09
Dec
11

Markets in everything, not-this-shit-again edition

Organ markets: go!

More than 34,000 people joined the waiting list in 2010; fewer than 17,000 received one. Thousands of people die waiting each year.

This is a tragedy, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The people waiting for kidneys aren’t dying because of kidney failure; they’re dying because of our failure — without Congress’s misguided effort to ban organ sales, they would have been able to get the kidneys they desperately needed.

My worry for the organ market that Berger has in mind is quite simple: in our current economy, it will rapidly devolve into a situation where the number of economically desperate donors will bring down the price of organs to a level that ensures that organ donors will receive little compensation for their contributions.

You read that right, folks: Chopra’s worried that a free, legal, well-regulated organ market will make donor organs too cheap and accessible.  He’s worried that organ donors won’t be compensated sufficiently — as opposed to the status quo, of which he presumably approves, where organ donors aren’t compensated at all.  So apparently we are to believe that a world in which patients waiting for donor organs get them and in which donors are better compensated is actually worse than one in which donors get nothing and wait-list patients suffer and die.

Once again, when confronted with a proposal that reduces real and significant harms to prospective organ recipients, people who get squicked by the idea of organ markets assemble a bizarro-world slippery-slope-strawman argument in which inchoate, half-seen, shadowy threats do… something… to turn our otherwise happy* little world into a horrific dystopian nightmare.

But what about the evidence? you cry.  Do we have any evidence that donation markets work?

Roger McShane does:

[D]onors like Mr Berger see only the slightest increase in their risk of dying from kidney disease. And their altruism is likely to lead to more than a decade of improved and prolonged life for the recipient. Donations are also cost-effective. As we noted in a previous report on the topic, “the cost of one kidney operation and a lifetime’s supply of anti-rejection drugs equals that of three years’ dialysis.” And we have proof that such systems do fill the needs of the ill. Iran adopted a system of paying kidney donors in 1988 and within 11 years it became the only country in the world to clear its waiting list for transplants.

So does Alex Tabarrok:

Nicola Lacetera, Mario Macis and Robert Slonim analyze a field experiment involving some 100,000 donors and find that pecuniary incentives significantly increase blood donations. The field experiment covers a wide geographic area and the donors are tracked for a significant period of time after donating so the authors can look for geographic and temporal spillovers. The authors offered potential donors gift cards of $5, $10 and $15.

Subjects who were offered economic rewards to donate blood were more likely to donate, and more so the higher the value of the rewards. They were also more likely to attract others to donate, spatially alter the location of their donations towards the drives offering rewards, and modify their temporal donation schedule leading to a short-term reduction in donations immediately after the reward offer was removed.

(Link to source paper slightly fucked-with from original.)

There you go, kids: incentives matter.  Quelle fucking surprise.

——

Next, we discover that the normally-sensible Economy Lab section at the Globe and Mail has gone full retard thanks to this anonymous editorial piece from the Financial Times:

Some of you, I’m sure, are gamely holding out hope that this particular pundit “from the FT’s Lex blog” is going to advocate for a negative income tax at low income percentiles.  The rest of you are rocking back and forth, tightly hugging your knees to your chests, whimpering “Oh no he didn’t please tell me he didn’t not this shit again…”

Yes, this shit again:

Efforts to close the wealth gap need to start here, perhaps by setting a higher minimum wage (many countries do not have one). A concerted effort to pay poor people more would help to bring the minimum closer to the median wage in rich countries.

(Emphasis added.)

Oh yeah, brilliant fucking idea there, FT’s Lex Blog Guy.  Let’s “fix income inequality” by pricing more people out of jobs!  “You know what would be great for folks who can’t get high-paid jobs?  Let’s make it too expensive for businesses to hire them!  That way they won’t have to worry about having low-pay jobs, because they won’t have jobs at all!  Genius!”

I’ve already suggested that bioethicists — and, generally, people who oppose organ markets — are just really horrible people looking to justify their preferences for the suffering and misery of others.  I’m beginning to suspect that the same is true of those who support minimum wages, because far too many otherwise-intelligent people sign on to that particular manifestation of arrogant patrician elitism for ignorance to explain.

——

* For those who aren’t on dialysis, I guess

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