What’s Wrong with the World

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Okay, I believe in exploitation. Now what is it?

Being a person with some sympathies for some aspects of libertarianism in economics, I have always been prone to resist the application of the word 'exploitation'. For years I probably would have said that I didn't believe there was such a thing as exploitation as some separate natural kind of wrong, that whenever there was a real wrong done that got labeled in that way, it could be analyzed into some other category--trying to induce someone to do something wrong, for example, exercising coercion, or engaging in fraud. And I am still unlikely to agree with a lot of people who use the word frequently, especially about wages. I'm probably going to say that some of the things they want to label with that word are not even wrong, much less instances of exploitation.

But I now do believe that there is such a thing as exploitation.

I'm a great believer in the use of the paradigm case in ethics, and I think a paradigm case of exploitation is that of Westerners who are now traveling to third-world countries to buy kidneys. Even if we grant that there are instances where a live kidney donation can be perfectly morally legitimate, buying a kidney is a different matter altogether, and there are excellent reasons why it is illegal in the U.S. Moreover, it makes it worse (and this is why it's an instance of exploitation) that the kidneys are being purchased from poor people who wouldn't give up a kidney at all if they didn't really need the money.

But I'm still not at all sure what exploitation is. The nub of my puzzlement is this question: Can we give any further overarching account of why some things--especially services or actions--should not be for sale? In the case of sex, we're on very solid ground in terms of the function, and for Christians, the God-ordained intent of sex in uniting one man and one woman. But one can hardly say that kidney donation has a created function. The activity is entirely man-invented, and no one had ever heard of such a thing two hundred years ago.

So here's a thought experiment to get us going in trying to decide what it is about certain things--specific heroic acts, perhaps?--that makes it the case that they must be done out of love, charity, or good-will rather than being sold: Suppose that a small child falls into a narrow well or hole of some sort and can't be gotten out in any ordinary way. The rescuers are becoming desperate when they hear of a midget in the neighborhood who is so small that he has a chance of being able to get down into the well to rescue the child. Let's say that the odds of his not only succeeding but getting back alive and without permanent major injury are neither very good nor very bad. Let's say it's 60 to 40 odds that all will be well. But that's still a pretty big risk for him to take. From here the scenario diverges into two sub-scenarios. In A, the rescuers and parents simply go to the man's house, put the situation before him, and ask him if he would be willing to help. In B, the rescuers and parents, learning that he is extremely poor and has eight children, offer him a huge sum of money, to be given even for the attempt, that will go either to him if he survives or to his family if he dies.

What's wrong with B? Clearly, there's nothing wrong with A. That must mean that it isn't wrong in itself for the man to help, or it would be wrong to ask him to help. In fact, it would be heroic for him to help. But B seems, to me at least, like an attempt at exploitation. The idea seems to be that his poverty is being used to pressure him to take a large risk out of a desire to help his family when he would not take that risk simply out of concern for the trapped child. But why is that wrong?

Comments (141)

Well, if there is coercion and/or theft or fraud- like taking the kidney without paying the agreed upon price, then yes there is exploitation.

However, the transaction of a kidney for money is not, in itself, exploitation. One can easily see a situation in with both parties are better off after the transaction, even if one were to view in the most narrowest of terms. In other words, the person selling the kidney may be able to live with one kidney + the money far longer than he could with two kidneys and no money.

Look, there aren't enough people on this earth who would collect garbage, clean public toilets, or do many other unsavory jobs for no paycheck. Similarly, there aren't enough donors in America.
Now, if someone pays to get a kidney, two people have a chance at a better life. Right now, a lot of people just die while on the list. I don't see how the situation that ends with more people dead becomes the moral, or the least exploitative, choice.

Suffice it to say that I do not view cleaning toilets and donating a kidney as being on a par. At all. But believe me, I'm well awaare of the hyper-libertarian position that all body parts should be for sale on the open market and that "everyone will be better off" if they are.

If I pay a poor person to sell me a kidney, am I not agreeing with the utilitarian view of man? I am not treating that person as a human created in the image and likeness of God but as an instrument that I can use to satisfy my wants or needs. That is exploitation of the most God-denying sort. It is not an argument to say that "well, now this poor person has the money he needs to live well." As Christians we are called on to relieve suffering and help the poor-- without extracting a pound of flesh.

Similarly, the scenario you sketched about the midget laid out two starkly different choices: one respects the midget's humanity and allows him to make a decision as seems best to him, the other is inherently evil, as the parents and rescuers are rather crudely deciding that the man's life may be put in jeopardy to satisfy their need. I don't think it is an excuse that their need is extreme. We are not allowed to use one another.

That goes for sex as well. It isn't merely a matter that "[i]n the case of sex, we're on very solid ground in terms of the function, and for Christians, the God-ordained intent of sex in uniting one man and one woman. Selling sex fundamentally reduces the one who is bought to a mere object-- an instrument of some purchaser's wish for pleasure (or whatever). Of course it degrades the purchaser, too.

We humans are made in the image and likeness of God. We are not free to despise, abuse, use or harm the brothers and sisters for whom Christ dies.

However, the transaction of a kidney for money is not, in itself, exploitation.

I kinda think it is: that body parts should only ever be given away for love, not money. Prostitution seems to me to be at least similar in kind.

Interesting post, Lydia.

If I pay a poor person to sell me a kidney, am I not agreeing with the utilitarian view of man? I am not treating that person as a human created in the image and likeness of God but as an instrument that I can use to satisfy my wants or needs. That is exploitation of the most God-denying sort.

Think of it like this. If you are paying the poor man very generously for his kidney, you are working together to raise your respective quality of life. Let's say that I pay an African farmer $25,000 for his kidney. As a middle class American, this is a perfectly reasonable sum for me to be expected to pay. Even $50,000 would be reasonable. The man may, at best, support his family on a few hundred dollars a year, and now has the chance to receive a windfall income worth 20-30 years of his work such that he can now dramatically increase his standard of living.

Tell me, how does that exploit him? In every respect, both people are meaningfully better off. One could argue that the third worlder far more so, as his kidney is worth in the first world a sum equal to his entire life's work, and then some. Suffice it to say, it's like he won the freakin lottery.

The only objection to this scenario is based on romantic notions about human life that ultimately ignore the very real fact that both parties are far more likely to live good, healthy lives after this transaction takes place.

More bluntly, what would Jesus do? I think he would find objecting to this scenario equivalent to wringing your hands about breaking the Sabbath in order to save a man's life or rescue his flock from danger.

I kinda think it is: that body parts should only ever be given away for love, not money. Prostitution seems to me to be at least similar in kind.

Except for the extreme spiritual difference that one is done to save a human life, and one is done to have sexual pleasure outside of God's plan and law...

But, MikeT, just because an activity has what we perceive to be a desirable intention does not mean that that activity is truly righteous. Human body parts are not properly economic commodities to be bought and sold on the open market. Good intentions and mutual benefit do not mend the matter at all. Nor does consent.

MikeT,
Perhaps I ought to explain more fully what I mean in the previous post.

You cannot sell what is not yours. Theologically, we are not our own. An analogy might serve:

What a person makes belongs to that person -- by creation. What a person buys belongs to that person -- by purchase. Nor ought we to bespoil a person of his or her domicile. It belongs to that person by occupation (that is, by dwelling, not by job).

By the same token, we are made by God. We are his by creation. He redeemed us; He bought us back. We are his by purchase. He dwells within us. We are his by residence. We are trebly God's: creation, purchase and residence. We have no right to sell what does not belong to us.

Your argument assumes that you are the owner of yourself and that along with this alleged ownership comes the right of disposal. But the assumption is false, and so is the marketplace application some wish to draw from it.

But, MikeT, just because an activity has what we perceive to be a desirable intention does not mean that that activity is truly righteous. Human body parts are not properly economic commodities to be bought and sold on the open market. Good intentions and mutual benefit do not mend the matter at all. Nor does consent.

If that be the case, then it is immoral for any form of organ transplant to take place on the grounds that if we do not have any economic power over own bodies, then we clearly have no property rights to our own bodies, which plainly means that we do not have the prerequisite ownership necessary to say "you can have my organs when I die." As an extension to this, I condemn the Red Cross and demand that all blood banks be closed immediately, as their storage of human blood is a propertization of that which is too sacred to be regarded as mere property.

Or is it really just the fact that a third world peasant might walk off with enough filthy lucre to buy first class medical care for his entire family, put his kids through school and buy enough land to live on comfortably via the sale of, for him, a mere kidney?

By the same token, we are made by God. We are his by creation. He redeemed us; He bought us back. We are his by purchase. He dwells within us. We are his by residence. We are trebly God's: creation, purchase and residence. We have no right to sell what does not belong to us.

Your argument assumes that you are the owner of yourself and that along with this alleged ownership comes the right of disposal. But the assumption is false, and so is the marketplace application some wish to draw from it.

God did not redeem non-Christians, and they are not bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. They are not the "blood-bought of Jesus" as every lay Christian should know from basic theology. The claim that Jesus makes to ownership of the Church is entirely based upon the work He did on the cross to secure salvation for the believers.

While it is also true that we do not own ourselves anymore, this is generally taken to mean (I'm a Protestant) that we no longer control our own lives, that they belong to God to guide. However, if one takes your argument literally, it means that we are entirely incapable of choosing actions that damage or destroy our bodies. If I cannot choose to sell an organ to a man who needs it to live, then I also have no right to choose to sacrifice my own life to save the lives of others because that act is utterly destructive, and willfully on my part, of God's property right in my body.

Perhaps you are being too materialistic here, as God clearly has no qualms with us taking self-destructive acts which raise up and/or save the lives of others. In fact, Jesus commended those who willingly sacrifice their lives that others may live. Yet, again, in order to do this sort of thing, we must have some control, even if not ownership, of our own bodies. Otherwise, it is not our call to make.

I find it ironic that those who usually lament the culture of death, out of what I consider a mistaken, romantic notion about the human body, would rather allow someone to die, and another to live in squalor and misery, rather than allow them to engage in an economic transaction that saves a life, and gives potential for security and prosperity to another who would otherwise never known it. This doesn't require self-ownership; self-stuardship is sufficient. We are clearly stuards of the world, so why not of our own bodies?

We are stewards of what God has given us and that means using it wisely and well. Blood is renewable; you don't harm your body by giving it to a blood bank, so I think we can take blood donation off the table. I have, in fact, heard arguments that all organ donations are morally problematic on the grounds that Michael laid out but I don't know how I feel about that. A real estate agent I worked with a few years back gave a kidney to her son; giving him life twice, as I thought of it. There was some risk to her in that donation but there was no exploitation of her, that I can see.

But I must say that I am troubled by your assertion that we would rather allow someone to live in squalor and misery than allow them to engage in an economic transaction that would secure their future. Christians are called upon to relieve squalor and poverty-- that does not depend on any sort of quid pro quo.

Where the horror of exploitation really becomes clear to me is in the reports I have read that China executes a prisoner every time a rich American comes calling with a handful of cash for a spare body part. Am I wrong in thinking that all of us would find that exploitive or morally objectionable, even though the guy was going to be executed some time or other, anyway?

I think both Lily and Michael are on to something concerning the body. It is a kind of theology of the body that I think Protestants and Catholics can definitely share: We can't say "mine" of our bodies and parts of our bodies in the same way we can say "mine" of our boots. (I'm cribbing C.S.L. there.)

But we do sell our labor, and that's often quite legitimate. I suppose that's why the midgets scenario poses a more difficult problem. Since in scenario B, no one is trying to get him to sell his body (either sexually or literally a part of his body), they are trying to get him to sell a particular type of labor on a particular occasion. It wouldn't be wrong for a woman enamored of her cat to offer to pay someone money to climb a small and non-dangerous tree to rescue her cat. So obviously this has something to do with the danger to the man's life. But it also (I think) isn't wrong to employ people in risky jobs--as firemen, for example. I _think_ that has something to do with the fact that the money is being paid to the firemen not specifically for the individual acts of heroism we might expect of them under circumstances that might or might not arise but also for more mundane acts of putting out fires and just for putting themselves at the disposal of the community, which is not in itself a matter of offering their lives.

So can we say that it is exploitative to offer someone money for a particular act of truly, seriously, life-threatening heroism?

Mike,
You and I obviously share a high regard for market economics. But that doesn't actually settle the moral issues in view at the moment.

