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Should Every Item Have a Price?

by Adam Juda on Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Following up on my post about placing a price tag on a human life, I thought I'd upset even more people with a relatively straightforward question:

Are there some products that should not have a price?

Remember, I'm next asking what can't have a price - there are ways to value just about anything. What I'm asking is whether the government should not allow certain items to be purchased.

An example: human kidneys. Most people are born with two kidneys, yet require only one to live. The United States, like most nations, has effectively banned the pricing of kidneys by making their sale illegal. Any person is allowed to donate a kidney, but he cannot receive monetary compensation for his efforts.

Many would argue that the idea of putting a price tag on human organs is both repulsive and exploitative. Should organ sales become legal, large numbers of the impoverished would feel pushed to donate their kidneys against their will in order to earn a few dollars. Once organ purchases became legal, they would all flow to the wealthy and no longer be evenly distributed to the masses. After all, the wealthy would be able to out-bid the poor and middle-class for kidneys and other organs.

There is another side to this story, however.

At present, large numbers of people are currently in need of organs and are dying on waiting lists. The cause? Few people feel a sufficient need to donate their organs. Adding money into the mix would incentivize those to donate organs more often - and save more lives in the process.

So should the government allow folks to sell their organs? That depends upon what society deems more important: fairness in the organ donation process or the saving of larger numbers of lives (mainly the wealthy at the expense of the rest).

Is fairness worth the death of many people? I don't know. I'm not an expert in pricing organs, but I am an expert in pricing software. Want to learn more? Take a look at my book on pricing software systems, or contact me for a consult!

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