com Scott Scheule

    Constant, we had a long fight about whether or not contracts should be enforced by the state, with your position being that contract enforcement should be through reputation, not outside enforcement.

    So it seems to me your position in the current circumstance should be: mothers should be allowed to sell their children, but to change their mind and take their children back, provided they pay for the hardship caused to the other party. Have I pegged you right?

  • Chuck

    When you talk about moving from the traditional model of adoption focused on already existing babies in need and move to a one where you are creating babies solely for adoption, you have to analyze the benefit to mother, adoptive parties, and already existing babies.

    I don’t think it is a streach to imagine a situation like we have now with adoptive animals – pure breeds, puppy mills, etc, and lots of extra animals that nobody wants. Plus, some percentage of adoptions of animals in need.

    I think that keeping the market for babies to adopt tight improves the odds of babies that already exist, and are in need in some way, to be adopted.

    The positive externalities to that are, I would think, much larger…

  • Mikael

    Robin,

    I omitted to read your addition, thanks for pointing it out.

    1) I thought I made a fairly clear point out of why two arguments in your list, namely

    - Some people making this choice later regret it
    - The people choosing are women.

    do amount to mothers being in need of protection from uncontrolled markets to the degree that the whole issue needs addressing from the local government. I had my go explaining why this is so in three posts already, and won’t make a fourth effort here… unless the case is that you read my posts and you do not understand how I come up with this.

    2) Further, so far I have not seen a single argument, which would indicate of another means by which such market problems could be rectified – except for a ban.

    Could be you can prove 1) or 2) wrong, but I am not aware of anyone having done that yet.

    Constant: Thanks for your effort, but I have the intense feeling that we will not be able to understand each other.

  • Constant

    So it seems to me your position in the current circumstance should be: mothers should be allowed to sell their children, but to change their mind and take their children back, provided they pay for the hardship caused to the other party. Have I pegged you right?

    Hi Scott. Yeah, I think that’s about right. I haven’t picked out a precise position on contracts.

    My point here, to put it maybe more clearly, is that the more ability you give to mothers to back out of contracts, the less ability you give to mothers to make contracts. The whole point of making contracts is to make it difficult to back out. So if you bend the law too much to defend mothers who were paid and spent the money and now want to keep their kids, then by the same token you deprive other mothers of the ability to convince people to pay them up front. Since contracts are mutually beneficial, then you can’t really just benefit one side at the expense of the other side – if you benefit some people on one side, you are hurting other people on the same side. Benefit one mother, hurt other mothers. You can’t purely benefit mothers while purely hurting baby merchants. An analogy: the communists tried to benefit the workers by screwing the capitalists, but because the employment contract is in fact mutually beneficial, they ended up hurting everybody.

    The problems that mothers face are not, I think, unlike the problems that everyone else faces (e.g., changing one’s mind, being predictable, spending the advance, being pushed around by other people in one’s family), which is why I don’t think that the solution should be specially tailored to mothers.

  • Constant

    Mikael – maybe my response to Scott clears up this point. In your effort to protect some mothers, you are hurting other mothers. You are protecting them from certain possibilities that might arise from commerce, but you are by the same token depriving them of some of the advantages of commerce. And on the whole, I think that the result is harmful to women. I do not, for example, think that women on the whole are quite as irrational as you depict them. I expect them to have a much keener understanding of the situation than you seem to give them credit for, and not be such slaves to their hormones.

  • http://www.scheule.blogspot.com Scott Scheule

    I only bring it up, Constant, because I tentatively (now) agree with your position on contracts. But I wanted to make sure you really believed it before I jumped on.

  • http://www.myspace.com/dynamopsychism DaCracka

    What I’ve learned so far from Constant’s arguments on this thread:

    Social workers are self-serving and greedy. As well as patronizing.

    Teachers, also, are in it mostly for the job security.

    Guatamalans and Americans must differ little in opinion, when compared to social-workers vs non-social workers.

    Libertarians have difficulty arguing rationally and staying on topic.

    Have you ever considered that teachers oppose vouchers because they have the kind of insider perspective that can only be gained by a job immersed in the practical application of educating children? I’d take a social worker’s/educator’s opinion on child welfare before a mechanical engineer’s.

