There are six-person and there are three-person families. So is
it fair that a six-person family live crowded in a 1,500 square foot house,
while that three-person family enjoys 5,000 square feet?
It's the same thing with cars. I've seen five-person families
squeezed into a Honda and two-person families riding comfortably in a Lexus
SUV. Sometimes checking into a hotel, there's a husband, accompanied by a
wife and three children, asking for two roll-away cots to be placed in the
room, while Mrs. Williams and I check into a spacious suite with a sitting
Is any of this fair? Shouldn't there be some kind of committee
to decide which family deserves and gets the larger house or roomier car,
and which family should have the more spacious hotel accommodations?
You say: "Williams, you've finally lost it. Can you imagine all
the hassle and conflict that would result from some want-to-be tyrants
deciding who should get what? Moreover, who in their right mind would
produce homes, cars and hotels if some wacko communistic scheme decided who
gets what, instead of the way we now do it -- through prices people are
willing to pay?" You're right, and your reasoning also applies to organ
transplants. Let's look at it.
Last December, Larry Kramer, founder of Gay Men's Health Crisis
and ACT UP, received a liver transplant at the University of Pittsburgh
Medical Center. Kramer is 66 and a homosexual with AIDS, who spent seven
months on the organ transplant waiting list. When the news broke about his
having received a liver transplant, there was outrage on the talk radio
circuit. Talk show hosts and their callers decried Kramer's transplant,
arguing there were needier and more deserving people waiting around for
livers. Some callers argued that people with self-inflicted illnesses, such
as AIDS, obesity or smoking-related cancers, shouldn't receive organ
transplants, or at least should have the lowest priority.
All of that is nonsense. Who gets what organ transplant should
be decided using the same mechanism as we use to decide who gets what house,
car or hotel room -- namely, prices.
In other words, there should be a market for buying and selling
organs. The greatest salutatory effect of an organ market would be a massive
increase in the supply of organs. For example, I should be able to write a
contract to sell my organs, say, to Body Parts, Inc., for $300,000. The
proceeds might become a part of my estate. At my death, my organs would be
harvested and the $300,000 paid to my estate.
Most people think organ donations are the way to go. For those
people, I'd like to ask: What else would they like to see provided through
donations? Cars are important. Why not provide them through donations? What
about houses, food, clothing, medicine, doctor and plumbing services? If
these goods and services were mandated to be provided through donations,
we'd have the same supply problems as we have with livers, hearts and
An organ market would eliminate the arbitrariness of doctors and
bureaucrats sitting around like gods, deciding who will die and who will
You say, "Williams, with market allocation of organs, only the
rich would be served." Nonsense. I'd like to see the evidence for such a
conclusion. Is it only the rich who have cars or homes or hotel rooms and
are able to acquire loans?
The great unappreciated advantage of market allocation of goods
and services is that it reduces the potential for human conflict. Why is it
that we see conflict in who gets what organ or what's taught in public
schools, and no conflict in who gets what car, home or what's taught in
private schools? The answer ought to tell us something.