On Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, Hypocrisy, Organ Donation and Exchange


Oh boy. I’m gonna get it for this one.

I wrote a blog for Times of Israel that dumped on a Rabbi, one who I do not respect very much, Shmuly Yanklowitz, for donating a kidney to a dying man. That sounds bad even to me, and I wrote the thing. The problem is not the donating. Donating is good. The problem is donating in the face of advocating against a free market in organs.

If Shmuly publicly supports an absolutely free market in organs, I will retract my criticism and issue a public apology.

Some of the sharper points. Read the rest at the link above:

And that takes me to the kicker. Here’s the kicker. Shmuly is an incredibly ambitious man. There is no problem with being ambitious. It’s a good thing. The problem is when you use unjust laws, like the law against selling organs, to further your agenda of political force.

Now, please, imagine for a moment that selling organs on the free market were legal. If you wanted to sell your kidney to a dying man on dialysis, nobody would stop you. Women can sell their eggs already. There is no difference. Now, in that case, the supply of those willing to sell a kidney at whatever price agreed upon greatly exceeds those who need them. One could even theoretically contract people to sell their organs upon death with the money going to their heirs. Imagine the enormous amount of kidneys that would result from just that.

If that were the case, if people all over the world, destitute starving weak people, could sell a kidney for money voluntarily, then how much publicity do you think Shmuly Yanklowitz could get for donating a kidney?

The answer is ZERO. The price of kidneys would be low enough that whoever needs one would buy one immediately rather than wait for a donor at the risk of his life on dialysis.

If Shmuly donated in a world where there was a free market in kidneys, donating one would just be viewed as idiocy. There would be no need to do so.

But instead, in the world we live in, it is illegal to exchange a kidney for money. That DOES NOT mean that nothing is exchanged when someone donates a kidney. Shmuly gets a LOT out of donating a kidney. He gets publicity. He gets recognition. He gets reverence. He gets a following. He gets all that, and more. These are very valuable goods. This is VERY valuable to him personally, because he knows how to use all of these goods. To further his goals. To broaden his name. To further his own career.

In the same way that computer parts are only valuable to someone who knows how to put them together, so too publicity is only good for someone who knows how to use it. But it is a good nonetheless, just like money, only less marketable, and only marketable by publicity experts. 

Am I saying it was not selfless of Shmuly to donate a kidney? It was certainly selfless, in a very shallow strictly monetary interpretation of selflessness. It was selfless only in the sense that he did not get actual money for the kidney. But he got other things, other goods, less marketable for others, but very marketable for him. He got a barter exchange – a kidney for publicity – instead of a monetary exchange – a kidney for money. Anyone can use money. Money is the most marketable good, by definition. But only very skilled people, like Shmuly, can use publicity. It is a very specific kind of economic good. He will take this publicity and exchange that for money instead to complete his barter, for donations to his causes, for better job opportunities as the Rabbi who donated a kidney, for further publicity advocating for violence against women and the poor, by outlawing voluntary employment relationships for women (equal work equal pay) and low-skilled workers (minimum wage).

But even then, it is not a moral problem to exchange publicity for a kidney. That’s perfectly fine and moral. What is IMMORAL, however, is to exchange publicity for a kidney when at the same time you advocate outlawing any monetary transactions for kidneys, thereby jacking up the value of the publicity you obtain from donating, and then using that to further your own goals at the expense of the starvation of others, who cannot legally sell their kidneys for money when they desperately need to do so.





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