Friday, June 12, 2009

Assuming that X is evil, anything that they do is wrong

The EU has been complaining, basically, forever, that Microsoft bundling a web browser with Windows is anti-competitive.

Rightly or wrongly, Microsoft has decided to decouple Internet Explorer from Windows 7 in Europe.

So, how does the EU respond? By complaining that Microsoft doesn't give users an option of which browser to use.
the Commission's contention this morning is that Microsoft's decision does not provide a remedy for that infraction: essentially, that giving the consumer no Web browser still gives that consumer no choice.
Now that the EU has finally browbeat Microsoft into doing what it wanted - they don't like the result. In short, since Microsoft is evil whatever decisions they make must be wrong.

They want to force Microsoft to bundle other companies products into their software. This is arrogant meddling at its best.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Remember – the Models Always Trump Reality

A scientist has reported that wind speeds have declined as much as 10% across the US.

Gavin Schmidt – Global Warming Enthusiast – says that this simply cannot be since the climate models do not show an effect on wind speed from global warming.

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.  It is SO much easier than changing your mind.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Organ Markets: An Ethical Perspective – Part III

You should probably read Part I and Part II before continuing here.

Next we will consider the complex case of the utilitarian perspective. The utilitarian perspective will attempt to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The first thing to consider is whether or not a market in human organs would legitimately increase the supply of organs available for transplant. Evidence in India appears to show evidence that there is a market for individuals wishing to sell kidneys “it was estimated that nearly $10 million dollars had exchanged hands for 4,000 transplants in Bombay alone” (Calandrillo, 2004, p. 88).

One concern that is frequently raised is that a market would allow “rich patients buy up all available organs, and leave poorer patients without the chance of a transplant” (Volokh, 2007, p.1839). This may be true, but to some degree is already happening as hundreds of Americans fly abroad each year to purchase organs (Calandrillo, 2004, p. 87). The current ban domestically merely means that the richest of the rich resort to buying organs from the world’s most destitute. Additionally, the long term care of chronic organ failure can be up to $100,000 more expensive than organ transplant costs (Volokh, 2007, p.1839). Therefore, as long as organs can be procured for less than amount it is less expensive to pay for a transplant than to provide the long term care. This would provide considerable incentives for the providers of healthcare, such as Medicaid or insurance providers, to cover some or all of the costs of purchasing organs.

This analysis shows that recipients would certainly benefit from a market in human organs, the question of donors isn’t quite as clear. The large sum of money that they would receive is certainly advantageous. Depending on their income and the amount paid for the organ donors could feasibly be compensated the equivalent of 50% or 75% of their yearly income. This type of compensation would potentially dramatically improve their quality of life, at least over the short term.

One objection to the sale of organs on utilitarian grounds is that the most desperate, tempted by the money, are unwittingly putting their health at risk. There is some evidence that the health risk of donating an organ is quite small. For example, donating a kidney carries a less than 2% chance of death or complications (Volokh, 2007, p. 1841). It is also quite difficult, from an external point of view, to accurately judge the cost benefit analysis required to determine if the health risks outweigh the compensation.

In order to definitively answer the question as to whether organ sales are ethical from a utilitarian perspective the following questions must be answered. Does a market for organs increase the total supply of organs or does material compensation merely erode the supply of altruistic donation? Will a market in organs unfairly favor wealthy recipients over the poor? Or can mechanisms be put into place to ensure that the relatively poor have access to an organ market through charity or government subsidy? Finally, can limits be put into place to ensure that individuals do not sell organs due to desperation or ignorance? This could potentially be resolved by instituting counseling, waiting periods or prohibiting the extremely poor, young or incompetent from participating in the sale of organs.

While legalizing a market in the sale of organs to overcome donor shortages isn’t the only approach it is one that is advocated and derided by many that study the issue. Opponents frequently rely on objections that such a practice is unethical, but when reflecting on such a claim one must ask ‘From what perspective?’ It is true that a categorical imperative analysis of the ethical question will lead to an unethical result if ones values are predisposed to finding the sale of human body as unpleasant. However, alternative approaches to inquiry offer a very different result. An egoistic analysis finds no ethical dilemma while a utilitarian investigation hinges on the answers to some key questions that would protect the most susceptible to harm by such a policy.



Calandrillo, S. (2004). Cash for kidneys? Utilizing incentives to end America's organ shortage [Electronic version]. George Mason Law Review, 13, pp. 69-133.