  • http://www.myspace.com/dynamopsychism DaCracka

    Also, babies are the same as corn futures.

    Thank you, constant.

    I’m going long-february on peruvian infants this year.

  • http://www.scheule.blogspot.com Scott Scheule

    I haven’t been following closely enough to have an opinion on your judgment of Constant’s argument, but I will say that the leap involved in examining one libertarian and jumping to the conclusion:

    “Libertarians have difficulty arguing rationally and staying on topic”

    … is as egregious as any of the faults you charge Constant with committing.

  • Mikael

    Constant, (and any others with similar ideas about the ratio of contract law)

    “In your effort to protect some mothers, you are hurting other mothers.”

    I know. Further,
    - in protecting some children, regulation on child labor hurts other children;
    - in protecting some customers, control on foodstuffs contents hurts other customers (those who for a reason or another wouldn’t be poisoned and still have to pay higher prices from production control)

    The list is endless, and I have tried to make a case that regulation of baby markets belongs to this group. On the other hand, if you perceive this kind of regulation “paternalistic” and unnecessary (your explicit statement in one of your above posts), I have serious doubts we will ever be able to end this debate.

    I have done my homework on contract law&economics too, and believe me, I am very well aware of the benefits of pacta sunt servanda and the Wiener positivist interpretation of legal texts. However, already the Romans and Hans Kelsen & co were familiar with cases were the wording and content of agreements were mediated in favor of one of the parties. One very typical case is the need of protection of the weaker party (a Guatemalan woman, a child laborer, an adult with Alzheimer whose will is fabricated exploiting his condition, a drunkard who sells his house for a pint etc.). I talk about an abstraction here, not mere sudden cases which have nothing in com-mon. Nowadays, this principle is part of all modern legislation on contracts.

    You have told that regulation on child labor is bollocks, and you will probably tell that protection of the weaker party is bollocks. However, so doing you are contradicting every accepted legal principle that ever has been expressed by anyone who could be considered an eminent academic on contract law.

    I also am familiar with Ronald Coase and pareto-efficiency, and the further Kaldor-Hicks applica-tion on contracts. I suggest you read some text books on the topic before you begin forming opinions from random newspaper articles.

  • http://www.myspace.com/dynamopsychism DaCracka

    Scott:

    Everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt and an ear for sarcasm. I’m a registered independant, and tend to side with Libertarians more often than not.

    I hope you don’t believe I think I can buy a commodities contract for 10k infants, as well…

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/ TGGP

    If we really wanted to maximize efficiency, you could set up a hospital where Guatemalans could volunteer for drug trials, deliver their babies for sale, sell organs, etc. That would be right next to the tourist brothel and up the street from the toxic waste unloading dock. The really enterprising Guatemalan could unload waste in the morning, sell her organs in the afternoon, and serve tourists at night. And who would want to limit her options?
    As long as the toxic waste doesn’t contaminate anything other than the property of the dumper or where they have the contractual right to do so, sounds fine by me.

    Take the subprime loan crisis as a recent example.
    Yes, let’s.

    Unless you are a hunter gatherer, you will recognize that you yourself are protected by regulation that you would never want to give up
    You presume too much about the preferences of others.

  • http://www.scheule.blogspot.com Scott Scheule

    DaCracka,

    Re: buying 10,000 babies. See me after class.

  • Constant

    I have serious doubts we will ever be able to end this debate

    I have rarely seen anyone end any debate, ever.

    One very typical case is the need of protection of the weaker party (a Guatemalan woman, a child laborer, an adult with Alzheimer whose will is fabricated exploiting his condition, a drunkard who sells his house for a pint etc.).

    I’m aware that one treats people differently who are not mentally competent. These include children, adults with Alzheimer’s, and people who are drunk. What I find curious is your apparent addition of Guatemalan women to the category. One of these is not like the others.

    I also am familiar with Ronald Coase and pareto-efficiency, and the further Kaldor-Hicks applica-tion on contracts. I suggest you read some text books on the topic before you begin forming opinions from random newspaper articles.