You've gone from arguing that something is right because it leads to a consequence you approve (ends justify means), to arguing that something is wrong because you don't like where it leads (which is just the negative form of your earlier argument.)

By neither means did you actually address the argument I made. You must assess more than consequences to determine if an action is righteous or not.

If I were to argue from your side of the fence that the actions in view are moral, I'd probably argue that what you call "self-destructive acts" are really "redemptive acts" of one sort or another, and are in accord with Christ laying down his body for others. But then, He wasn't doing it for money. It was an action of love, not a marketplace exchange, not a quid pro quo. The closest I could come to finding any kind of profit motive in Christ's passion would be the Biblical assertion that Christ endured the agonies of the cross for the joy set before Him (Heb 12:2), which indirectly references self-interest -- a "gain" or "benefit" or "profit" of a particular kind.

I personally don't argue that way because I think the comparison between Christ gaining joy and our making money is too big a stretch.

Lydia,
You are right to think that this is more an issue of a "theology of the body" than an issue of the marketplace.

As such, it raises various questions: For example, I notice that after the resurrection, Christ still carried with Him the marks of the crucifixion, and that they apparently will stay with Him forever because He continually will reside in the flesh. So, I wonder, to what extent do the things done to the body endure? What are the enduring consequences (if any) of, say, dissecting cadavers for science? I know what answer I'd like to that question, but I don't know what answer is actually true. The scientists aren't even close to asking it, let alone answering it with care, precision and insight. I'd like to think that Christ's marks remain as reminders of the love that won our redemption, and that from such reminders we must not deduce that the things done to our bodies will remain, and that God will mend them all. That's what I hope happens. But, frankly, revelation is not clear on the point, at least not to me. It's an issue because, like others who recite the creed, I believe in the resurrection of the body -- not just any body, THIS one.

MikeT

If you like, I'll be happy to debate at length about who is and who is not included in the payment made through Christ's blood, and if by rejecting Him one can really establish self-ownership and accomplish independence from God. Right now, I'll simply refer to 1 John 2:2, which says that Christ is the propitiation, or payment (hilasmos), for all persons, not merely we Christians.

Michael Bauman is arguing this question so well I almost forget he's a heretic.

Lydia,

I fail to see the cause of scruple in the midget scenario. Unless he is a close friend or relative, the family should offer him money. For, they are essentially hiring someone out to do dangerous and important work. Nor would it be wrong for him to take the money. In fact, assuming he is financially responsible for others, he may be morally required to accept the money, and to provide that the money goes to his family if he is killed in the attempt.

So, George R., you agree that buying kidneys is wrong but not that offering the midget money is wrong? That's a position I can see someone's understandably taking. Still, it seems to me that there is something distasteful about offering the midget money, particularly if the parents say, "He might not want to do it, but I hear he's in dire straits for money, so maybe that will persuade him."

It seems to me intuitively (but it is a defeasible intuition) a difference between _giving_ him or his family money after the fact if he is injured or killed and offering him the money as an inducement. I think there is certainly a duty to do the former to the extent that one can.

George R, my friend, my heresy is something you must never forget (wink).

There is a flip side to this, even if we leave the exploitation question aside for a bit: do we really want to get to a place in society where we commoditize human body parts? or altruistic acts? If an altruistic act can be given a price, is there any remaining place left for real altruism?

Haven't we gone down that road far enough -- the road that says, in effect, everything can be commoditized? This, I believe, leads to a corollary -- the equation of value with price, which already has led to much destructive decision-making.

It seems to me that we're getting perilously close to Ayn Rand territory here, or to giving a stamp of approval to the notion of "homo oeconomicus."

Certainly, the whole question of commodifying both altruism and the human body are important, but I usually find that such questions come back to concrete wrongs. For example, the creation of embryos in petri dishes commodifies human beings in the eyes of society, but I think the reason it has that effect upon people's minds is because it's wrong--because objectively, the individual acts are treating babies as "made things."

So my guess is that it's wrong to pay people for individual acts of altruism, though as I say, it clearly isn't wrong to pay people to devote their lives to altruistic professions like being firemen, because when they are devoting their lives to it full-time, they aren't working other jobs.

If an altruistic act can be given a price, is there any remaining place left for real altruism?

Rob G,

How does one man demanding a price for his service preclude another man from providing the same service for altruistic reasons? Also, are you suggesting that the child should be denied life-saving assistance for the sake of altruism?

I really don't think we should allow the altruistic ideal to become so, um, lethal.

George, it's not that I'm totally unsympathetic to your view, but I'm just inclined to go the other direction on paying for specific acts of altruism. Here's a thought experiment: Suppose we imagine the midget case and sort of gradually ratchet things up. We imagine the risk as worse and worse of death, we imagine the midget as more and more reluctant, and we imagine the parents as upping the price in some sort of bargaining session. If we exaggerate all of these factors, does there come a point where you are uncomfortable with the attempt to induce him to risk his life by way of offering money?

Michael, I think you raise an excellent question about dissection of human corpses. It's one that has bothered me ever since I read Dorothy Sayers's rather macabre mystery _Whose Body_. (Good mystery novel, though.) About the only thing in that neighborhood I'm confident of is that a post-mortem to try to get evidence where murder or foul play of some kind is suspected is quite legitimate, becauase it is for the purpose of the state's honoring the value of that very person's life.

And I don't view prostitution and selling a kidney as on a par. One is slavery and the destruction of the self, the other means taking a kidney-sized risk- one that we know can turn out okay, for there are people living decent lives out there with one kidney.

Also, prostitution is sin- even when it's given away for free! You clearly don't think kidney donation is sinful. Why does it become sin when money enters the picture?
It only becomes sin when coercion enters the picture.

Also this isn't an argument for the sale of everything. I am very concerned about situation in which the death of one party is inevitable, primarily because the medical establishment has a vested interest in performing operations. Right now, the incentive to harvest organs from people who might live is probably a bit high- doctors make money by performing operations and the organs are free, but I would want to make sure that sort of incentive wouldn't go even higher.

Lydia,

I think someone could object to your calling this an "altruistic act". For, if he gets paid for it, it is not an altruistic act. Therefore, he would not be getting paid for an altruistic act.

He would be, however, getting paid for a heroic and praiseworthy act; and what on earth is wrong with that?

If we exaggerate all of these factors, does there come a point where you are uncomfortable with the attempt to induce him to risk his life by way of offering money?

Not at all. The greater the risk, the greater should be the reward. Is not this justice?

Upon reflection, what would make me uncomfortable with such transaction would be if the midget and the child were close relations. For instance, if the midget was the child's brother, remuneration would be totally inappropriate.

Now there are many who consider all men to be brothers, which is true in a way; but some take it too far. I'm thinking that it is this notion of a "brotherhood of man" that is the source of the discomfort with the financial transaction.

And to the extent that men are actually brothers such a discomfort may be warranted.

You and I obviously share a high regard for market economics. But that doesn't actually settle the moral issues in view at the moment.

You've gone from arguing that something is right because it leads to a consequence you approve (ends justify means), to arguing that something is wrong because you don't like where it leads (which is just the negative form of your earlier argument.)

I'm not sure exactly which comment you're referring to in that last part. My point is that it is clear that our stewardship of God's property right in our bodies extends to acts which utterly destroy the property for noble purposes. It is unclear that God actually has any problem with us selling our body parts to others who need them in order to live, as scripture is silent on this matter. The best we can make is conjecture, which is not Spirit-vouched.

By neither means did you actually address the argument I made. You must assess more than consequences to determine if an action is righteous or not.

Is this not what Jesus did when He said that the Sabbath law could be set aside if the end justified the means in the case of setting it aside to save a man's life?

If I were to argue from your side of the fence that the actions in view are moral, I'd probably argue that what you call "self-destructive acts" are really "redemptive acts" of one sort or another, and are in accord with Christ laying down his body for others. But then, He wasn't doing it for money. It was an action of love, not a marketplace exchange, not a quid pro quo. The closest I could come to finding any kind of profit motive in Christ's passion would be the Biblical assertion that Christ endured the agonies of the cross for the joy set before Him (Heb 12:2), which indirectly references self-interest -- a "gain" or "benefit" or "profit" of a particular kind.

Not to nitpick, but I think you are jumping off onto a tangent that is unrelated to anything I said. I did not, and would not, argue that Jesus did His work for a financial purpose. My points here are related to fundamental matters of property, something that cuts deeper than markets. There are three, not two, classes of stewardship: righteous, permissible, sinful. Jesus made it clear that we have stewardship of our body to dispose of God's property rights in our body for any righteous purpose. There is no precedent that I know of in the Bible to suggest that selling a body part that one does not need to live, to raise money for a non-sinful purpose, to save the life of another, is sinful, rather than permissible. That which the Bible does not condemn as sinful, or which is not related to that which is sinful, is permissible. Therefore, it is a matter of liberty between the individual and God.

Furthermore:

2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for[a] the sins of the whole world.

Does not translate into salvation or ownership. Christ is sufficient for all men, but not efficient for all men. I would see your 1 John 2:2 and raise you John 6:65:

65He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."
So my guess is that it's wrong to pay people for individual acts of altruism, though as I say, it clearly isn't wrong to pay people to devote their lives to altruistic professions like being firemen, because when they are devoting their lives to it full-time, they aren't working other jobs.

I don't follow your logic here, Lydia. If it is wrong in a moment, surely it is wrong over the course of 20-30 years of making it a career. I fail to see why it's moral to ask someone to dedicate their life to fire fighting for a salary, but it's not acceptable to pay someone who is willing to do the work on a one-time basis.

Going back to the midget's case, it makes no sense to say that it's moral to ask him to do it for free, but not to do it for pay because it's possible for him to be motivated by both civic and moral duty, and the potential wealth to be gained. This is the same situation with many who serve as fire fighters, cops and servicemen in the military. Their motivations are both materialistic (to make a living) and to serve. Yet no one would argue that their desire to seek a career negates their willingness to serve their community and nation. In my opinion, there is a lot in common between the midget and someone who enlists in the military for a single term.

**It would be more accurate to your argument to say "to seek compensation" than to seek a career in the previous paragraph.

I think at least as a matter of intuition that it would probably be OK for the poor person to donate a kidney with no expectation of or insistence upon any remuneration; and for the rich person to make a generous gift to the poor person in gratitude. Distinguishing this from a market transaction might be difficult if we look at it as a strictly material thing, I suppose.

But buying and selling the body parts of healthy but poor 'donors' in contractual market transactions (however formal or informal) seems to me to be exploitation. I don't think the market transaction is any less exploitative than the market transaction involved in prostitution, even though the actual act of fornication is intrinsically immoral while the actual act of kidney donation is presumably not restricted in its licit occurrence to within the bonds of marriage.

But buying and selling the body parts of healthy but poor 'donors' in contractual market transactions (however formal or informal) seems to me to be exploitation. I don't think the market transaction is any less exploitative than the market transaction involved in prostitution, even though the actual act of fornication is intrinsically immoral while the actual act of kidney donation is presumably not restricted in its licit occurrence to within the bonds of marriage.

This argument could apply to any economic transaction between a world power and poor state. The sheer wealth of our economy, and access to it, could be enough incentive to make poor societies make sacrifices to gain access that they'd never normally make. From this perspective, trade itself between a rich society and a poor one is inherently exploitative because of the wealth difference between them.

This whole line of thought, is simply wrong, however because both parties are, in fact, quite better off after the rich man buys the organ, and the poor man now has enough filthy lucre to move out of his mud hut and into a decent quality of life for him and his family. Let's not lose sight of the fact that $50,000 for a kidney in Africa, one that one may not need at any given moment due to the myriad problems with that continent, is nothing short of winning the lottery for most people there who happen to be fit enough to sell one.

Furthermore, it also assumes that a poor African or other third worlder may not be able to objectively weigh the cost and decide that a kidney is a reasonable price to pay for being able to make, for his society, an incredible jump in wealth and social status.

This argument could apply to any economic transaction between a world power and poor state.
Well, in the first place, it isn't an argument, it is just an intuition, as I stated outright in my comment. In the second place, 'every economic transaction' does not involve the corporeal intimacy involved in prostitution and organ donation, so it is obviously a nonsequitur to generalize in that way.

I think your strongest argument is the one from consequences, that is, that everyone involved in the transaction itself will be materially better off. (Even in that case it isn't quite true without making a number of assumptions: for example the poor man has now lost his redundant kidney, when he gets older he may well need it, and he almost certainly won't be in a position to buy another at the kidney market when he does).

