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Voluntarism or self-interest?

Walter Williams's picture

How many things in our lives would we like to depend upon the generosity and selflessness of our fellow man, and do you think we would like the outcome?
You say, “Williams, are you now putting down generosity and selflessness?”
No, I’m not. Let me ask the question in a more direct way. Say you want a nice three-bedroom house. Which human motivation do you think would get you the house sooner: the generosity of builders or the builders’ desire to earn some money?
What about a nice car? Which motivation of auto companies and their workers do you trust will get you a car sooner: the generosity of owners and workers, or owner desire for profits and worker desire for wages?
As for me, I put my faith in people’s self-interest as the most reliable way to get them to do what I want and believe most other people share my faith.
What would your prediction be about the supply of housing, cars and most other things if Congress enacted a law mandating that a house or car could only be donated, not sold? If you said there would be a shortage of houses and cars, go to the head of the class.
Bone marrow transplantation is a relatively new medical procedure that is used to treat diseases once thought incurable such as leukemia, aplastic anemia, Hodgkin’s disease, immune deficiency disorders and some solid tumors such as breast and ovarian cancer. Every year, at least 1,000 Americans die and others suffer because they cannot find a matching bone marrow donor.
The reason why there is a shortage of donors is the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA), enacted by Congress in 1984. NOTA makes it illegal to give anything of value in exchange for bone marrow and that includes, for example, giving a college student a scholarship or a new homeowner a mortgage payment. Everyone involved in such a transaction — doctors, nurses, donors and patients — risks up to five years in a federal penitentiary.
There might be light at the end of the tunnel because the Washington-based Institute for Justice (, one of my very favorite liberty-oriented organizations, has brought suit against this inhumane practice of the U.S. Congress. The suit, Flynn v. Holder, was filed in the Los Angeles Division of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Oct. 26, 2009.
Doreen Flynn, the plaintiff, is the mother of five children, three of whom have Fanconi anemia, a serious genetic disorder affecting the blood whose sufferers often need a bone marrow transplant during their teen years.
The Institute for Justice is not challenging Congress’ ban on compensation for solid organs such as hearts, kidneys and livers. Instead, the lawsuit challenges only the provision of National Organ Transplant Act that bans compensation for bone marrow.
The premise of the Institute for Justice’s legal challenge is that there is a fundamental biological distinction between renewable marrow cells and nonrenewable solid organs. In the case of bone marrow, the donor’s bone marrow is completely replenished in a few weeks. That’s less time than it takes for the human body to fully replenish a pint of donated blood that is often sold to blood banks.
Just about everyone would agree that there would be massive shortages and discontent if there were a congressional mandate that we must depend on our fellow man’s generosity for our home, our car, our food and thousands of other items that we use.
Why then must a person depend on his fellow man’s generosity for an item like bone marrow that might mean the difference between life and death?
There is no rhyme or reason for the congressional prohibition of bone marrow other than arbitrary unconstitutional abuse of power that far too many Americans tolerate and would like to see extended to other areas of our lives.
[Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.] COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS.COM


This year I am trying to find a volunteer opportunity for Thanksgiving. I can't find anything in Fayette County. I tried to contact Hosea Feed the Hungry. Their website is so screwed up you can't even register. I called several local churches and they have all the volunteers they need. I am desperately seeking a volunteer opportunity for Thanksgiving and can not find one. Doesn't anyone need some help this holiday?

Go to the bank, get a whole fist-full of five dollars bills.
Then go to either: anywhere in Riverdale, or five-points, and start passing them out to disheveled looking people.

You probably will be relieved of the duty pretty quickly by someone else offering to pass out the rest! Let them.

Might also try the Pavilion Mall.

Just show up. One year, 2002/2003, we volunteered at Hosea's place. I don't know that we even registered. We showed up about 5:30 and there was already a ton of people there. We were ushered into an area below the stadium with everyone else. We sat and sat and sat. His daughter came down and prayed a few times throughout the morning - we are not an organization, but an organism - and then finally about 8:00 we were assigned a station. We had originally asked to serve the meal but were stationed at one of the entrances and our job was directing people to either showers/haircuts or clothes. We stayed until 2:00/3:00 as our relief never showed. It was very unorganized but it was eye-opening and fulfilling. I would just show up. They seldom will turn down a volunteer and if, by chance, they do, all you've lost is some sleep and gas.

The Wedge's picture

No lawyering for the holidays? :) In that case I know of several food ministries for homeless in Atlanta that would need serving help on Thanksgiving. Good Samaritan Homeless Center for Women with Children in Atlanta is one of them. Have a great Thanksgiving

Do Americans really want to get into the business of buign and selling body parts ?  No one can see how the greed factor woudl pervert that business?   Envision somehow ethics would take a back seat to prfit ?  Preying on the less fortunate ? the less empowered ?  Free trade in Human eyeballs ? Skin ? Bone Marrow ? Livers?


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