Delmonico, F. L. & Kahn, J. P. (2004). The consequences of public policy to buy and sell organs for transplantation. American Journal of Transplantation, 4(2), pp. 178-180.
doi: 10.1046/j.1600-6143.2003.00370.x

National Kidney Foundation. (2003, February 1). Financial incentives for organ donation. Retrieved June 2, 2009, from

O’Reilly, K. B. (2008, July 7). AMA meeting: Delegates seek to change law on organ donor incentives. American Medical News. Retrieved from

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Data. Available from

Volokh, E. (2007). Medical self-defense, prohibited experimental therapies, and payment for organs [Electronic version]. Harvard Law Review, 120, pp. 1813-1846.

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Organ Markets: An Ethical Perspective – Part II

You can read Part I here.  Please note that all references will be included in Part III.

In an article pondering the sale of organs Delmonico and Kahn (2004) state “[i]t is an unethical approach to shift the tragedy from those waiting for organs to those exploited into selling them” (p. 180). Their article, though, doesn’t offer much analysis beyond the claim that it is unethical. This ethical perspective can be described as an categorical imperative or “doing that which is morally consistent with the principles of right and wrong” (G. Gilmore, personal communication, April, 27, 2009). This type of ethical perspective is defined internally, it does not consider the impact to oneself (ethical egoism), the society at large (utilitarianism) or the individuals affected (altruism).

When considering each ethical perspective one should consider the vantage point of each party involved to get a true understanding of the issue. In the case of organ sales there are two key parties to consider – the recipient of the organ and the donor. However, under the view categorical imperative their viewpoints are irrelevant. If the sale of human organs is wrong, the means are wrong regardless of what ends the parties involved are trying to achieve.

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Organ Markets: An Ethical Perspective – Part I

As some of you may be aware, I am returning to school to finish what I shouldn’t have stopped many moons ago.

It kinda sucks, dumb classes with economically illiterate professors all around.

Anyway, for my current class (on leadership) I have to write a paper analyzing some social problem from several ethical perspectives.

Being the good market capitalist I am – I knew that it would have something to do with markets and would probably be something that would tweak my liberal prof just a little.  So I chose to look at open market sale of organs for transplantation.

I thought that it was a pretty good analysis of the issue so I thought I would publish it online.  It’s a little long for a blog post, so I’m going to post it in a couple pieces.  Here’s the kickoff:

-note: references will be included in Part III-

There are currently over 100,000 individuals on a waiting list organ for transplant while only 4500 transplants had taken place over the first two months of the year (The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, n.d.). Last year less than 28,000 transplants took place, over 48,000 patients were added to the waiting list and over 6,400 people died.

Last year the American Medical Association [AMA] proposed lobbying Congress to allowing pilot studies of payments for organ donation (O’Reilly, 2008). Economists will sometimes go much further claiming “the law banning human organ sales has the unintended and unfortunate consequence of restricting supply”, the clear message being that legalizing such sales would resolve the current shortages that are experienced (Calandrillo, 2004).

On the other side of the issue, the National Kidney Foundation [NKF] issued a very strong statement denouncing any approach to compensate donors stating:

Offering direct or indirect economic benefits in exchange for organ donation is inconsistent with our values as a society. Any attempt to assign a monetary value to the human body, or body parts, either arbitrarily, or through market forces, diminishes human dignity. By treating the body as property, in the hope of increasing organ supply, we risk devaluating the very human life we seek to save. (2003)

The NKF reaction is not uncommon; many people may have such a visceral response to the thought of allowing someone the ability to sell part of their body, perhaps claiming that it is unethical. This paper will evaluate what ethical perspective would lead one to believe that the sale of organs is unethical and investigate whether alternative perspectives can lead to a different ethical analysis.

Part IIPart III

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Monday, June 01, 2009

I Wish You Would Stop Saying That

In an AP article describing “a defining moment for American capitalism”, in other words the nationalization of GM, they claim that “the nation's severest economic crisis since the Great Depression” is at fault for no one wanting to sink any more money into GM.

First, this isn’t any worse than recessions that occurred in the 80s and 70s for certain – stop saying that this is such a catastrophe.  The only thing that is catastrophic is the government intervention into the market.

Second, companies that are well run are having no trouble getting capital.  GM can’t because they are poorly run and have no honest hope of turning around without shedding some liabilities.

Finally, the auto czar Steve Rattner says that the government will give up control of GM when it ‘succeeds’ - "The outcomes are driven heavily by things that are outside our control, particularly market conditions, car sales, overall economy and obviously the performance of this company"

Anyone want to give an over/under on when this is going to occur?  I’m willing to put on over on just about any number.