The Slippery Slope Not Taken
By David Henderson
Two slippery slopes diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
–David R. Henderson, with apologies to Robert Frost
Like my co-blogger Scott Sumner, I hope that certain steps to make it legal for organ donors to accept compensation lead to “a full fledged commercial market for organs.” I have written about that here and here.
But I do worry about which slippery slope we will go down. Scott approvingly quotes Sally Satel of the American Enterprise Institute:
[To] save lives, let’s test incentives. A model reimbursement plan would look like this: Donors would not receive a lump sum of cash; instead, a governmental entity or a designated charity would offer them in-kind rewards, such as a contribution to the donor’s retirement fund; an income tax credit or a tuition voucher; lifetime health insurance; a contribution to a charity of the donor’s choice; or loan forgiveness.
Here’s the problem. Many of those measures involved government subsidies or tax credits, and the latter are essentially the former.
What’s wrong with that? Government subsidies requires that the government forcibly take money from some strangers to give to other strangers. If someone proposed a bill to give government subsidies to people who donate organs, I would be tempted to oppose it. That could be a very bad slippery slope.
All we advocates of voluntary exchange are saying is give voluntary exchange a chance.