    That hardly response to Coase’s claim. You seem to be dropping random names here in order to seem knowledgeable on the topic, but nothing you mention directly addresses the point that I was making. Coase pointed out that empirical research into the effects of regulation had yielded certain results. And in response to this, you point out that you are “familiar with Ronald Coase” – well, okay, but so what – and with “pareto-efficiency” – again, okay, but so what – and so on. None of which addresses the point. All I get out of your response is, “I know more than you so shut up”. Something along those lines. I think it would be awesome if you knew more than me, but that’s not really much of an argument.

  • http://www.myspace.com/dynamopsychism DaCracka

    Scott:

    Not babies. Futures contracts. Totally different, unless you let it come due.

    Actually, it’s interesting to picture the CBOE reaction to legalized baby markets.

    On a serious note, I have to side here with those who raised breeding/farming issues. In a surrogate situation, the child is typically at least half genetically related to the sponsor parents, so the situation, (arranged before pregnancy at an agreed upon price, ideally with a blood relative involved,) is different than the original post. I think there are for more ways for this to go reprehensibly than can possibly be regulated out of the equation.

    “You get more for the white ones.”

  • http://www.myspace.com/dynamopsychism DaCracka

    Incompetence is one thing we protect against, but fiscal duress is another, constant. And rightly so.

    Nice attempt to shift the argument into white man’s guilt though. Bravo.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robinhanson Robin Hanson

    Mikael, surely you can think of dozens of other choices that meet the two criteria you embrace that you don’t want to stop. So you must be using more criteria.

    Da, how does it help someone in fiscal duress to take away some of their options for making money?

  • http://www.myspace.com/dynamopsychism DaCracka

    Well, in most cases, it helps prevents them from making bad deals to solve financial issues that will potentially increase the misery of poverty. Such as drug running, prostitution, and yes, selling babies.

    I’m attached to my ’78 Gibson SG. I love it like a child. But it didn’t develop in my body and it doesn’t initiate hormone production, (except, ideally, in the women who watch me play it.)

    Also, it helps society. Someone in financial straits may choose to rob a bank or sell crack, or utter a forgery. The incidences of addiction are far more prevelant in low-income areas, and crime makes it difficult for the honest man to keep what he worked for.

    Any time there’s a chance to make a profit by exploiting the poor, there will be the most unimaginable of abominations. Which is why there is child labor law.

    A paper route is great. Coal mining is bad. Legalize pay-for-pregnancy, and you would have the human equivilent of puppy farms.

  • Constant

    Da, so you seem to be arguing that dire financial straits makes people make bad decisions, which amounts to calling them, in effect, mentally incompetent.

    Here is what I think. People in dire straits make decisions which would be bad for most people to make, but which are not in fact bad for people in dire straits to make. So, it is not that they are effectively mentally incompetent, but that their alternatives are so bad that their chosen action, bad as it is, is in fact better than the alternatives. That being the case, it is wrong, and harmful, to stand in their way.

  • Mikael

    TGGP,

    “You presume too much about the preferences of others.”

    Is that so? Might be I do, but then so does everybody else who is pro protective regulation such as consumer protection, antitrust regulation, child labor regulation, to mention a few. This group would include national parliaments of all OECD-countries and several other institutions, academics and folks whose opinion I keep in high regard. A hunter-gatherer who lives outside the scope of these couldn’t care less.

    Robin,

    I’m not native on English and must confess I did not quite understand what you meant in your passage, sorry… Could you elaborate a little?

    Constant,

    “These include children, adults with Alzheimer’s, and people who are drunk. What I find curious is your apparent addition of Guatemalan women to the category.”

    So suddenly you acknowledge that the weak might be in need of protection? You didn’t do it earlier but fine. Guatemalan women are weak too (not mentally but due to them easily being cut out of effectively influencing their choices in the baby market), but I won’t go through this rabble again.

    You are right that I was name dropping, and maybe trying to appear smarter than I am. I shouldn’t have, but it was due to the fact that I got this wave of frustration as I felt that you were violating a little too many basic concepts in contract law and economics. I guess I also wanted to convince you in some quick way that I am aware of the up- and donwsides of contracts without that you have to tell me of them, and that I took it into account in my explanation of why the uncontrolled baby market is not a good thing.