That argument, as others have pointed out, is not dispositive. Even if we stay in the realm of consequences a kind of Kantian argument can be raised against it: at issue is not solely the material well being of the individuals involved in the specific transaction alone, but also of society as a whole, and a marketplace for live human organ farming just might have problems associated with it. And of course once we stop restricting ourselves to material consequences alone the arguments Michael Baumann raised above come into play.

In short "those involved in the transaction are materially better off", even if stipulated as true, does not tell us at all that there was no immoral exploitation involved. As far as I can tell it is just a theory of consent once removed: rather than the consent of the persons directly involved justifying the act, it is material benefit to the persons directly involved which justifies the act.

Well, no, it doesn't. Mutual material benefit to the specific persons directly involved can motivate an otherwise just act, to be sure, but mutual material benefit to the specific persons directly invovled does not serve a morally justifying purpose in itself.

Even shorter version:

MikeT's argument seems to depend on something like the following:

If:

1) the parties directly involved consent; and

2) the parties directly involved materially benefit; and

3) a similar act is sometimes and under some conditions morally licit;

... then the act cannot be an act of exploitation.

I don't see why this should be true, at all.

Furthermore, prostitution does pertain as an analogy, though it is not a perfect analogy. There are some things which ought to never be bought and sold in a marketplace, but only ought to be given out of love. Sexual intimacy is one of those things; even within a marriage a man ought not bribe his wife for sex, for example, and she should not withold sex to force him to buy her something she wants. The fact that other factors constrain licit sexual acts does not change the fact that this (that is, the requirement that it be a gift given out of love and not a market transaction) constrains licit sexual acts.

MikeT said:

"This whole line of thought, is simply wrong, however because both parties are, in fact, quite better off after the rich man buys the "organ, and the poor man now has enough filthy lucre to move out of his mud hut and into a decent quality of life for him and his family. Let's not lose sight of the fact that $50,000 for a kidney in Africa, one that one may not need at any given moment due to the myriad problems with that continent, is nothing short of winning the lottery for most people there who happen to be fit enough to sell one."


I say:

You're doing it again, Mike.

You can't determine the morality of a deed simply by affirming that you like that deed's consequences. Simply because two persons think themselves better off afterward does not morally justify a market transaction. "Better" is a concept susceptible to multiple and highly debatable definitions. Yes, after selling a kidney a poor African might be financially better off than he ever was. I don't know anyone who would deny it. But is that poor African better off, or worse off, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially? Those are different questions altogether, and not questions well answered by the marketplace. "Better" is not the same as "financially improved," or even "greatly financially improved."

The marketplace is very good at giving persons what they want. It is not good at all in helping them learn what they ought to want. Both the man who purchases pornography and the one who peddles it might think themselves better off after the transaction, but their judgment in this matter is highly questionable.

In the second place, 'every economic transaction' does not involve the corporeal intimacy involved in prostitution and organ donation, so it is obviously a nonsequitur to generalize in that way.

Right. I think one of the reasons it is particularly clear that an organ market is wrong is because human bodies are special. They shouldn't be items of sale. To my mind, this is fairly rock bottom.

Now, here's my remaining question. Is there anything else we can glean from the kidney situation that gives us some idea of "taking advantage of people" or "pressuring/tempting people with money" or "the rich making use of the poor" that can be clearly applied to situations where bodies and body parts are not for sale? That's of course what I was trying to get at with the other scenario, but I'm quite unsure about it.

"But I now do believe that there is such a thing as exploitation."

One is tempted to say exploitation is like obscenity - we know it when we see it. But do we? Or, is such a superficial judgement really a complacency unworthy of us?

Lily is on the right course when she warns against the "quid pro quo" ethos, the mode of living for the man on the make, not one signed by the Cross. Zippy takes it further by showing the subtle exploitation that can occur within even our most intimate and sacred unions. Note the perverse inversion of the Scriptural injunction to "do on to others"

Michael rightly reminds us; "The marketplace is very good at giving persons what they want. It is not good at all in helping them learn what they ought to want." I would take it a step further by saying the market is very good at incessantly distracting us from our supernatural destiny by presenting appealing and unhealthy substitutes.

It does so by placing the cash nexus and various economic principles like "comparative advantage", "enlightened self-interest" and a dubious understanding of "scarcity" at the center
of our lives. I point to some of Mike T's logic as proof of the power of these principles.

Any understanding of exploitation should include this; the morality of an act is judged on the basis of whether the dignity of each participant is both protected and advanced. If that is an understanding we can agree upon, Lydia, can any of us really say they fully understand what exploitation means? I don't think so, but I am not so sure how to articulate the reasons.

Is there anything else we can glean from the kidney situation that gives us some idea of "taking advantage of people" or "pressuring/tempting people with money" or "the rich making use of the poor" that can be clearly applied to situations where bodies and body parts are not for sale?
I wish I had an answer to that very interesting question.

I suspect that exploitation has to do with the violation or subordination of the telos of a thing, and that there is a teleological heirarchy in play: that for example to exchange one's life for the life of another out of love is a great gift; to give one's life for the satisfaction of the prurient desires of another is a terrible perversion. Likewise to give one's kidney to save the life of another is a great gift; to give one's kidney for the sake of money (whatever further end one may have in mind for that money) is a terrible perversion.

This will be a very unsatisfactory situation for the average modern person, who wants to operate within a simplified and well-defined world where consent and material benefit govern without the interference of a complex underlying (and highly debatable in general, still moreso to the modern mind) teleological reality.

I'm just thinking out loud here, and that may be completely off base. But it is a very interesting question.

Likewise to give one's kidney to save the life of another is a great gift; to give one's kidney for the sake of money (whatever further end one may have in mind for that money) is a terrible perversion.

I agree. I don't think this means, though, that both people are equally at fault. My own inclination would be to say that the rich(er) person who offers money to the desperately poor person is far more at fault than the poor person who accepts the offer. It's hard to say why. I don't think it's just because we envisage the rich person as initiating the idea. I suppose that might or might not be true. Once the idea was suggested to the poor person, he might suggest it. But somehow there is this notion that the person with the inducement--the cash--is in the more powerful position, the position to refuse to engage in this transaction, despite the fact that he's the one who needs the kidney. I wonder if this just means that against my better judgement my mind has been influenced by anti-money biases. :-) (It must be from hanging around here, if so.) But I don't think so. For one thing, the person with the money is just giving up money in the exchange, not part of his body. That odd asymmetry between the guy with the cash and the guy who needs it but can get it only in exchange for something very precious to him (in one sense, more precious than cash) seems impossible to get rid of.

I began thinking about this subject years ago while reading, of all things, the children's book _Lassie, Come Home_. There's the poor Yorkshire coal-mining family, the father out of work, and the Duke wants to buy their collie. Problem: Their son is passionately attached to the collie and will be deeply miserable for an indefinite period of time if they sell it. The dog will also be miserable and will try to run away again and again. They even find this out. But they need the money. Not starving yet, but Mom looks worried when Son has a big appetite. So they sell the collie. It always seemed to me that in some sense the Duke should have _thought_ before offering them money for the dog, especially if he realized the situation with the boy. Maybe offered instead to buy the dog but let it live with them for the rest of its life, and he would show it, breed it, and have ownership of the puppies. But instead he just casually offers them money for the dog and takes the dog away, probably figuring that everybody will be better off in the transaction. In the end, the Duke himself seems to feel convicted. He realizes that the dog that has come back to them is his own, but he says, "No, there's no dog of mine here." The implication of course is that money can't make a dog belong to you in the sense that counts. A book that made me think.

Once the idea was suggested to the poor person, he might suggest it.

Sorry, that's incoherent. I mean, once the poor person thought of the idea, perhaps by having it mentioned to him by some third party, he might suggest it to the rich person who needed the kidney.

If the kidney analogy poses a moral dilemma for anyone, then the definition of exploitation will soon be confined to a very narrow, largely useless one made up of obvious examples such as human trafficking and coerced organ donations. Conservatives will find exploitation primarily in the field of sexual ethics, though some see the entrepreneurship and economic empowerment of pole-dancers as a human good and another triumph for free markets.

A clothing manufacturer relocates facilities to El Salvador to benefit from a labor-pool of workers who, unlike those of Fall River Massachusetts, will accept wages of 70cents an hour. The workers voluntarily consented to the employer’s terms and the hourly wage is preferable to the unemployment that preceded the arrival of the factory. Yet, are they not being exploited? They still cannot afford milk, much less the $150 jackets they make and the manufacturer hangs the threat of moving to a country where 40cents an hour is acceptable over their heads.

The other aspect is what is my complicity in this when I buy a jacket made under these conditions?

If the kidney analogy poses a moral dilemma for anyone, then the definition of exploitation will soon be confined to a very narrow, largely useless one...

I'm not sure what you mean by the kidney analogy's posing a moral dilemma for someone. Is the idea that if a person makes a big deal about the kidney case (and it is a _real_ situation, and there are _real_ people pushing for making organs market items), then he's probably not ready to expand the category of exploitation as far as you would do?

Well, that may be true. I'm no doubt in much that situation--having a narrower category of exploitation than yours--though my intuitions about the midget case evidently try to expand the category _farther_ than some would (like George, for example). But perhaps you should rather look at it this way, Kevin: "If Lydia comes to believe that there is such a thing as exploitation as a sui generis type of thing--where before she thought there was only force, fraud, and getting people to do intrinsically immoral things--then perhaps there is hope that some day she will even come to agree with me about too-low wages. She's closer than she was when she thought there was no such thing."

The thing is, with the kidney (and for that matter, with the collie dog in the book) we're looking at something that has this value that goes beyond its monetary value. That's certainly (and even more so) true of sex as well. And I suppose we could argue in the case of the midget that the thing that has a more-than-monetary value is his life, which he's being asked seriously to risk. And part of what I'm groping towards is a notion that the person who offers money in these cases is not rightly understanding the true, non-monetary value of the thing in question, or else he would understand better that it must be given only for love or altruism, must be handled in a particular way (e.g., letting the dog continue to live with the family she loves), and so forth.

The trouble with what I might call just "plain old" labor--not even risking life or limb, for example--is that I think we all agree that plain old labor does really have at some level a "plain old" monetary value. There's nothing _at all_ wrong with selling one's labor. In fact, it can be quite a virtuous thing to do to sell one's labor to support one's family. So at that point what you're moving towards is something like a just price concept for labor, with exploitation being the paying of less than the just price. And I'm not ready to go that direction, right now. So far, I haven't been convinced that there is a just price for labor.

MikeT's argument seems to depend on something like the following:

If:

1) the parties directly involved consent; and

2) the parties directly involved materially benefit; and

3) a similar act is sometimes and under some conditions morally licit;

... then the act cannot be an act of exploitation.

Exploitation is a subjective matter, far more so than obscenity. Many people consider it highly exploitative to pay a third worlder $1/hour to do what an American would require $10/hour to do, even though $1/hour in their country is a strong wage. There are few moral issues that are generally so based on personal opinion as economic exploitation.

In general, claims of exploitation are a form of condescension that assume that the persons involved are incapable of arriving at terms agreeable to them in an environment without coercion. I don't dispute that exploitation exists, but rather it is something that is generally in the eye of the beholder instead of objective truth.

Sexual intimacy is one of those things; even within a marriage a man ought not bribe his wife for sex, for example, and she should not withold sex to force him to buy her something she wants. The fact that other factors constrain licit sexual acts does not change the fact that this (that is, the requirement that it be a gift given out of love and not a market transaction) constrains licit sexual acts.

And this is precisely why I say that prostitution is a terrible comparison. The one giving up the organ has no such divinely-sanctioned duty to the needs of the one who is to receive the organ. Yet, no one here has said that it would be immoral for the man to just give it to him, though there has been plenty of argument that to sell it would be just crass capitalism at work rather than fluffy, feel-good altruism.

I've yet to see much understanding of my previous argument here which goes like this:

1) If we have stewardship of God's property right in our body to give part of our body away to another for free, then the lack of scripture and Spirit-vouched revelation leaves us with no authoritative basis to denounce the sale of organs to those who need them in order to live.

2) If we don't have this stewardship, then organ donation, even blood donation is inherently outside of our authority, as we have no authority to ever execute God's property right on Earth.

3) God's property right in our bodies does not end with our death, because God lives on after our death, so does His property right, and therefore no one may participate in an organ donation program because God's property is not abanoned.

You're speaking on a high level about markets, I'm speaking on a more fundamental level about property rights. The question is not ultimately whether we can sell an organ, but whether or not we have the authority to transfer possession of the organ--period--to another.

Of course, this is a perfect example of how absolute morality and situational morality exist in the real world. In the real world, it's the duty of a righteous man to prayerfully consider the ramifications of any form of organ exchange, and to consider whether or not God's plan is advanced by such an act. This is no different than our duty in other areas where scripture has no bright line test, such as selling legal weapons. Clearly, despite rumors to the contrary, God would indeed judge us based on the consequences of our decision there if we knowingly gave an evil man a weapon and he used it for a crime. The same could be said if we sold a kidney so that someone could continue a lifestyle that is abusive of their own body and just generally evil; it is indisputably immoral and wasteful to give an unrepentant alcoholic a live transplant.

Now, not wanting to repeat the mistakes of the Pharisees, I say we should err on the side of liberty, rather than risk turning our own opinions into statutes coequal with God's decrees. I would assume that like many things that God is silent on, God would expect us to use our intuition, scripture and prayer to determine the course of action most glorifying to God. Organ sales is not inherently offensive to that end.

The thing is, with the kidney (and for that matter, with the collie dog in the book) we're looking at something that has this value that goes beyond its monetary value. That's certainly (and even more so) true of sex as well. And I suppose we could argue in the case of the midget that the thing that has a more-than-monetary value is his life, which he's being asked seriously to risk. And part of what I'm groping towards is a notion that the person who offers money in these cases is not rightly understanding the true, non-monetary value of the thing in question, or else he would understand better that it must be given only for love or altruism, must be handled in a particular way (e.g., letting the dog continue to live with the family she loves), and so forth.

One could argue that someone who is mired in inescapable, national poverty might be keenly aware of the limited worth of that kidney. One kidney is fine for a reasonable, non-athletic lifestyle. A person in that situation could easily find that the level of money being offered for it would elevate their lifestyle and allow them to carry out their social responsibilities in a way that is incomparably better than without the money and with the kidney. For that matter, the person who is offering the money may be perfectly well aware of the fact that what the money can bring and do in that person's life is of a higher subjective value to that person and their dependents than the kidney.

Let's not lose sight of the fact here that if you offer a viable, poor candidate $100,000 for a kidney (just using a decent number there), that in their home country that sum could turn them from living in abject, brutish poverty to having a lifestyle akin to ours.

WEll, Mike T, I don't even have time to list all the things I disagree with in those two posts. For example, how can something exist but be entirely subjective? I mean, if it's just in the eye of the beholder, then it _doesn't_ exist.

Scripture and special revelation are not our only sources for ethical knowledge, especially concerning categories of acts that could not have been anticipated by the writers of Scripture. I'm trying to access the natural law, here.

I don't think that our bodies are our property. That's _why_ I don't believe in selling either organs or sex. Property is the wrong category. And no, we don't have the authority to donate a kidney because of our "stewardship property rights." Why bring property into it at all?

By the way, it's probably only fair to say up front that I have in another forum (not available any longer on-line, or not easily) raised doubts about dead-donor organ donation, by way of an analogy to cannibalism. If I allow single-kidney donation from a live donor, it would be only because the donor is alive and the recipient isn't waiting for and taking from a dead donor. Beyond that, I think you underestimate the seriousness of life without a kidney. In general, I think the risks are underestimated. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument I'm going to allow that live donation (not sale) of a single kidney, is morally licit.

When you discuss what you call the "limited worth of the kidney," I think you just illustrate my point: You think of body parts as having _only_ utilitarian value. That's a problem right there. That, in fact, may be at the heart of the problem.

"I haven't been convinced that there is a just price for labor."

Before we can decide if there is a just price for labor we have to answer the question posed by the very real example; is exploitation occurring?

Your reluctance to answer the question is baffling. This should not be controversial; the morality of an act is judged on the basis of whether the dignity of each participant is both protected and advanced.

"...rather than risk turning our own opinions into statutes coequal with God's decrees."

How oddly convenient. Your entire discourse is woefully absent of anything resembling Christian anthropology, you take refuge in the classic;
" fill in the blank____ is a subjective matter" and then caution us about the sin of presumption.

The fact of the matter Mike T, Christians see themselves as active moral actors with obligations that transcend the laws of supply and demand, or the changing mandates of the State. I think the point of this thread is to determine from the perspective of our faith; what constitutes exploitation. Not an argument for the commodification of body organs bracketed by noble motives and happy endings. Good Lord.

"I'm trying to access the natural law, here."

Amen. I'd like it applied to the realm of everyday life and the transcations we engage in. Are we complicit in something wrong when purchasing goods made by degraded workers or slave labor.

"I don't think that our bodies are our property."

Nor the property of another party. Hence the example I offered; a woman's body being abused 12 hours a day by a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation.

A clothing manufacturer relocates facilities to El Salvador to benefit from a labor-pool of workers who, unlike those of Fall River Massachusetts, will accept wages of 70cents an hour. The workers voluntarily consented to the employer’s terms and the hourly wage is preferable to the unemployment that preceded the arrival of the factory. Yet, are they not being exploited? They still cannot afford milk, much less the $150 jackets they make and the manufacturer hangs the threat of moving to a country where 40cents an hour is acceptable over their heads.
Before we can decide if there is a just price for labor we have to answer the question posed by the very real example; is exploitation occurring?
Hence the example I offered; a woman's body being abused 12 hours a day by a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation.

I must be frank: The only thing in your example which bothers me much at all in itself is the "hanging over their head the threat" of going elsewhere. I have some notion that there ought to be some sort of connection that develops of loyalty between employer and employee. Not an indefeasible connection, but some connection. But it would be easy enough to remove that. The employer might, for example, have some sort of contractual agreement to keep the plant open in that location for a minimum number of years--ten years, or something like that. And besides, I think that you would consider it exploitation even without that factor, whereas I'm inclined not to. The other factors really do not strike me as they strike you. Nobody's body is being abused per se by working in a clothing factory. I'm afraid that just sounds incorrect to me. If that were so we'd all have to do without clothes altogether except those made by ourselves or individually in a home, as all clothing factories would be abusing the bodies of their laborers. The fact that the workers are not making enough money to buy the products they make fazes me not at all. A man may work for an employer who makes any number of luxury goods that he will never be able to buy--sports cars, for example. I have no intuition whatsoever that employees must be able to afford the products they make. That they cannot buy milk, I'm afraid, raises again the notion of what I called a just price for labor as a _reason_ for considering this a case of exploitation: That is, it is the idea that if employees don't make at least a living wage--such-and-such amount of dollars, to buy such-and-such products and live such-and-such a life--wrong is being done them. So I'm afraid that, from my perspective, that question is prior to the question of exploitation given that I have no immediate and gestalt response to the case as one of exploitation and given that you are inclined to consider it exploitation in part _because_ the wages are not enough to buy milk. (I'm assuming you're right here. It sounds rather surprising to me that it would still be impossible to buy milk. Never? Not even some of the time?)

But that was what I raised the warning about in the main post. When it comes to just plain wages for any sort of work whatsoever and to the idea that exploitation occurs when not "enough" wages are being paid, I don't see it. And it is interesting that the more analysis that goes on here, the more clearly I see the contrast between that case and these other cases.

I don't think this means, though, that both people are equally at fault.
Oh, me neither.

I too think the claim that exploitation is subjective is a claim that it doesn't exist.

Also, MikeT, I rather doubt that you and I even share the same concept of property. See here for example.

"Nobody's body is being abused per se by working in a clothing factory."

Per se? A 12 hour workday for a woman who cannot afford milk, subsists on the diet of the "working poor" of El Salvador and drinks coffee to fight off fainting spells is abusive.
http://www.nlcnet.org/campaigns/archive/elsalvador/CKMinimumwage2a.shtml
Feel free to offer stats that contradict the above.

"It sounds rather surprising to me that it would still be impossible to buy milk. Never? Not even some of the time?"

There is a huge disconnect between you and her. Neither one exists to the other, thanks to a marketplace that overcomes the logistics posed by geographical distance, but makes the whole relationship between producer, product and consumer an abstract and distant one. The American buyer gets to purchase a good jacket at an affordable price and remain oblivious to the suffering of a woman who subsists on 4.79 a day. This arrangement poses a greater moral challenge than the examples cited in this thread since we are actors in the exchange.

Yet, for some reason this example seems unworthy of real probing and the application of
natural law. Instead, the economic sphere remains free to operate under its own rules. Strange.

I believe in exploitation, I think it exists in this example and appears often in our daily lives. I wish I could be assured by distance, the invocation of "comparative advantage" and a simple closing of my eyes. Unfortunately, that is no longer an option and will become less so
as we wonder" why do they hate us?

What you should notice Lydia is you sound very much like Mike T when trying to refute my argument. Just a heads up.

Like Lydia, I've long been at a loss to understand what people mean by the term "exploitation" (which is not to say I don't think the thing exists, only that the meaning of the term isn't clear to me). Unlike Lydia, I don't think a market in kidneys would constitute exploitation. Here are a couple of questions:

Most of the talk so far seems to be focused on the case of a poor person selling a kidney. Suppose, though, that we were to say that only millionaires could sell kidneys. Would that still constitute exploitation, or not?

Suppose that Sam's brother needs a kidney. He is willing to donate, but is not a match. Likewise, Jill's sister needs a kidney, and while she is willing to donate, she is not a match. However, Sam is a match for Jill's sister, and Jill is a match for Sam's brother. They each agree to donate their kidney to the other's sibling on condition that the other do the same. Exploitation? If so, who is exploiting whom?

Suppose that Bob is willing to donate a kidney to Steve who lives in another state. In order for the donation to occur, Bob will have to travel to where Steve is located. If Steve pays these travel expenses, does that constitute exploitation?

People have sometimes sought to distinguish the buying and selling of kidneys from things like the buying and selling of things like blood plasma on the grounds that the human body will naturally replenish the latter. The same is true of the human liver. If one were to pay someone for a live liver transplant, would that constitute exploitation?

Suppose that we were to find some marketable use for people's tonsils and/or appendix. Would it constitute exploitation to buy and sell such things?

What I find troubling here is the implication that the 'market' is somehow above or beyond morality, that the 'invisible hand' functions in a sort of moral vacuum. This comes, I think, from the oft-noted tendency of modern conservatives to read "The Wealth of Nations" without recourse to Smith's other major work, the "Theory of Moral Sentiments." Modern exponents of the market economy fail to take into consideration the fact that, like democracy, capitalism only works with a moral people. Like Michael said above, "the marketplace is very good at giving persons what they want. It is not good at all in helping them learn what they ought to want," a fact that has been pointed out by conservative critics of capitalism for a very long time.

They each agree to donate their kidney to the other's sibling on condition that the other do the same. Exploitation? If so, who is exploiting whom?
I don't know if it is exploitation, since I think exploitation implies some kind of power imbalance. But morally wrong? I think it may be, yes. Intuitively it seems wrong to tell a dying man "I'm not willing to donate a kidney to save your life for your own sake, but if your brother saves my brother's life then I'll save yours." And there isn't even the banality of money involved in that case.

The thing about money is that it is fungible; indeed it is the principle of fungibility: it is the medium by which 'everything' is made interchangeable with 'everything else'. There are some things which by their nature should not be made interchangeable with everything else: things which should not ever be 'converted' into money, not even as an intermediate step. Friendship, sexual intimacy, community loyalties, and live human organs are some of these things.

Strictly speaking, the foregoing examples may not reflect an issue of exploitation as much as of making the proper use of a thing in keeping with its telos.

Nevertheless, I think there is certainly and clearly such a thing as strictly economic exploitation. Getting agreement on when economic exploitation is actually taking place in general may be difficult. That difficulty does not make me even slightly sympathetic to the notion that there is no such thing as economic exploitation, even if we are talking about merely the exploitation of a wealthy employer paying too low a wage. I am no more sympathetic to the notion that there is no such thing as economic exploitation than I am to the notion that there is no such thing as pornography.

WEll, Mike T, I don't even have time to list all the things I disagree with in those two posts. For example, how can something exist but be entirely subjective? I mean, if it's just in the eye of the beholder, then it _doesn't_ exist.

I never said that it's entirely subjective. I said that it is almost always subjective, meaning that the causes of bona fide exploitation are relatively rare compared to the vast number of cases where some idiotic liberal delves into Marxist shenanigans.

