Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Market Kidney?

Virginia Postrel ( donated a kidney to a friend (see "Let us now praise famous outcomes" from a few days ago). This donation doesn't fit the heartless-libertarian reputation.

Comes now a Bloomberg columnist named Amy Schlaes with some spicy comment and an outline of a very intriguing idea by Dr Steve Postrel, who is, ahem, inter alia, Virginia's husband. Quoth the Maven:

The reputation of libertarians is that they are selfish, and that the female of the species is the more selfish.

After all, libertarians insist on applying commercial paradigms to moral problems, which seems asocial and downright unfeminine.
After spending so much time thinking renally, Virginia's husband Steve even came up with his own elegant little market solution to the fatal organ shortage. Citizens who give an organ get a holiday from federal taxes for a year. High earners pay lots of tax, and low earners pay next to none. As Postrel points out, the holiday idea is therefore less vulnerable to the usual criticism that organ dealing exploits the poor.

The kidney holiday sounds quirky enough to also appeal to the philanthropist, who tends to want two contradictory things: the satisfaction of giving and the sense that he really is getting something out of it.

Still, Virginia in the end gave not because she was Right, but because it seemed right.

``It was not as Virginia, the libertarian, but Virginia, the friend, that I was giving'' Postrel says. ``People who believe in markets do all sorts of non-market transactions.''

"Without thinking much about it, Postrel and Satel have made some important points. Well-intentioned policy can be fatal. Arch-conservatives can have big hearts, as big as any heart at the London School of Economics or at the Democratic Leadership Council. Market-orientation and charity are not opposites. Sometimes they go together. Public institutions can't monopolize morality, as much as they would like to. And they probably shouldn't be allowed to monopolize kidneys, either."

Read it all

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hej Danes! We've been here before

US News & World Report (USNWR)columnist John Leo reviews a forshadowing of the cartoon mess here
In 1976 a Syrian born Muslim directed a film in which Anthony Quinn starred as the Prophet's uncle. Money quote:
"Later, a group of black American Muslims attacked three buildings in Washington, D.C., taking 149 hostages. One of their demands was that The Message must not be released. In a 39-hour siege, a reporter was killed and many hostages were stabbed, beaten, or shot. The movie, in an Arabic version, was shown in the Middle East. The English version, never released, appeared for the first time on a DVD last November 1, not long after the appearance of the Danish cartoons."

Yes, the emphasis is added.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Let us now praise famous outcomes

Virgina Postrel is out of the hospital and both she and her recipient friend are doing fine.
Good news!
Read it all here:

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Good will

Virginia Postrel, one of the US' greatest treasures donates a kidney to a friend in need, because "if your kidneys stop working, you have three options: die, go on dialysis (regularly described as "living hell" by dialysis patients and their loved ones), or find a donor kidney. And donor kidneys are in short supply, made shorter by legal restrictions and social taboos."

She also acknowledges the presence of large-scale jackasses (a social breed which is, alas, entirely too scalable)who are trying to prevent "made-to-order replacements that are exact genetic matches, either through therapeutic cloning or some now-unknown future technology"

Randites, this is an example of what Ayn Rand herself referred to as good will among men. Look it up. So, enough with not-so-sotto-voce comments about altruism.

This is intestinal fortitude. Read it all here:

Thursday, March 02, 2006


A couple of months ago, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College embarked on a study of Rwanda. An example of a peacekeeping mission that went as wrong -- I hope -- as it's possible to go.

Simplistic overview: Rwanda is inhabited by two major peoples (or tribes, if you'd prefer), the Hutu and Tutsi. Hutus are the majority. Tutsi are ethnically similar, but are often physically larger and were chosen by the colonial power of Belgium to be the dominant peoples.

After independence, along with wheels within wheels, various forms of fighting developed between the two. After many missteps and fumbles and the beginning of civil war, the UN injected a peacekeeping force under the command of a Canadian General named Dallaire (also a graduate of the US Marine Corps Command and Staff College).

Dallaire was tipped off to a plot to slaughter Tutsis, made a plan to confiscate the equipment, advised his chain of command, and was ordered not to proceed.

The massacre started with the death of the president of Rwanda in a plane crash -- actually the a/c was shot down. At its height, the killers were murdering more per hour than the Nazis did during WWII. In about 100 days, about 800,000 people were killed.
1. If Rwanda had never been a colony, the Hutu and Tutsi would be, at worst, tribes that don't like each other and occasionally go to war.
2. If the UN had done nothing, the civil war would have fought itself out. Tragedy? Yes. Massacre? Probably no.
3. If the population had been armed, the killers would have been considerably more circumspect.
Here's a review of a book on the subject: