Richard Posner and Elisabeth Landes wrote this excellent paper in 1978, but I’m only now seeing it. It speaks of the terrible inefficiencies — pervasive shortages and surpluses — that come with state adoption agencies and their price controlled system of allocating the right to raise children. They address all the usual objections to a market for children and generally provide enough evidence to lower the temperature of the debate and introduce some rational thinking here.
In passing, they point out that a real market for child-rearing rights would probably end the practice of abortion or perhaps seriously curtail it.
Wow. When was the last time this point has been made an a debate on abortion? I’ve been thinking through it for years but never actually seen it discussed before. But it is really a no brainer. Why are value resources being tossed away when there are plenty of people out there who clearly want to use them? There is an intervention in the market process, and that intervention concerns the market for child-rearing rights. If we had an open market that allowed for payments to expecting mothers, the decision to abort would carry a heavy opportunity cost. Right now, all the cost is associated with carrying the baby to term.
This is the kind of libertarian research that could make a huge difference in the world. This paper came out in 1978. I see it as compatible with Murray Rothbard’s views on child rights. Don Boudreaux wrote along the same lines. If anyone knows of other work in this area, I would love to see it. It seems that more work needs to be done in this area.
I once asked an anti-abortion activist whether he would favor a market for children if permitting one could reduce the number of abortions by half. He quick answer was no. I asked him to clarify: are you saying that it is better to be dead than traded? Yes was his answer.
That’s interesting to me because the current adoption market is already rooted in the cash nexus and trade. The problem is that it is seriously hampered by monopolization, regulations, and price controls.
[This article is based on a speech I gave at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, December 5, 2011.]
You know that anti-piracy video you sometimes see at the beginning of movies? It explains how you wouldn’t steal a handbag, so neither should you steal a song or movie by an illegal download. Well, it turns out that the guy who wrote the music for that short clip, Melchoir Rietveldt, says that his music is being used illegally. It had been licensed to play at one film festival, not replayed a million times in DVDs distributed all over the world. He is demanding millions in a settlement fee from BREIN, the anti-piracy organization that produced the thing.
Interesting isn’t it? When you have hypocrisy that blatant, criminality this rampant, practices called piracy this pervasive – it reminds you of the interwar Prohibition years – you have to ask yourself if there is something fundamentally wrong with the law and the principles that underlie the law. Yes, people should keep to their contracts. But that’s not what we are talking about here; this case is being treated not as a contract violation but a copyright violation, which is something different. We are dealing with a more fundamental issue. Is it really stealing to reproduce an idea, an image, or an idea? Is it really contrary to morality to copy an idea?
The verdict here is crucially important because ever more of the state’s active intervention against liberty and real property is taking place in the name of intellectual property enforcement. The legislation SOPA could effectively end Internet freedom in the name of enforcing property rights.
If people who believe in liberty do not get this correct – and it no longer possible to stand on the sidelines – we will find ourselves siding with the state, the courts, the thugs, and even the international enforcement arm of the military industrial complex, all in the name of property rights. And that is a very dangerous thing at this point in history, since IP enforcement has become one of the greatest threats to liberty that we face today.
Auburn, Alabama, experienced some tornado damage the other day, and the place was just a mess. Trees were down. Houses had collapse. Fences were in tatters. Yards were trash heaps. The damage was not major by any standard but there was plenty to do in the wake of this one.
As happens, enterprise was there to make a buck fixing things up. Contractors came from all states in all directions. The unemployed suddenly had work. Skills that had been dormant were suddenly needed. This isn’t the Broken Window fallacy; it is just a reality that new kinds of work needs to be done and enterprise jumps at the chance. Good for enterprise and good for those who need help repairing the damage.
So get this. The following note appeared in my inbox this morning, from the Chamber of Commerce:
The chamber would also like to remind those of you who have damage to your personal property to ask for proof of a license to do business in Auburn as you are negotiating with contractors and other businesses for cleanup, roof repair and other services. Additionally, we as a chamber encourage you to use your local chamber members first. For your convenience we have provided you with a list of chamber members who could offer their service to you.
What’s the priority? Getting the job done or preserving the cartel of favored businesses? We know where the Chamber stands.
The caption accompanying this NY Times article picture of a street vendor selling bottled-water reads “Many sidewalk peddlers are doing record business, though the city considers it against the law to sell water without a license.”
I think Brad Spangler’s timely Facebook status update expresses how one should react to this:
Note carefully that states will be glad to bust down doors, “sweep streets” and so on in order to combat the problem of child prostitution. What states will not do is stop making the only choice for many prostitution or starvation, by impoverishing the populace with taxes, regulation and the sclerotic choking off of economic opportunities other than prostitution.
Market-oriented reforms such as privatization, deregulation and tariff decreases being the clear and unequivocal factors.
In PPP terms, asigning a quotient of 1 to the U.S.
Country 1980 1994 2008
United States 1.000 1.000 1.000
Australia .841 .770 .837
Canada .905 .818 .843
Britain .688 .705 .765
France .780 .730 .713
Germany .803 .812 .763
Italy .756 .754 .675
Sweden .868 .777 .794
Switzerland 1.146 .987 .915
Hong Kong .547 .845 .948
Japan .732 .815 .736
Singapore .577 .899 1.064
Argentina .395 .300 .309
Chile .210 .251 .311
Source: World Bank.