    The names and the latin quote are very basic – not “random” – and should be known to any first year student. It’s more like mentioning the name of George Bush in connection with world politis.

  • http://www.mccaughan.org.uk/g/ g

    Constant, mental incompetence is not binary and we all suffer from it to some extent much of the time, as any reader of this site should know by now. If it’s “paternalistic” to try to legislate against behaviours likely to trick people into doing things that aren’t in their best interests, then I’m all for (some) paternalism. Of course whether any particular regulation of the Guatemalan baby market is a good idea is an empirical question, to be answered by looking at the facts and not purely on general principles, and I’m not claiming that regulation is necessarily called for. It seems like some people (notably not Robin) are claiming that regulation is necessarily *not* called for.

  • Caledonian

    If it’s “paternalistic” to try to legislate against behaviours likely to trick people into doing things that aren’t in their best interests, then I’m all for (some) paternalism.

    What actually happens is that legislation is passed that tries to prevent people from doing things that the legislators don’t want them to do. These things may or may not be in the people’s own best interests, but it’s in the perceived interest of the legislators to stop them.

    Paternalism is more likely to result in a group of idiots pretending that the world can be made into their image of it than protecting people from their own shortsightedness.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/ TGGP

    Is that so?
    you yourself are protected by regulation that you would never want to give up
    Yes, it is so. I do want to give up that regulation. So you were wrong because you presumed too much.

    Might be I do, but then so does everybody else
    A poor excuse.

    who is pro protective regulation such as consumer protection, antitrust regulation, child labor regulation, to mention a few.
    Most of them admit that some people would like to be exempt from these regulations, but feel that they are necessary to protect those who are not competent to protect themselves. These sorts of issues were discussed here and here at this blog.

    The incidences of addiction are far more prevelant in low-income areas, and crime makes it difficult for the honest man to keep what he worked for.
    Drug running, prostitution and baby-selling does all that to the poor honest workingman?

    A paper route is great. Coal mining is bad.
    Is that inherently the case? Let’s say to make the equivalent amount of money the paper-delivering child would have to bike (or walk) for hundreds of miles and wasn’t allowed any rest stops and didn’t have anything to drink or eat, while the coal-mining child could be done in fifteen minutes. Paper routes are (or were, who reads the paper nowadays?) taken by middle class kids whose parents have plenty of money but want their kid to learn the value of work. Coal mining jobs are taken by kids who are not nearly as fortunate. Prohibiting them from mining coal is not going to turn them into the former kind of kid.

    I’m glad Mikael made that confession about the name-dropping. I was thinking of saying something but I figured it would just be taken as an insult and not have been conducive to civil discourse.

  • Constant

    So suddenly you acknowledge that the weak might be in need of protection? You didn’t do it earlier but fine. Guatemalan women are weak too (not mentally but due to them easily being cut out of effectively influencing their choices in the baby market), but I won’t go through this rabble again.

    I do not accept your use of the concept of “the weak” as a means to generalize from the mentally incompetent to Guatemalan women. Mental incompetence really is quite different from having a low rank in a family hierarchy. I think it is sloppy of you to conflate these two very different things.

    The names and the latin quote are very basic – not “random” – and should be known to any first year student. It’s more like mentioning the name of George Bush in connection with world politis.

    “Random” in context means, roughly, for no good reason. And you’ve acknowledged that you brought up the names for no good reason.

  • A woman’s POV

    All right, let me just clarify my position.

    On male bias in perception of benefit

    Stereotypically and traditionally in most cultures, the only cost in sexual reproduction for males is raising the child, while the benefit is spreading his genes. In our society, males who reproduce are generally required to pay child support if they shirk their child-rearing responsibilities. In the minds of most males across cultures, the process of creating a baby skips from conception to raising the child. The author’s original claim is based on this framework: if not raising your own child would normally incur financial cost, then receiving money for not raising your child is doubly beneficial. The resources required in child-rearing is the only possible negative effect under consideration for sexual reproduction, so producing babies to sell them must only be beneficial!

