Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Life Brokers

No, I'm not talking about life insurance salesmen. Life has inherent resistance to being converted to a dollar term. However, my belief is that depending on the context, we do it quite often. Doctors are the main ones I am talking about because every day they have to make decisions about life and death, and how much money to spend on saving one life. However, it isn't the amount of money we spend on saving the life that determines how much we value a life, but how it compares to us saving a non-living but valuable item. For instance, if a fireman knew that there was a child inside a burning house, and also a box of jewellery worth $2.5 million dollars, and he could save only one or the other - which would he choose, or to put it another way, what value of object would we take the same effort to save as we would a human life. Homicide detectives are also life brokers - ie. a crime of what value of money would be given the same priority and resources as a murder investigation. This is extremely relevant to abortion debate, as with any crime, the better it is policed, the higher the black-market value becomes ie. the price to reliably get an abortion performed in a country in which it is illegal will give you a ballpark estimate of the nominal dollar value of the life of a fetus. If society does ever accept that most of our police resources should be split up between suspicious deaths of all descriptions evenly, it would mean that most of taxpayer-funded police money would be going to investigating pre-birth deaths. Not doing this would basically be saying that we should not equivalently value pre-birth life. Dr. Clam seems to think we can have it both ways - ie. illegal but low priority for police.

1 comment:

Dr. Clam said...

I stand by my $100 K value- the iniquitous disparity between the West and the rest has to end somewhere, and I am happy to begin with allocating the same amount of resources to investigating a prenatal murder as is allocated to a typical murder in Bolivia, say. As it is probable most prenatal murders will be committed by quasi-professional mass murderer types, I think this will be ample funding and not neccessarily lead to a majority of law enforcement resources being targetted to the very young. In the medium term, I expect compliance costs for all murder investigations to go into free fall as we enter the Global Village- i.e., everyone spying on everyone else all the time, as in David Brin’s book ‘Earth’- and getting proof positive of murder will be as simple as googling someone. (Of course, this is burying my head in the sand and expecting your ‘home abortion kits’ not to arrive.)