Scripture and special revelation are not our only sources for ethical knowledge, especially concerning categories of acts that could not have been anticipated by the writers of Scripture. I'm trying to access the natural law, here.

They are our only source for immutable moral truth. If God doesn't lay down the law, then it's just human opinion as a moral matter, unless it can be understood relative to revealed truth. What you are advocating is, in essence, the very mistake that set Jesus against the Pharisees, namely their willingness to resort to non-biblical ideas to set moral mandates on men.

I don't think that our bodies are our property. That's _why_ I don't believe in selling either organs or sex. Property is the wrong category. And no, we don't have the authority to donate a kidney because of our "stewardship property rights." Why bring property into it at all?

Wow, you seem to be the first one to finally start to grasp what I'm saying. The notion of whether or not we can sell organs is beside the point; do we have enough control over our own bodies to actually relinquish control of them to another? Blood is covered under this too, as it is part of the human body.

By the way, it's probably only fair to say up front that I have in another forum (not available any longer on-line, or not easily) raised doubts about dead-donor organ donation, by way of an analogy to cannibalism. If I allow single-kidney donation from a live donor, it would be only because the donor is alive and the recipient isn't waiting for and taking from a dead donor. Beyond that, I think you underestimate the seriousness of life without a kidney. In general, I think the risks are underestimated. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument I'm going to allow that live donation (not sale) of a single kidney, is morally licit.

The most immediate concern that I have about the morality of taking it from a dead individual is that if we say that we don't have control over our own bodies to relinquish it in life, then we do not have this in death either. Consistency would then demand an absolute respect for God's property right even in death.

When you discuss what you call the "limited worth of the kidney," I think you just illustrate my point: You think of body parts as having _only_ utilitarian value. That's a problem right there. That, in fact, may be at the heart of the problem.

I'm only taking a fairly utilitarian route here because someone can live with one kidney. It's not like a heart, or a liver where the absence goes far beyond material issues. However, I would go so far as to allow such an organ to be donated freely by someone to another who needs it out of love.

Furthermore, I think I'm being a bit more realistic here about the practical relative values of the money and kidney to the person who may give them up. It's indisputable that most people in the third world live at or near a level of severe poverty. That poverty may have the very real effect of shortening their life well below what they would live with one kidney and a massive income from the sale. As a life is worth more than a single organ, that additional time on Earth, in my opinion, could have far greater value to the people affected than the kidney.

To imply that a kidney has some sort of mystical, objective value that goes beyond the good of the human being is just ivory toweresque philosophing. Not allowing someone the option to sell one in exchange for a large sum of money that they need to raise themselves out of abject poverty is akin to refusing to cut down a blight-infected tree to save the forest. It is also very similar to the Pharisees' refusal to break the Sabbath to save others from harm, and I would remind you that breaking the Sabbath was so severe to God that it warranted execution.

Zippy,

The idea that it is acceptable to tell a dying man "I'm not willing to donate a kidney to save your life for your own sake, period" but wrong to say "I'm not willing to donate a kidney to save your life for your own sake, but if your brother saves my brother's life then I'll save yours" is not intuitive to me.

I said that it is almost always subjective, meaning that the causes of bona fide exploitation are relatively rare compared to the vast number of cases where some idiotic liberal delves into Marxist shenanigans.
I think this is incoherent. If what you mean is that objectively there is such a thing as exploitation but that often claims of exploitation are objectively false, then you can just say that without introducing subjectivity.
The idea that it is acceptable to tell a dying man "I'm not willing to donate a kidney to save your life for your own sake, period" but wrong to say "I'm not willing to donate a kidney to save your life for your own sake, but if your brother saves my brother's life then I'll save yours" is not intuitive to me.
Then there is something wrong with your intuition.
What you should notice Lydia is you sound very much like Mike T when trying to refute my argument. Just a heads up.

A few things:

1) I've pointed out that in order for a kidney sale under such circumstances to be non-exploitative, it would have to be extremely lucrative for the poor individual. That's why you see me throwing out numbers like $25,000, $50,000, etc. $50,000 to a fruit picker in Guatemala is A LOT of money.

2) I said this, acknowledging that objective exploitation does exist: In general, claims of exploitation are a form of condescension that assume that the persons involved are incapable of arriving at terms agreeable to them in an environment without coercion. I don't dispute that exploitation exists, but rather it is something that is generally in the eye of the beholder instead of objective truth. Or, simply put, that for every actual case of exploitation, there are several cases which is just some idiotic liberal objecting to the fact that an unskilled worker isn't paid a "living wage" for 40 hours a week of work, and I would hope that most of you understand the difference between a fair wage and what liberals call a "living wage."

MikeT:
I think we all get it that you think people cry "exploitation" far more often than there exist actual cases of exploitation. What is odd about your argument is that you seem to feel compelled to introduce subjectivity into it. As far as I can tell, the issue isn't that you think exploitation is subjective; rather, you think that the majority of claims of exploitation are false.

That may or may not be true, but phrasing it in terms of subjectivity isn't even coherent enough to be wrong.

The fact of the matter Mike T, Christians see themselves as active moral actors with obligations that transcend the laws of supply and demand, or the changing mandates of the State. I think the point of this thread is to determine from the perspective of our faith; what constitutes exploitation. Not an argument for the commodification of body organs bracketed by noble motives and happy endings. Good Lord.

And my point from the beginning is that much of what we call "exploitation" is just some third party's opinion. Even then, there are different levels of exploitation from the banal (sweatshop that pays $.70/hour in an otherwise destitute region) and the truly evil such as the Chinese laogai. My moral views, unlike yours, are tempered by the realistic understanding that with 140+ countries, it's trivial today for a sweatshop to move and incorporate elsewhere. Global government is the only realistic solution to that, and that "solution" is akin to curing the common flu via a 9mm round to the back of the patient's head.

Furthermore, you underestimate the utility of market forces in aiding resolution of the issue of exploitation. One of the ways that we've kept a good waiter we know in good standing, despite the deep problems in metropolitan DC's restaurant business is that we always ask for his section. His employer has actually come to realize that if they fire him, and he's a good worker, not only will they lose a good worker, but they'll probably lose our business as well. This idea also pertains to the ability of people to vote with their dollars for products made in clearly non-exploitative environments. It is very likely that if Americans began to vote with their dollars for businesses that fairly compensate their employees, that companies like Nike would start to compete for their attention.

You seem to think that I think Christians are under no moral obligation to pay fairly or something to that effect, which is not the case. We just don't agree on many of our definitions.

I think we all get it that you think people cry "exploitation" far more often than there exist actual cases of exploitation. What is odd about your argument is that you seem to feel compelled to introduce subjectivity into it. As far as I can tell, the issue isn't that you think exploitation is subjective; rather, you think that the majority of claims of exploitation are false.

I suppose that's one way to put it. I'm not sure whether one would rightfully call it false or just a matter of opinion, if you were to have an employer paying an employee an acceptable, but below market, rate, and a third party were to say that were exploitation because they're not being paid what they're probably worth. In that cases, I don't see why my use of the word subjective (Merriam-Webster says: characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind) is so "not even coherent enough to be wrong." Perhaps you have a different definition in mind.

I would suggest a three part bright-line test for exploitation:

1) Employer is one of, if not the only, real employer in a reasonable travel distance from the community.

2) Employer uses legal or economic mechanisms to coerce employees into accepting whatever terms they want (this includes the threat of relocation).

3) Employer is able, but unwilling, to pay a fair wage that a worker can reasonably live on.

Michael T,
Keep waiting for the punch line to your gag; the selling of "non-vital or superfluous body parts" is a cool way to gain entry into the good life. We know your goofing on libertarians with this whole upward mobility via self-mutilation spoof, but shouldn't you do this at the Cato blog?

As for your 3 points above; for the sake of argument, let's use this example of the Liz Clairborne facility in El Salvador (dated 1998) as it meets your criteria. Exploitation - are we there yet?
http://www.nlcnet.org/article.php?id=440

I would tend to think that removal of body parts would generally fall under mutilation. In other words, if we can't establish why a particular act is morally righteous then it is mutilation. Under that umbrella, I would tend to think that brokering one's organs would be illicit. I do not think one can be obligated to give a kidney. I do not believe the dead have an obligation to offer their organs although those who express a willingness to do so should be allowed. For the living, I would tend toward scrupulocity in insuring the transaction were voluntary. Reimbursement for expenses incurred would seem reasonable in such instance.

I'm not sure whether one would rightfully call it false or just a matter of opinion, ...
The reason one would not call a disputed objective fact a matter of opinion is because it isn't a matter of opinion. You seem to agree that given an ensemble of acts {Xi}, it is either true that {Xi} is exploitation or it isn't true. If that is the case, then it is false that whether or not {Xi} is exploitation is a matter of opinion.

So the reason you wouldn't want to say that the exploitation-status of {Xi} is subjective or a matter of opinion is because it isn't true that the exploitation-status of {Xi} is subjective or a matter of opinion.

Miscellaneous comments. (I may have time to be more systematic later.)

Blackadder, one can't live without a liver. You're getting confused by the fact that sometimes a liver transplant can work with a _part_ of a live donor's liver, which does regenerate. Whole livers do not regenerate. Just a fact for information's sake.

Blackadder, I'd tend to agree with Zippy that if a millionaire sells his kidneys to another millionaire, it isn't exploitation, but it's wrong, because something's being sold that shouldn't be sold. Paying the expenses of the kidney donation itself, if it really is _just_ a reimbursement of expenses, is obviously not the same as a sale. I think it can be made to appear the same only if the "reimbursement" is just a cover-up for paying far more than a reimbursement of expenses, hence just a cover-up for what is really a market sale. (That sort of thing does take place in various areas--such as selling human bodies for research--where U.S. law prohibits sale. The vendor simply lists the sale price as "paying for his expenses," but it's a transparent ruse.) I think that the exchange situation you give--A will donate a kidney to B only if B's brother donates a kidney to A's brother--may not be exploitation, depending on how symmetrical the situations are among the parties, but is wrong, as it is bartering for what should be given if at all out of altruism.

Kevin, the reason I sound a bit like MikeT when we're talking about a case where you think exploitation is occuring and I'm inclined not to is because anyone would sound a bit like him where that was the case. If some hyper-Marxist told you that hiring a 14-year-old boy to mow your lawn was exploitation and you disagreed (or make up your own example), you, too, would sound like someone with libertarian sympathies _on that particular point_ in the ensuing debate. You'd be saying, "What's the problem? It's legitimate for him to sell his labor. He's happy to have the spending money. Nothing wrong is going on here." So that's an inevitable consequence of the way the argument falls out in these cases.

Kevin, question for you: If the woman's working 12 hours under those circumstances, as opposed to not working, is objectively harming her body, is it wrong for her to do it on the grounds that she is hurting her body? Rather as if she were being paid to beat herself black and blue, only somewhat less so? And another question: If the employer reduced the hours to eight hours a day but still paid only 40 cents per hour, would you still say it was exploitation? In other words, can we get rid of all of the idea that the work itself is hurting the employee's body but still have exploitation on your view *entirely in virtue of* the wage paid?

MikeT, yes, I do think the human body has an extra value that is not just utilitarian. Calling it "mystical" does nothing to move me. That's just a word. There is a reason why we don't eat dead humans, yet if the human body's only value were utilitarian, cannibalism would not be wrong. And no, I don't agree that the Bible is the only source of knowledge of immutable moral truth. I'm a Protestant, and very strongly so, but that is an abuse of the notion of sola scriptura. There are many things--cloning, for example, or in vitro fertilization--which the Bible could not even possibly have addressed because they did not exist at the time. For that matter, the very question of whether an unborn child is a person is addressed only in a roundabout fashion in Scripture, and "Christian" pro-choicers are very clever at pointing out that "thou shalt do no murder" applies only if the unborn child is a person. Both normal human common sense and insight into natural law are required if we are to order our lives. You probably use them yourself more than you realize.

Of course one reason to insist that exploitation is a subjective matter of opinion is precisely because if something is a subjective matter of opinion it doesn't really exist; and if it doesn't really exist, it can't place any demands on us. Furthermore, if we soften the stance a bit and insist that it is mostly a matter of opinion then it mostly can't place any demands on us: we can have our cake and eat it too, be the good guy who admits that there is such a thing as exploitation while insuring that its reality doesn't affect us.