    The original post failed to consider the negative effects of pregnancy and childbirth for the woman, of course. In the author’s cost-benefit analysis, there is zero cost. Because the cost of pregnancy for the woman is not even in the equation, the claim that it is generally a good thing and that it “benefits” the woman is at best controversial.

    However, the author’s cost-benefit analysis with zero cost is basically right on for the Guatemalan men. The Guatemalan men who can have babies without raising them OR paying child support are benefitting greatly, and receiving payment on top of that is an added bonus.

    On banning versus reducing economic barriers: Neither

    Nowhere in my posts have I advocated banning the option to produce babies to sell. However, I am appalled that the author advocated lowering barriers for such an exchange, and claiming humanitarian reasons, to boot. Lowering the barriers to such an exchange would drive down the prices of babies, and benefits the affluent people in developed countries who want to adopt rather than the poor people in developing countries who have much less choice.

    Being against reducing economic barriers for such a practise does not necessitate wanting to ban the practise. Of course, there are some cases in which selling your child is the lesser of two evils, and it’s up to the individual woman to decide what is best given her situation.

    However, I do not consider this type of economy to be a “positive” thing for women. In general, the only positive thing about it is making money, and women should be given other opportunities to make money. Reducing economic barriers for this practise does not give poor women more choices. Creating other types of economic opportunities for women does.

  • Stuart Armstrong

    Creating other types of economic opportunities for women does.

    This might be something interesting to dig into. I’ve got a strong impression that developing countries (and people in those countries) profit much more from industries that create a skill base, rather than those that just produce money (mainly things like oil, diamonds, and other natural ressources). Oil, especially, seems a development curse (though I may be generalising from easily recalled examples).

    Selling babies is definetly in the last category: it requires no skills, and leaves only money behind. Ignoring the positive externalities in the western world (the adoptive parents are not the issue here), this feels like a massive payout to female poor guatemalans women based on their fertility. Imagine that some aid agency was doing this payout. Direct cash donations to a poor community are not a particularly effective form of aid, and I don’t know if this would be a net plus or a net minus (I’ve seen both cases happen, even in the same community (at different moments, obviously)).

    So to the other objections to selling babies, I’d add: “Would this destroy some (potential?) indigenous industry dependent on Guatemalan women, which builds a skill base and would result in higher happiness, or higher wealth, further down the road?”

    A very Whigish idea, but one that underlines most of my thinking in this domain (and clarifies my previous point – I don’t object strongly to women being forced to work in some non-abusive factory if they can be more employable afterwards; I do object to them being forced into a dead-end existence for the benefit of others).

    The only question is, is it true?

    But clearly our default is not to limit a person’s options
    Is it not? We want them to obey the law, for a start. But there are some stronger objections: I can’t think of any country that has not industrialised on the back of a highly paternalistic government (combined with greater freedom later on, and the rudiments of a market economy of course – paternalism is never enough). I’m not knowledgeable in the area, but all the examples that leap immediately to mind are of that type (even the USA was very much into trade barriers and other methods of protecting/directing its nascent industry).

    Does anyone know of research in that area? And something that could uncover causation? If the Whigish ideas are true (at least for countries starting to develop) then the default may indeed be to limit a person’s options in some ways.

  • Mikael

    Constant,

    “I do not accept your use of the concept of “the weak” as a means to generalize from the mentally incompetent to Guatemalan women. Mental incompetence really is quite different from having a low rank in a family hierarchy. I think it is sloppy of you to conflate these two very different things”

    I don’t say it is the same thing, I say it r e s u l t s in the same thing, namely them being exploited and cut off from their freedom to choose.

    Again, sorry about my earlier name dropping, it was arrogant and I was way out of line. Still, an i n t e r v i e w with Coase which you find lying around in cyberspace is not very representative as a good reference, and prone to misinterpretation. I think this is exactly what you did. Agriculture regimes suck, I agree, and so does much other regulation “from a to z”. On the other hand, Penal Code is between a and z too. From all I have read on Coase and his work, I think he would not abolish the Penal Code. Or antitrust. But he sure may dislike agricultural policies, and say in an interview that regulation from a to z is bad. If we make no effort to understand what and whom we quote, we can all start piling up evidence from the internet to back up what we say and the one who gets the biggest pile, wins.

