Guest Post by Enrique Guerra-Pujol
In Chapter 12 (“Buy or Bite?”) of The Economics of the Undead, I observed how most members of the vampire race resort to coercion, compulsion, and confiscation to procure fresh supplies of blood — an essential staple of the vampire diet — and I posed the following fundamental question: “Are vampires ‘bad’? Are they inherently evil or unethical creatures?”
My main argument in “Buy or Bite?” is that vampires are not necessarily bad, that without a legal market for the purchase and sale of blood, vampires have no other choice but to steal their supplies of blood through fraud and force. I thus proposed the creation of legalized “blood markets” to allow us humans to transfer our property rights in our blood to vampires on a consensual and contractual basis.
The domain of my argument, however, was limited to the fictional world of vampires, the world of film, literature, and the arts generally. But now new research by scientists at Stanford and Harvard universities has found that blood from young mice can significantly improve the learning and memory of old mice. Assuming these exciting research findings hold true for humans, my argument for the legalization of the purchase and sale of blood becomes more salient than ever.
For as Jess Zimmerman asks in this fascinating post titled “Young Blood,” “what’s to stop old people from stealing [blood] from the young?” This is a question that has haunted us since the monstrous myth of the blood-thirsty Hungarian countess Lady Elizabeth Báthory, who lived in the 17th century and who was alleged to have killed hundreds of her young peasant servants and taken daily baths in their blood in order to keep herself from growing old.
But with a legal market for the regular purchase and sale of blood, we need not fear the specter of the old stealing blood from the young. Why not? Because as I explain in “Buy or Bite?,” legal markets convert mutual conflict into joint cooperation since both sides to a transaction benefit from voluntary trade. By way of example, given the potential human applications of the scientific discoveries described above, both old and young could reap enormous benefits from trade in blood.
Consider first the demand side of this potential market — old people who might want to purchase the blood of young adults for this blood’s possible youth-conferring and curative powers. Obviously, if the promising results of the mice-blood experiments were to apply to humans, old people would be better off if they could procure supplies of young blood in order to stave off dementia and live longer and healthier lives.
Now let’s consider the supply side. If you are old enough to vote, join the Army, or drink, why can’t you also be free to choose to sell your own blood? With a legal blood market, young adults would now have a new form of renewable “human capital” at their disposal, and to the extent young people tend to be poorer than older people, many of them could put the potential income generated from the voluntary sale of their blood to good use.
Of course, many people may find the possibility of blood sales morally repugnant. But even if you include yourself among this group of anti-market moralizers, you should keep in mind that markets are always voluntary. That is, when markets are legal, nobody is forced to sell their blood if they don’t want to. But when markets are illegal or legally unclear (as is the case with blood sales today), everyone is prevented from realizing mutually beneficial transactions.
In short, with legalized markets in blood both young and old could benefit from a medical advance that seemingly benefits only the old. The old and the young — as well as vampires and humans for that matter — would have incentives to engage in mutually beneficial trade. Imagine the possibilities!