Monthly Archives: January 2015

Peak Blood?

Third of three guest posts by Enrique Guerra-Pujol

A final and potentially devastating argument against blood markets is that such markets would be self-defeating or self-destructive. Some of my Freakonomics commentators noted that “vampirism is contagious” and that “vampires procreate via their bite.” Or as Glen Whitman ominously puts it in his essay “Tragedy of the Blood Commons” (in chapter 15 of Economics of the Undead), “At present, humans are plentiful and vampires relatively rare—but that pleasant condition may not last forever.

Why not? Because if vampires procreate via their bite, then each vampire bite converts a potential blood seller into a blood consumer (i.e. a fellow vampire) and thus every vampire bite reduces the aggregate supply of blood. At some point, vampires (blood buyers) will not only outnumber humans (potential blood sellers) but the number of humans or sellers will dwindle to zero and the market for blood will collapse.

This notion of “peak blood” is similar to the familiar and oft-lamented problem of “peak oil” — the point in time when the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum is reached after with the rate of petroleum extraction is expected to enter terminal decline.

But this line of reasoning is actually an argument for legal markets, not against them! With legal markets based on well-defined property rights, owners of blood will have a powerful incentive to manage and conserve their blood resources; without such legal markets, we run the risk of a tragedy of the commons. For my part, I favor assigning rights to human blood to humans, but such rights could just as well be assigned to vampires!  [Note: Ownership of humans by vampires is the solution proposed by the vampire-economist author of Chapter 15, mentioned above. – GW]

Lastly, notice that the “peak blood” argument assumes that markets move toward some equilibrium or end state. But, frankly, I don’t think this standard equilibrium assumption is warranted. What if, instead, markets are open-ended, evolutionary, creative processes?

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Blood Markets and Blood Culture

Second of three guest posts by Enrique Guerra-Pujol

It’s the natural order. [We] are predators. You and your kind are prey, that’s all. To survive, we must feed on your blood.

– Arkley the vampire in David Wellington’s Laura Caxton Vampire Series

In my previous post, I considered human-centered arguments against blood markets: either we don’t believe in vampires or we fear them. Now, let’s consider a different set of arguments against blood markets and the possibility of human-vampire trade generally — not from our human point of view, but rather from the point of view of the vampires!

Vampire superiority complex

Won’t vampires see bargaining with humans as beneath them? I call this the “vampire superiority complex.” One commentator (Owen), for example, wrote that “most vampires consider themselves to be superior beings to humans … and as such have no compunction about ‘stealing’ blood to feed them[selves].” Along the same line, another commentator (Davo) identified a “critical error” in my market argument. “In most vampire lore,” Davo wrote, “[vampires] are a different (more advanced) species.” In support of this claim, Davo produced my favorite comment — perhaps the most memorable one in the entire Freakonomics thread — “Asking vampires to buy human blood is like asking humans to buy a ham hock off a pig.”

This line of argument offers an alternative explanation of vampire violence. Vampires are violent not because of the lack of blood markets (my claim in my essay “Buy or Bite?” in chapter 12 of Economics of the Undead) but rather because they are culturally and biologically superior to humans. Because of their superiority, vampires view humans as prey. Consider, by way of example, this statement by Arkley the vampire in David Wellington’s Laura Caxton Vampire Series: “It’s the natural order. [We] are predators. You and your kind are prey, that’s all. To survive, we must feed on your blood.” In other words, predators don’t negotiate with prey; they hunt and kill them instead.

Certainly, I do not deny that vampires are an accomplished and talented lot. Nor do I deny that most vampires probably view humans as prey and not as possible trading partners. Let us assume, then, that vampires are not only a different species but also a more advanced species than us humans. What effect would these assumptions have on the market for blood? Do such innate vampire feelings of superiority inhibit such trade or make such markets more likely to occur?

I could be wrong, of course, but my conjecture is that vampires will prefer trading to hunting precisely because of their cultural superiority. In other words, the cultural superiority argument strengthens — not weakens — the case for human-vampire trade! Here’s why:

If vampires are so smart, they will immediately grasp the advantages of trading over hunting. Simply put, the prospect of hunting for human blood is not an attractive one because such behavior invites lethal retaliation from vampire slayers. A legal market, by contrast, promises to supply the vampire race with regular and stable supply of blood at the best possible price.

In other words, even if vampires are somehow culturally or biologically superior to humans in every possible way, why would any individual vampire want to waste time and effort hunting for blood or invite the risk of deadly retaliation if a safer and more attractive option (legal markets) were available to him or her?

But what if vampires prefer the thrill of the hunt to the security and stability of a legal market? What if vampires prefer raiding to trading?

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