    Bottom line is, I asked you for three good references, and you gave me one piece of writing which lies around in the internet and twist it’s meaning to fit your argument. Frankly, l don’t find this very intellectually satisfying.

    TGGP,

    Ok, I was wrong, you and Constant wouldn’t want that regulation.

    Thank’s for linking me to those posts. Quite many people seem to be of the opinion that because regulators are biased and/or people who are pro regulation are biased, regulation is bound to be bad (and biased). However, I’m surprised these guys don’t realize this does not exclude that regulation might, when you sum up all people’s preferences who are affected by that regulation, still increase welfare compared to an unregulated state.

    In fact, “so does everybody else” is not such a crappy excuse in this respect.

    Welfare is usually perceived as the sum of people’s preferences, a close to immeasurable thing (sometimes even to our very selves). Luckily these preferences can be transmitted into policy through voting. Ok, so voting is biased too. But that doesn’t exclude that the result might still be welfare enhancing. So if there is a overwhelming majority among legislators, academics and consumers for, let’s say, antitrust, and this overwhelming majority lasts from it’s beginning for over a hundred years until this day, I would say we have good excuse to think it’s a good thing.

    It could also be pointed out separately that the benefiting effects of antitrust on static (low prices, much production) and dynamic (technological development, competition on merits) welfare combined have been proven and can be proven in scientific terms over and over again.

    At this point I wouldn’t be so surprised if somebody came and told me that he/she would be better off without the concept of welfare, voting and politics too. In fact, I know a guy like this. He’s a very smart fellow who lives in the woods on fish, berries and roots and I believe he’s happy. But he also denounces civilization, and gave up on its comforts such as electricity, transportation and spending his time on blogpages in discussions like this. He’s letting the real world consequences of his own thinking rain all over himself, and opts to stick with it. His thinking is consistent with his preferences. Is yours?

  • Stuart Armstrong

    I don’t object strongly to women being forced to work in some non-abusive factory if they can be more employable afterwards; I do object to them being forced into a dead-end existence for the benefit of others

    Argh! Can’t believe I wrote that. By “forced” I mean “coerced by their social environment” and by “object strongly” I mean “object as strongly”.

    By “I never had sex with that woman” I of course mean…

  • http://www.myspace.com/dynamopsychism DaCracka

    Drug running, prostitution and baby-selling does all that to the poor honest workingman?

    I mentioned those instances as seperate from crime in general. White collar included. Crime makes it difficult for the honest man to keep what he has. (You have a skill for rephrasing an argument in a way that you know it wasn’t intended, so as to appear witty. It’s dishonest, and it doesn’t help you appear superior.)

    Arguing your false conclusion:

    Not directly. However, addiction DOES make a person mentally incompetent, morally nuetral at best, and more likely to make choices, like stealing, to support a habit. Addiction, of course, is made possible by drug running.

    A paper route is great. Coal mining is bad.

    Is that inherently the case? Let’s say to make the equivalent amount of money the paper-delivering child would have to bike (or walk) for hundreds of miles and wasn’t allowed any rest stops and didn’t have anything to drink or eat, while the coal-mining child could be done in fifteen minutes. Paper routes are (or were, who reads the paper nowadays?) taken by middle class kids whose parents have plenty of money but want their kid to learn the value of work. Coal mining jobs are taken by kids who are not nearly as fortunate. Prohibiting them from mining coal is not going to turn them into the former kind of kid.

    No, but the option of coal mining is going to make school a lot less attractive to children in destitute families. Some jobs for children can be done after school, which is the point I was making with a paper route, and only moderately increase the risk of injury. Some jobs require 14 hour days and include a distinct mortality rate. An adult who works in a coal mine to support his family has made an adult decision. A child isn’t in a position to make that choice, especially in desperation.