Conceding that exploitation is a matter of objective fact, though, takes the matter out of the control of our will. If exploitation is mostly a creation of our subjective imaginations, we can make it what we like, force it to conform to our will. If it is a matter of objective fact, independent of our opinions and desires, then we have to live with that objective reality no matter what we will.

I would tend to think that removal of body parts would generally fall under mutilation.

My understanding is that to constitute mutilation, you have to impede functionality. So, for example, piercing one's ears would not constitute mutilation, but piercing one's ear drums would. Given that a second kidney is a redundant organ, I would not think that kidney transplants would fall under the ban on mutilation. If they did, however, then this would appear to be so whether or not any cash changed hands.

Lydia,
to advnce the argument, I furnished a specific historical example that meets Mike T's criteria;
) Employer is one of, if not the only, real employer in a reasonable travel distance from the community. CHECK

2) Employer uses legal or economic mechanisms to coerce employees into accepting whatever terms they want (this includes the threat of relocation). CHECK

3) Employer is able, but unwilling, to pay a fair wage that a worker can reasonably live on. CHECK

Do you accept the above as meeting the grounds for exploitation? If so then as Christians we are confronted by an important question. If you don't think the above meets the level of exploitation, then you've declared the field of economics one that is distinctly fenced off from the spiritual realm.

As an aside, though I manage my family along what may be called socialist lines, I am not one, nor am I advocating a similiar course for society as a whole, since love cannot be compelled or coerced. I do reject the suggestion that the Christian call to solidarity is largely a theoretical one relieved by the complexities of globalization and that I am absolved from living the Gospels in my daily forays into the marketplace. And in reading this thread that seems to be the argument by some.

Blackadder, one can't live without a liver. You're getting confused by the fact that sometimes a liver transplant can work with a _part_ of a live donor's liver, which does regenerate.

I recognize that live liver transplants only involve removing part of the liver. The question is whether it is allowable to pay someone to undergo such a transplant.

Paying the expenses of the kidney donation itself, if it really is _just_ a reimbursement of expenses, is obviously not the same as a sale.

I'm not sure that there is a difference, at least with regard to moral principles. People seem to be willing to compensate donors for some of the downsides of donation (e.g. travel and medical expenses) but not for others (e.g. fear of going under the knife, or the social stigma involved). Why the former types of compensation should be allowable but not the latter is not clear to me.

By the way, even assuming that it is wrong to demand payment in exchange for a kidney, it wouldn't follow that it was wrong to offer payment in exchange for a kidney. Suppose I am stuck in quicksand and a stranger comes along. I try to get him to help me, but he refuses. In desperation, I offer to give him a bag of diamonds I have in my hand if he will save me. Perhaps it is wicked of him to accept this offer; he should help me purely out of altruism. But if he won't do that, I see no reason why it would be wicked for me to give him the money. What would be wicked is if some third person were to come along and, out of some misplaced sense of morality, were to prevent me from giving him the bag and saving my life because "he ought to have done so out of altruism or not at all."

Because actual expenses are money, not generic "downsides." The plane ticket costs a specific amount of plain cash. By reimbursing that you aren't just "making it worth his while." You're simply canceling a strictly monetary expense. I would think this distinction should be obvious. Reimbursement of money spent is not compensation.

I would tend to think that removal of body parts would generally fall under mutilation.
It isn't quite so straightforward, it seems to me. Mutilation is a matter of willed destruction of a part of the body; but a transplant doesn't destroy the kidney's function, it transfers it to another person who needs it to live.

That doesn't necessarily solve any dilemmas. It is just to point out that it isn't necessarily, straightforwardly, mutilation in the moral sense. Removing a gangrenous limb is licit because one is not destroying the limb: the limb is already destroyed and is threatening life itself, the very reason for which the limb exists. Transplant may be licit because one is not destroying the kidney: it is being used for its proper purpose, which is to provide life. (I'm not strongly endorsing this argument, mind you; I'm just pointing out that a transplant may not, as a straightforward matter, be a mutilation. One might argue in retort that the kidney's purpose is not the life of anyone's body in general, but the life of my body, and I have some sympathy for that argument).

None of this implies that farming human body parts for money is morally licit, of course. That it may be licit in some circumstances to donate a kidney in no way implies that it is morally licit to sell a kidney. I find Blackadder's expressed incapacity to see that the one does not imply the other rather puzzling.

I think Lydia has found a good litmus test for whether or not someone is too ideologically attached to market economics.

Zippy,

I think the exception is clear in the transplant: to offer kidney function to a particular person. I would treat it as we distinguish between falling on a grenade and commiting suicide. "To pay off the house" would seem morally offensive, no different to me at least than having someone agree to have their arm broken for similar cause. (Needless to say the implication is that a lot of our entertainment programming is exploitation.) I am trying to establish the general teleos that we can understand what we are excepting.

Blackadder argues that kidney removal is more akin to ear piercing. If a kidney removal is equialent to piercing one's ears, then are teleos is markedly different.

That it may be licit in some circumstances to donate a kidney in no way implies that it is morally licit to sell a kidney. I find Blackadder's expressed incapacity to see that the one does not imply the other rather puzzling.

I recognize that there is nothing logically inconsistent about believing that it is permissible to donate a kidney but not to sell one, or to offer compensation for some aspects of the operation but not others. Likewise, there is nothing logically inconsistent about believing that it is permissible to sell a kidney but not to donate one for free. But given the stated inability of many here to give a reason why the two cases should be different other than brute intuition, I don't see how the logically compatibility of the two positions is much of an argument. Given that a kidney market would say ten thousand lives a year, doesn't stopping this from happening require more of an argument than "I have an intuition that it is wrong"?

I would be interested in hearing what people have to say about paying people to undergo live liver transplants, or for their tonsils and appendixes. How speaks Intuition on such matters?

But given the stated inability of many here to give a reason why the two cases should be different other than brute intuition, ...
There were many reasons in addition to intuitions expressed in the thread above.

"I think Lydia has found a good litmus test for whether or not someone is too ideologically attached to market economics."

I think the threshold established by this case so low to be meaningful, as it relieves us from doing more serious thinking about exploitation. Finding this on a site that claims inspiration from Chesterton simply means it is later than I thought. Depressing.

Reading this thread does however explain both the popularity and consequences of TV programs offering autopsies on human cadavers, close-ups on corpses and museum exhibits offering medical forensics of the body for purposes of entertainment. All must be laid bare and placed under knife and microscope. Temple of the Holy Spirit, indeed.

I think the threshold established by this case so low to be meaningful...
Well, keep in mind that a litmus test is like an idiot light in the car. It tells you that you definitely have a problem, but is almost useless in determining severity; and you may certainly have a problem even when it isn't lit.

I viewed the Terri Schaivo case as a litmus test too: anyone who could watch the video of her and defend pulling her feeding tube was, simply by those facts, indicating unreachability by reason.

Finding this on a site that claims inspiration from Chesterton simply means it is later than I thought.

Don't blame the site, Kevin. I've always been (except perhaps for Steve Burton, who I believe considers himself a libertarian of sorts) the most economically-libertarian-inclined of our commentators who writes on these issues, and Chesterton's distributism is not the aspect of his thought with which I agree. So we've got a range here at W4.

As for cadaver exhibits, etc., I've written about (against) these in another post.

As for my not wanting to apply exploitation to the economic realm, well, remember, I was the one hypothesizing in the main post that maybe it's wrong to try to induce someone to an act of heroism by offering him money for it.

That my applications of the concept of exploitation are going to be a lot narrower than yours, Kevin, or Zippy's, is not something you can get me to worry about _in itself_. I mean, somebody can say that one should feel guilty about anything, and that one should worry about not feeling guilty about it. I could tell you that you should feel guilty for not being a vegan and that you should worry about the fact that you don't feel guilty for not being a vegan, and if you're not a vegan, I assume this statement of mine isn't going to bother you. (If you are a vegan, make up something else--you should feel guilty for eating broccoli, or whatever.)

Lydia, we've arrived at Z's " unreachability by reason" portion of the program. The culture of death has vast tentacles, but broccoli spears are out of reach. Not so my fellow human beings who are deemed mere economic units in the service of greater shareholder value. I applaud your efforts against the culture of death, but mourn the fact you do so with one foot unconsciously, yet firmly planted within it.

Human beings are much more than mere economic units. It's just that I'm not convinced that paying them less than X is a case of treating them as mere economic units, any more than _any_ employment is doing so. And I think we are agreed that employing someone is not in itself mistreating or using him. Obviously, I can think of many, many cases where one would be treating a person as a mere object to employ him in that way. I emphasize again that I was toying in the main post with the idea that trying to employ a very poor people as an inducement to him to be a hero in some concrete instance might be wrong.

The culture of death has vast tentacles, but broccoli spears are out of reach.

?

He's alluding to my saying that he could make up something to do with eating broccoli as an example of something someone might try to make him feel guilty about that he couldn't see the problem with.

But I'm still not at all sure what exploitation is. The nub of my puzzlement is this question: Can we give any further overarching account of why some things--especially services or actions--should not be for sale? In the case of sex, we're on very solid ground in terms of the function...

In the case of the latter, there is such exploitation the likes of which has manifested itself in the atrocious trafficking of human beings being treated specifically as mere objects as in the black market sex trade which is ubiquitous in Europe and Asia.

In like manner, the trade of organs has likewise manifested in such atrocity as well.

Take for instance:

'Body Crime': Human Organ Procurement and Alternatives to the International Black Market

Excerpt:

The international shortage has led to the proliferation of the unethical and criminal activities of the black market. Already transplant agencies speak of victim donors, referring to the practice of obtaining organs in Third World countries from impoverished citizens without informed and freely given consent.

Unscrupulous Organ Procurement:

From time to time organisations such as Interpol investigate allegations that children from the Third World are murdered for illicit organ transplants

. A recent instance referred to allegations of baby trade in the Brazilian province of Bahia, in which children sent to Europe, ostensibly for adoption, were later murdered, 'and their kidneys, testicles and hearts sold for between $40,000 and $100,000.' (Sydney Morning Herald, 26 September 1990 referring to an article from The Guardian.)

(Other sources: Organ Trafficking, Europe's poorest country supplying organs to its neighbours, THE ORGAN TRADE: A Global Black Market; Tracking the Sale of a Kidney On a Path of Poverty and Hope)


It was reported in the London Daily Telegraph that in Hong Kong one could purchase kidneys obtained from felons executed in Canton in the People's Republic of China for $A11,000. Neither the prisoners nor their families were consulted

. Two major Canton hospitals perform transplants of the kidneys. 'The transplants are not unethical as the criminals are making use of their last virtue,' Miss Ho Mei-sim of the Wei Kui Agency said (The Herald, 13 December 1988).

Chilling accounts implicate China in organ trade

I agree, Aristocles, that the parallel is striking. Of course, the person advocating an organ market will just say that it's the lack of consent that is the evil, not the organ sale per se. It's not wrong to hire somebody to work in your cotton field;it's wrong to keep somebody there with a whip.

But I, as you will see from the above comments, don't take that line. I think organ sale is wrong even with total consent, even if the price paid is what was promised, etc.

But I decided not to go into the stories about people's being murdered and the like, because that would just invite the obvious response.

the person advocating an organ market will just say that it's the lack of consent that is the evil, not the organ sale per se. It's not wrong to hire somebody to work in your cotton field;it's wrong to keep somebody there with a whip.

Quite so. I would also note that black markets are what you get when you make something illegal. They are, in fact, a creation of the prohibition, just as Al Capone was the creation not of alcohol as such, but of Prohibition.

I would also note that black markets are what you get when you make something illegal.
Two observations:

1) So what?

2) The post isn't about making all exploitation illegal, it is about figuring out what exploitation is.

I agree with Lydia's point in this:

"I have always been prone to resist the application of the word 'exploitation'."

The fact of the matter is that there are instances when the accusation of exploitation is hurled around rather needlessly.

I should go further in stating the case for big multinational corporations who employ natives of the various countries wherein they have factories (more specifically, the pay they extend to employees in 3rd world nations).

I would advocate their not providing the normal pay typically given to workers in our country.

Why?

To provide them with such pay (pay that may, in fact, be well above the typical wages of workers in their country) might very well upset their respective economies and, thus, actually harm the country and its people.

For instance, let's say if a multinational corporation were to provide such pay for a factory worker in that country; why, then, would any person in such a 3rd world nation want to become a teacher or pursue any other occupation for that matter when they, in fact, can become a factory worker for a multinational corporation that doles out 3 times the pay?

