March 27, 2012

Cheney finally has a heart

Dick Cheney has got a new heart.  Liberal progressives would uniformly tell you it was his first one ever.  However, due to Cheney's age, the surgery on the former VP's ticker has opened up the debate about whether age should play a factor in determining eligibility to receive a transplant of any kind.  After all, it only makes sense that someone who is 95 years old (not Cheney, he's 71) to not get a new heart if someone who is say 31 is waiting as well.

That is a valid point but there are other considerations, like perhaps wealth.  Or perhaps, importance to the country.  For example, if the choice is between a decorated astronaut receiving a heart and circus clown, my vote is for the astronaut.  The point is when you look at a supply and demand curve and the supply cannot meet the total demand at a given price, there will be a shortage of supply.  That's Economics 101.  When you are in a shortage situation the resolution is that at a given price, demand exceeds supply.  Economists default to thinking about price in terms of money.

But another way to look at price is opportunity cost.  Giving a heart to an astronaut at the expense of a circus clown means the opportunity cost is the continued existence of that circus clown.  But by taking that cost out of the realm of dollars, we have introduced a decision-making process into establishing relative values (between people no less) that is necessarily arbitrary.  Who decides whom is more deserving of a kidney, liver or heart?  And what right do they have in deciding whom is more deserving?  What do their considerations hinge on?

It's possible that it could be based on some very obvious considerations;

-health history

But if that's obvious, how about these considerations;

-criminal record
-health insurance provider
-political affiliation

The slippery slope arguments aside, the only way to make things as 'fair' as possible is to take human decisioning out of it, which brings us back to supply and demand and price as measured in money. Money is color-blind despite what Obama might tell you.  Money is all green - at least in the United States.  If you want to argue about ownership of the money and equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome, that's another discussion.

But please, keep the death panels out of the hands of the people who know nothing about you except what they believe they know.  It colors their decision-making and there's a pretty fair chance it won't be in your favor.

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