    Regulation is rarely the answer, (the drug war has done more to create terrorism, crime and exploitation than addiction would alone,) so before you say the drug running isn’t the problem, (it’s only a big part of the existence of the problem, I know,) or accuse me of racism (I do, in fact, hate white people,) remember that when the markets were entirely free, people were sold as property, children were sexual servants, women were, in many societies, treated worse than animals, and you wouldn’t have lasted a day. Any superiority other than purely physical helps little in a hunter-gatherer tribe. (I <3 run on sentences.)

    Corporations and governments both have a horrid track record of treating people ethically.

  • http://maggiesfarm.anotherdotcom.com/archives/7013-Saturday-Morning-Links.html Maggie’s Farm

    Saturday Morning Links

    Baby-selling in Guatemala. Even worse, baby factories for the American market. But I ask this: If you’re a middle class white suburban American family and adopt a Guatemalan baby, can that kid put Hispanic on his college application? And, i…

  • Pseudonymous

    A child isn’t in a position to make that choice, especially in desperation.

    Corporations and governments both have a horrid track record of treating people ethically.

    So who should make the childs decision for it? Its parents, or the government?

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/ TGGP

    I think he would not abolish the Penal Code. Or antitrust.
    I don’t know about the former, but I though I remembered him coming out against the latter.

    Quite many people seem to be of the opinion that because regulators are biased and/or people who are pro regulation are biased, regulation is bound to be bad (and biased). However, I’m surprised these guys don’t realize this does not exclude that regulation might, when you sum up all people’s preferences who are affected by that regulation, still increase welfare compared to an unregulated state.
    But that doesn’t exclude that the result might still be welfare enhancing.
    It’s also possible that the optimal system would be making me dictator of the world. You never know.

    So if there is a overwhelming majority among legislators, academics and consumers for, let’s say, antitrust, and this overwhelming majority lasts from it’s beginning for over a hundred years until this day, I would say we have good excuse to think it’s a good thing.
    That almost sounds like Bryan Caplan’s argument (well, maybe not the legislators and consumers part). I know he’s against antitrust, but I don’t remember if that was included in the survey of economists opinions. My guess is that they are less in favor of it than the general public.

    It could also be pointed out separately that the benefiting effects of antitrust on static (low prices, much production) and dynamic (technological development, competition on merits) welfare combined have been proven and can be proven in scientific terms over and over again.
    Really? I wasn’t aware of that. Maybe I shouldn’t be reading so much Tom DiLorenzo.

    At this point I wouldn’t be so surprised if somebody came and told me that he/she would be better off without the concept of welfare, voting and politics too.
    I am opposed to public assistance, I don’t vote and I am also against politics.

    But he also denounces civilization, and gave up on its comforts such as electricity, transportation and spending his time on blogpages in discussions like this.
    Then that’s where we differ.

    His thinking is consistent with his preferences. Is yours?
    Seems to me.

    You have a skill for rephrasing an argument in a way that you know it wasn’t intended, so as to appear witty.
    I think that it helps to analyze the argument better.

    Not directly. However, addiction DOES make a person mentally incompetent, morally nuetral at best, and more likely to make choices, like stealing, to support a habit. Addiction, of course, is made possible by drug running.
    Do you believe there are addictions to things other than drugs?

    No, but the option of coal mining is going to make school a lot less attractive to children in destitute families. Some jobs for children can be done after school, which is the point I was making with a paper route, and only moderately increase the risk of injury.
    Once again, I disagree that is inherently the case. It is only because the paper-route kids are relatively well off that they still attend schools and do not take such high risks of injury.

    I do, in fact, hate white people
    Why is that? Do you hate all white people, or just think that there is a high tendency among them to be deserving of hate?

    remember that when the markets were entirely free
    I don’t think that has ever been the case. States have existed about as long as the markets they exist as parasites on.

    women were, in many societies, treated worse than animals
    I’d say being raised to be slaughtered and eaten sounds worse than whatever condition were in.

    you wouldn’t have lasted a day
    They were certainly more lethal than today (warfare was near constant, even if they weren’t as deadly individually) but that seems an exaggeration.

    Corporations and governments both have a horrid track record of treating people ethically.
    Hmm, governments have committed genocide (R. J. Rummel calls it democide). What’s the worst corporations have done?

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Some of these comments are drifting too far from the post topic and are getting too long.