I would imagine the majority of people in that country wanting to become a factory worker than anything else in such a case.

As to a whole other matter:

I would also note that black markets are what you get when you make something illegal.

In other words, Blackadder's way of defending abortion as a legal right of the individual -- it wouldn't be as disgusting if it didn't actually come out of the mouth of a self-proclaimed loyal Catholic. These folks should know better.

The Catechism of Democratic Capitalism wisely reminds us that Exploitation is missing when;

1) both parties to an exchange have been fully informed and no deception is involved.

2) both parties have voluntarily entered into the transaction or arrangement.

3) when the material circumstances of the parties have been improved as result of the exchange any talk of exploitation is the work of the Devil. (see Marx, Karl)

I'd never thought of what Aristocles says about offering the full pay of an American garment worker to one in the third world. It is something I will have to think about. I shd. note to clarify (Kevin may find it surprising that I wd. say this) that I'm not saying that it can never be wrong to pay a worker no more than you pay him. That is, I'm not saying that there are never circumstances where the employer should pay his workers more. I wd. say that those are circumstnaces where the company cd. continue to exist if it did so (rather than being subject to a hostile buy-out or dying from competition) and where something else is being prioritized instead above the priority it shd. have. This can only be identified in the concrete circumstances, though, and it will often not amount to a living wage in any case. For example, I think the big state university in my own town with whose shenanigans I am quite familiar should sell some of their white elephant land, fire a couple of administrators, abolish the Africana Studies program, and use the resultant money to pay their poor starved GA's more money. They have, in my opinion, their priorities wrong.

Kevin:

I am uncertain as to whether your comments were in response to mine, but to let the message sink in:

Let's say that the average American worker earns around $12/hour = $1,920/month (assuming 40 hr. work week).

Let's say that the normal pay for the average 3rd world country mfg worker is around $2/month.

Can't you see that if a multinational corporation were to pay out even 1/2 the wage (i.e., $960/month) of the American worker to those workers residing in 3rd World countries, how that could very well play havoc on their economy and, in fact, do grave harm to its population?

As I mentioned previously (just one -- although rather simplistic -- consequence amongst many others):

[W]hy, then, would any person in such a 3rd world nation want to become a teacher or pursue any other occupation for that matter when they, in fact, can become a factory worker for a multinational corporation that doles out [several times] the [normal] pay?

I would imagine the majority of people in that country wanting to become a factory worker than anything else in such a case.

Lydia, your response makes my gnawing through the restraints and tipping over the med cart worth it. I sense progress and won't desist until we're in full agreement, or in the same re-education camp. Which ever comes first.

Aristocles, I broke out the "Catechism" hoping it might it bring MikeT back to the table. He outlined 3 criteria regarding exploitation that could help take this conversation into a more specific, less abstract direction and thereby wider our definition of the term. See below.

I hope Mike T has not launched a "Corneas for Cash" Program in the South Bronx.

1)Employer is one of, if not the only, real employer in a reasonable travel distance from the community.

2) Employer uses legal or economic mechanisms to coerce employees into accepting whatever terms they want (this includes the threat of relocation).

3) Employer is able, but unwilling, to pay a fair wage that a worker can reasonably live on.

Blackadder's way of defending abortion as a legal right of the individual -- it wouldn't be as disgusting if it didn't actually come out of the mouth of a self-proclaimed loyal Catholic.

You have defamed me, sir. I in no way support abortion as a legal right of the individual. I demand you retract the remark.

The post isn't about making all exploitation illegal, it is about figuring out what exploitation is.

I believe it has already been conceded that the morality of buying and selling kidneys does not turn on whether they involve exploitation; those who oppose it in all cases (such as Zippy and Lydia) agree that it does not always involve exploitation. Given that, it's not clear what talk of exploitation adds to the discussion.

"Given that, it's not clear what talk of exploitation adds to the discussion."

The title of the post is: "Okay, I believe in exploitation. Now what is it?"

I don't think anyone should be satisfied with a definition as narrow as one that prohibits the use of the profit motive to encourage the poor to sell their "non-vital organs." I mean if that is the extent of our moral consensus then let us welcome Islam for what it is; a well-deserved scourge from God.

Most conservatives understand the need to place checks on power in order to prevent unhealthy arrangements and to discourage the kind of disparities that occur when an impoverished labor force is not allowed to unionize. The kind of abuses found within the maquila factories of Latin America which offer mandatory pregnancy tests, forced overtime, below-subsistence wages, maltreatment, and unsafe working conditions.

Kevin:

I can see where you're coming from; indeed, these are examples of social injustices that shouldn't be overlooked or, even worse, accepted.

Ari, it would seem obvious, wouldn't it. You mention injustice, yet for many on the Right the word is completely absent from their vocabulary. I'm not sure why and often think if Adam Smith were to return and see how capitalism has evolved, he'd walk around with a neon Not In My Name sandwich board.

Blackadder:

I wanted to avoid this tangent, but to do justice to your comments --

I just don't see how your rhetoric here:

"Quite so. I would also note that black markets are what you get when you make something illegal. They are, in fact, a creation of the prohibition, just as Al Capone was the creation not of alcohol as such, but of Prohibition."

...is any different from that of a previous poster here:

"Those who oppose abortion fail to realize an inescapable fact of life; namely that women will seek and obtain abortions whether they are legal or not, and if they are too poor, they will try to abort themselves, with the inevitable disastrous results. No government has ever been able to stop abortion by making it illegal. What makes opponents of it in America think that ours will? There is far more abortion in poor countries where it is illegal than in those where it is permitted. Trying to stop abortion is simply futile. The only thing that can be done is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but that is more easily said than done. And to make contraception illegal in America would be unbelievable stupid. This would only INCREASE the number of abortions and create a black market in contraceptives."

Aristocles,

The fact that you don't see the difference between a statement of mine (which was not about abortion) and a statement often made by proponents of legal abortion does not mean that I favor legal abortion. I do not. You have attributed to me a vile position which I do not hold based on faulty reasoning.

Aristocles: BA is right. Don't attribute positions to a man that he doesn't hold.

"I'm not sure why and often think if Adam Smith were to return and see how capitalism has evolved, he'd walk around with a neon Not In My Name sandwich board."

Bingo, Kevin. As I said above, modern conservatives love 'The Wealth of Nations' but ignore 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments.' Any number of conservative critics of industrial/commercial capitalism have said this, perhaps not in these words, but with similar intent.

Newsflash: the 'invisible hand' isn't moral in and of itself. It requires a moral people for it to work in a moral way.


Rob G,
I've heard conservatives basically say justice and compassion have been so abused by the Left that the words have lost their meaning and are best avoided in polemics. This is nonsense, of course. No sane person would stop meditating on, or speaking of love because of the cultural confusion and debasement attached to the word.

As for Adam Smith, there is much for us to like, especially in contrast to his modern-day devotess, but the Invisible Hand sounds a little too much like a gnostic's version of the Holy Spirit for me to embrace it.

At any rate, below is another entry into the definition of exploitation;

"Wages for the working poor have been stagnant for three decades. Meanwhile, their spending has consistently and significantly exceeded their income since the mid-1980s...Armed with the latest technology for assessing credit risks—some of it so fine-tuned it picks up spending on cigarettes—ambitious corporations like Byrider see profits in those thin wallets. The liquidity lapping over all parts of the financial world also has enabled the dramatic expansion of lending to the working poor."
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_21/b4035001.htm

Blackadder:

The fact that you don't see the difference between a statement of mine (which was not about abortion) and a statement often made by proponents of legal abortion...

Let's just say I found it rather interesting that your argument and that of the Pro-Abort (who rather infamously used to post here in former threads until finally rebuffed by Lydia) were essentially one & the same.

After all, the overseers at W4 (and, in particular, Zippy) had overlooked past incidents of "identity swaps" on this blog as those detailed here:

Zippy's Nemesis at W4: The Mole

Although, concerning this particular individual, I can't imagine what manner of madness would actually cause a person to obsessively write about W4 and its contributors as to commit an entire series to it entitled "WWWtW-Watch".

Aristocles to BA:

Let's just say I found it rather interesting that your argument and that of the Pro-Abort (who rather infamously used to post here in former threads until finally rebuffed by Lydia) were essentially one & the same.
Lets grant that BA's "prohibition creates a black market" argument in favor of using third-world poor as an organ farm for the wealthy is also an argument made in favor of legalized abortion. We can say that much without also (falsely) saying that BA supports legalized abortion. He doesn't.

As for the issue of fluidity of identity in comboxes: I've been arguing with Blackadder as Blackadder for at least a year or two now, and I'm pretty convinced that we have the real thing not a doppleganger.

Zippy,

Thanks.

I, thus, respectfully submit my apologies to BA.

Our regularly scheduled program may now continue...

Aristocles,

Apology accepted.

The "Argument from Black Markets" is not one original to me, or to those advocating legalized abortion. One can find a version of the argument in St. Thomas. On the other hand, no one would accept the argument in every case. No one, for example, would argue that the fact there is currently a black market in hitmen (and there is such a black market) means that we should make contract murder legal. Abortion, being murder, is akin to the hitman example, and thus noting that criminalization of abortion would lead to a black market in abortions (and it would) does not strike me as a compelling reason for legalization. Kidney transplants, by contrast, involve not the taking but the saving of life. Thus criminalizing the sale of kidneys, in my view, would be unjustified even if it did not lead to a black market, or if the black market contained no abuses. The fact of these abuses, however, only serves in my opinion to strengthen the case for legalization.

I have commented on the subject of black markets as an argument against prohibition more generally here.

Blackadder:

Thanks.

I made the rather egregious error of having taken you for the 'reincarnation' of one 'Robert Berger'.

"Thus criminalizing the sale of kidneys, in my view, would be unjustified..."

I'm dumbfounded and demoralized that anyone could receive the Sacrament of Confirmation from even the most lax of religious education programs and accept the dystopia that results when; "human organs become a purchasable commodity, the rich will buy and the destitute will sell." From The Preferential Option for the Poor, to The Poor As Preferred Providers of Parts. Simply appalling.

Kevin,

I'm afraid the morality of kidney markets wasn't covered when I went through RCIA. Nor do I see how allowing a market in kidneys would result in a "dystopia." The main result, so far as I can see, would be that the thousands of people who die every year because of a lack of kidneys would be able to live. I don't see that as being much of a dystopia.

Using third world poor as an organ farm for the rich: what could it hurt?

Using third world poor as an organ farm for the rich: what could it hurt?

Given that you would object to a kidney market even if only the non-poor were allow to sell, I consider this a red herring.

What about my hypothetical about the sale of tonsils and appendixes, by the way? Suppose some millionaire eccentric was willing to pay people for their tonsils and/or appendixes? Would that be a dystopic situation, too horrible to contemplate? Would it matter if the people selling their tonsils and/or appendixes were disproportionately poor?

Zippy made the statement: "Using third world poor as an organ farm for the rich: what could it hurt?"

I found this the most striking of the bunch.

To think that these words are coming from the very same person who once declared:

"The intrinsic evil in torture would inhere in treating a human being as nothing but a means to some end: in exchanging his suffering for a fungible commodity."

I take it there is no such intrinsic evil

in organ farming which would inhere in treating a human being as nothing but a means to some end: in exchanging his suffering [as can be found in several of the sources I cited in an earlier post with various links to such news stories & investigations into the matter] for a fungible commodity [such as a kidney and other organs].

This is very un-characteristic of you, Zippy.

On another note, is there some particular reason why you two (i.e., zippy & blackadder) have lately tended to post in tandem of one another?

Posted by Blackadder | August 12, 2008 10:34 PM
Posted by Zippy | August 12, 2008 10:37 PM

Posted by Blackadder | August 13, 2008 7:02 PM
Posted by Zippy | August 13, 2008 7:08 PM

Zippy made the statement: "Using third world poor as an organ farm for the rich: what could it hurt?"

I'm pretty sure he was being sarcastic.

On another note, is there some particular reason why you two (i.e., zippy & blackadder) have lately tended to post in tandem of one another?

One possibility is that we are actually the same person. Another is that neither of us has much of a life. I leave it to you to decide which of the two is more plausible.

One possibility is that we are actually the same person.

I deserved that one after the 'Berger' incident.

Aristocles: Yes, my remark was sarcastic. I think that setting up a live human kidney farming industry is immoral, in addition to being obviously nuts.

BA: I don't understand why you think that the tonsil vs. kidney question adds something interesting to the discussion.

I suppose BA thinks it's an interesting question because he wants to see how far I would go with my idea that the specialness of the body is important in this discussion. MikeT called this (I think it was MikeT but don't have time to look it up) a notion that the body has "mystical" value. (I don't consider the word 'mystical' a bad word, so, fine, I think the body has mystical value. So sue me.)

So I'll bite: Frankly, Blackadder, while the renewability of blood and the fact that it can be given from a living person makes me quite sure it is moral to give it, I'm inclined to be a hard-liner. In Lydiastan, nobody sells blood, breast milk, liver segments, or tonsils, much less kidneys and dead bodies. It all goes back to that mystical value of the human body.

Aristocles, I'm sure that Blackadder and Zippy have very little in common beyond the fact that both of them are Catholic. Seriously.

I don't understand why you think that the tonsil vs. kidney question adds something interesting to the discussion.

One's tonsils and appendix are body parts, like a kidney. If one finds the sale of the latter objectionable but not the sale of the former, then exploring what difference (if any) there is between the two cases could be quite fruitful. If, on the other hand, one objects equally to all three potential markets, then that at least tells me something about where you are coming from.

Blackadder: Curious, do you consider the sale of OVA morally acceptable?

Lydia: What are the requirements for Lydiastan citizenship? ;^)

In Lydiastan, nobody sells blood, breast milk, liver segments, or tonsils, much less kidneys and dead bodies. It all goes back to that mystical value of the human body.

What about adult stem cells? Suppose that, unless payment is made for things like umbilical cord blood, there won't be an adequate supply of adult stem cells, and this will mean either a) the various diseases that could be cured as a result of research using adult stem cells won't be cured, and/or b) people will use the shortage of adult stem cells as a justification for funding embryo destroying research. Would you still be against offering payment?

Blackadder: Curious, do you consider the sale of OVA morally acceptable?

I consider the creation of human life outside of the context of the sexual act to be intrinsically immoral, and so would frown on the sale of ova (or sperm) for that reason.

Blackadder: Procurement of umbilical cord blood is a far cry from the evils that come from organ trade.

Well, heck, Blackadder, in the real world the bad guys are going to push for embryo-destroying research no matter what, even if cord blood cells and other adult stem cells (bought or donated) are plentiful in excess of research needs and make the lame walk and the blind see, so that's pretty much a moot point. And we're talking about what policies I _would favor_, and it goes without saying that in a hypothetical world where I am able to set policy, embryo-destroying research is so far out of the question that nobody even bothers talking about it. So one way or another, the consideration you raise about adult stem cells isn't going to move me.

By the way, people _do_ presently freely donate _all_ of the presently-usable things you and I have mentioned, including regular blood (in blood drives), umbilical cord blood, bone marrow (adult stem cells), and breast milk. (There is no present medical use for tonsils per se, that I know of.)

So, no, I wouldn't agree to a stem-cell market either.

Procurement of umbilical cord blood is a far cry from the evils that come from organ trade.

What evils? If you're talking about things like this, those are the evils that come from prohibiting a kidney market, not from allowing one.

Aristocles:
As I mentioned before, BA and I have argued on line about various things, including for example torture, for some time now. You have to understand how it works. BA will start with something obviously abhorrent, that any morally sane and prudent person would object to, such as treating the third world poor population as an ("voluntary", dontchya know) organ farm for the benefit of the wealthy or subjecting a prisoner taken in combat to strappado in an information fishing expedition. He then proceeds to argue that that is just exactly the same thing as (say) one wealthy mom paying another for some breast milk.

Now, I am perfectly willing to stipulate that the latter might be wrong -- indeed, I've speculated that there may even be venial sin involved in getting a tatoo. It isn't a position I am firmly committed to -- for every clear moral case there are dozens of less clear ones that are at least partly analogous. But that allows BA to cast those who oppose him as some sort of extremist wackos, so he can 'unravel' the argument back to the human organ farming he supports. The conclusion is inescapable, if you buy his faulty premises: rather than it being live human organ farmers who are morally insane, it is those who oppose them who are at best benighted and unreasonable.

You were quite right to spot the line of argument - if that is the right thing to call it - earlier. You were just wrong in deducing that BA applies it consistently to everything.

Zippy,

Thanks for that. I can now see why Lydia expressed such admiration of your intellectual and rhetorical prowess in a previous thread.

Zippy,

You're doing what you earlier chastised Aristocles for doing. I don't support torture (and when I say, "I don't support torture" I don't mean this in the mealy-mouthed, "I don't support torture, because I call it something else" sense. I don't support the use of waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, etc., as interrogation tactics).

BA: I'm glad to hear it. I haven't kept track of your admittedly changing positions on various concrete issues. I know you've criticized torture critics as failing to "grapple with some of the tougher issues involved", for example, and on a blog founded for the very purpose of badmouthing Mark Shea because of his unequivocal opposition to torture.

It is possible that my impression of your argumentative style is unfair, of course. It is just the impression of one guy, formed over a period of time. It is my impression though.

Blackadder,
Your RCIA program should have covered the Preferential Option for the Poor. Your education in economics should have made you familiar with its "iron laws". Combined, you should be able to see the nightmarish possibilities.

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states that organ transplants are, “in conformity with the moral law if the …dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient. Moreover, it is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons (2296).”

Your proposal replaces the self-giving of charity for the profit motive. Whom do you think will form the pool of donors in this commercial exchange? The well to do, the young, the strong? If so why financial incentive?

A little less Hayek and Von Mises and a little more of this; http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt3sect2chpt2art5.htm

I know you've criticized torture critics as failing to "grapple with some of the tougher issues involved"

That's right. I hold to the view that a bad argument made for a true claim is still a bad argument, and is potentially as harmful as an argument for a false claim. I also hold to the view that one good way to make an argument stronger is to point out its weak spots. In terms of Mark's book, I offered to read any drafts he produced and offer constructive criticism, and he agreed.

I hold to the view that a bad argument made for a true claim is still a bad argument, and is potentially as harmful as an argument for a false claim.
I don't know of anyone who disagrees that a bad argument for a true claim is still a bad argument. Anyone can sprinkle his prose with such reasonable truisms -- while advocating in favor of treating the third world as an organ farm for the wealthy.

“Catechism of the Catholic Church” states that organ transplants are, “in conformity with the moral law if the …dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient.

The dangers and risks to a donor from a kidney transplant are slight. Two functioning kidneys provide no health benefits over one, and pretty much any ailment that will cause one kidney to fail will cause them both to fail. For the recipient, on the other hand, getting a kidney is the difference between life and death. So if anything, I would say the Catechism supports my view of matters.

Your RCIA program should have covered the Preferential Option for the Poor. Your education in economics should have made you familiar with its "iron laws". Combined, you should be able to see the nightmarish possibilities.

The only "iron law" I am familiar with in economics is the so-called "iron law of wages" which has long been discredited. To the extent that your fears about what would happen in a kidney market are based on an analogy to that "iron law" they are unfounded.

As for the "nightmarish possibilities" the main one that's been mentioned is that poor people might be the one's selling their kidneys. As I've said repeatedly, to the extent that is your concern, one could easily limit donors to those who aren't poor. I have to confess, though, that I don't find the prospect of poor people being given lots of money in exchange for undergoing kidney transplants to be all that nightmarish. No doubt you think that makes me some kind of moral monster. Yet, from what I can gather, most people here wouldn't consider it nightmarish if people were given money to have their appendixes out (they might, like Lydia, oppose it on principle, but even she doesn't seem to find the thought of poor people being paid to have their appendix removed all that dystopian). At the risk of incurring Zippy's wrath again, I would ask: what's the difference? In both cases you have poor people being paid money to have a superfluous organ removed. Why does the one case fill you with horror, whereas the other does not?

advocating in favor of treating the third world as an organ farm for the wealthy.

This does not even rise to the level of being a caricature of my position.

Yet, from what I can gather, most people here wouldn't consider it nightmarish if people were given money to have their appendixes out ...
You seem to be deducing quite a bit from people not answering your leading questions. Maybe they just think you are asking leading questions, and having witnessed the process in other threads do not have an interest in participating.
(they might, like Lydia, oppose it on principle, but even she doesn't seem to find the thought of poor people being paid to have their appendix removed all that dystopian).
I think that having unnecessary surgeries in general is obviously dystopian. I think paying people to have unnecessary surgeries combines multiple dystopias.

Perhaps people aren't answering your questions because the pointlessness of the questions is obvious to everyone but you. That is just speculation on my part though.

You seem to be deducing quite a bit from people not answering your leading questions. Maybe they just think you are asking leading questions, and having witnessed the process in other threads do not have an interest in participating.

That's certainly possible. Each person may judge for him or herself whether they find the prospect of poor people being paid to have their appendixes out nightmarish.

even she doesn't seem to find the thought of poor people being paid to have their appendix removed all that dystopian

And here I thought my comments about what people don't get paid for in Lydiastan were sufficiently radical to make it clear to Blackadder that I am, indeed, a nut. I guess I didn't try hard enough. I don't think I said anything at all about how dystopian it would be to pay people to have their appendixes removed. If anything, what I have said would seem to indicate that I certainly wouldn't be happy about it.

And I hate to sound like all I ever say is, "Wesley J. Smith says..." but WJS is a lot better informed about this stuff than I am, and he says the risks of giving up a kidney have been underestimated. Moreover, several of the stories he posts about third-worlders who have given up kidneys indicate that those concrete people have indeed suffered severe health problems. Perhaps Blackadder would say that this is just because they haven't been paid enough to get the medical care they need after having a kidney out, but if the consequences were really so minor as he makes out, one wonders why that should matter as a matter of health.

BA,
"No doubt you think that makes me some kind of moral monster."

A need for cash, a non-vital organ - presto. To the operating room we go. The "risks to the donor" are quiet evident in such an arrangement, that you can't see the moral travesty of someone offering their body parts out of economic need is a tragedy not limited to you.

I think you're the product of a morally monstrous age, but believe you a decent man with a stunted moral imagination.

May you continue, as we all must, on the road to conversion.


I thought my comments about what people don't get paid for in Lydiastan were sufficiently radical to make it clear to Blackadder that I am, indeed, a nut. I guess I didn't try hard enough.

No, I understand that you don't approve of the idea of people being paid to have their appendix out. But there is a difference between not approving of something, thinking it wrong, even wishing ideally that it were banned, and finding it horrifying. We currently allow the sale of blood plasma, and while I don't have numbers in front of me, my guess is that the people selling plasma are not rich. Yet does anyone really consider this fact nightmarish? If one had to draw up a list of the dystopian features of our civilization, would it even crack the top 100? The top 1000?

WJS is a lot better informed about this stuff than I am, and he says the risks of giving up a kidney have been underestimated. Moreover, several of the stories he posts about third-worlders who have given up kidneys indicate that those concrete people have indeed suffered severe health problems.

My guess is that the quality of medical care in third world countries might have sometime to do with it (and that, if people could get kidneys without having to go to third world countries, such incidents would be less likely to happen). However, to the extent one thinks the risks of undergoing a kidney transplant have been severely underestimated, this is an argument against all kidney transplants, not just those done for money.

We currently allow the sale of blood plasma, and while I don't have numbers in front of me, my guess is that the people selling plasma are not rich. Yet does anyone really consider this fact nightmarish? If one had to draw up a list of the dystopian features of our civilization, would it even crack the top 100? The top 1000?
There you go again. Can you imagine a distinction between getting a tattoo and removing one's healthy appendix to use in a work of modern art?
However, to the extent one thinks the risks of undergoing a kidney transplant have been severely underestimated, this is an argument against all kidney transplants, not just those done for money.
You seem to be begging the question, assuming that taking on risk for profit motive is always morally licit when taking on that risk is licit for an altruistic or other reason. I have no idea why anyone would think that.

Can you imagine a distinction between getting a tattoo and removing one's healthy appendix to use in a work of modern art?

That you apparently think I was trying to deny such a distinction makes me wonder if you've understood a single bloody thing I've said in this exchange.

That you apparently think I was trying to deny such a distinction makes me wonder if you've understood a single bloody thing I've said in this exchange.
That comparison is every bit as tightly analogous as your introduction of blood plasma as analogous to a kidney. That that isn't obvious to you makes me wonder if you've understood a single bloody thing you've said in this exchange.

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