  • http://www.virb.com/traceyjohnson DaCracka

    I think that it helps to analyze the argument better.

    So what you’re trying to say is that you’re unable to refute the statement as given, and so put it into more ridiculous words that you can better formulate a clever retort to? Interesting. I can see how this helps in an intelligent debate.

    Do you believe there are addictions to things other than drugs?

    Money. For sure. And I believe that’s a much more destructive addiction.

    Once again, I disagree that is inherently the case. It is only because the paper-route kids are relatively well off that they still attend schools and do not take such high risks of injury.

    So what you’re saying is that the middle class are not likely to make decisions that put the lives of thier children at risk for pocket change? I agree entirely, which is why we should lessen the effect of poverty on those decisions, and, where necessary, enact legislation to prevent exploitation of that desperation. Imperfect legislation is still better than nothing.

    Why is that? Do you hate all white people, or just think that there is a high tendency among them to be deserving of hate?

    I kid. Doesn’t taking yourself this seriously get exhausting?

    I don’t think that has ever been the case. States have existed about as long as the markets they exist as parasites on.

    Still, I’m glad for states. People, too, have a horrid track record of treating people ethically.

    I’d say being raised to be slaughtered and eaten sounds worse than whatever condition were in.

    Eh. Being electrocuted and eaten, but raised on better food than instinct alone would provide… Sucks, a little bit. Being forced to sell babies (see that? I brought the discussion back to the original concept. What a revolutionary idea!) to eat, with the intelligence to know better, seems worse.

    They were certainly more lethal than today (warfare was near constant, even if they weren’t as deadly individually) but that seems an exaggeration.

    You can’t eat a mastadon with sophistry. Amazingly, they’re impervious to it.

    “Lasted a day” is what we call a “figure of speech.” It’s an exagerration, yes, but commonly accepted as having a seperate meaning. In this case, it means you wouldn’t have survived very long in that environment. Just so you know, next time you hear it.

    Hmm, governments have committed genocide (R. J. Rummel calls it democide). What’s the worst corporations have done?

    Well, through an interest in profits, they either assist in the genocide, or turn a blind eye.

    But don’t take my word for it. Here’s the very first google result:

    Click here

    But go ahead, restate that.

    Sorry Robin, I agree the posts are drifting pretty far off topic, and I know I’ve had a big part in it. I’m done now. I feel I’ve made my points as clearly as possible.

  • Mikael

    I would agree with DaCracka’s first assessment – it does not make us any wiser if you split an argument into ten different sentences and then write something funny under each of them. Here’s one:

    “It’s also possible that the optimal system would be making me dictator of the world. You never know.”

    Now you know what? You didn’t read to the end. In order to fit my argument you would need to rephrase that into: “if there is a overwhelming majority among legislators, academics and consumers for, let’s say, TGGP as a dictator, and this overwhelming majority lasts from the beginning of TGGP seizing power for over a hundred years until this day, I would say we have good excuse to think it’s a good thing for welfare. ” And that sounds quite different, doesn’t it? Now if you tell me that your subjects are not capable of genuinely being of the opinion that the TGGP dictatorship is best for them you will commit the sin of… paternalism, by all standards.

    My apologies Robin.

  • http://www.virb.com/traceyjohnson DaCracka

    “All that is required for evil men to triumph is for good men to remain silent.”

    I’m going to assume, based on the fact that I can’t imagine you’re being serious without weeping for the future of this once great nation, that you’re kidding about turning a blind eye being morally neutral.

    I can live with the holocaust, only because I choose to see the family that hid Ann Frank as an example of humanity’s best people, acting during humanity’s worst time.

    I do believe I’ve lost all respect for you.

    Which means I’ve learned all I can from this debate, and so you win. You’ve learned nothing, you’ve wasted my time and consideration, and you’ve rendered me silent.

    When the Nazis come for you, know this:

    I’ll be the guy NOT turning a blind eye.

    But good luck to you and your free markets.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Enough. No more generic market vs. govt debate here. I’ve unpublished a 900 word comment by TGGP.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/ TGGP

    I’ve reposted my comment and responded to the responses to it at this post. Those who want to continue the discussion should go there.