Last Best Gifts


Even libertarian economics writer Virginia Postrel likes lefty sociologist Kieran Healy’s book about organ donations, Last Best Gifts. See the website here. The basic point of the book is to try to move beyond a simple debate about markets versus altruism in the realm of organ donation and try to get you to see that there’s essentially no way to move outside the real of embedded systems of social value.

There’s a case to be made for incorporating more in the way of financial incentives into the organ procurement system, but assuming you’re actually more interested in getting people to donate organs than in writing clever blog posts you need to do this in a careful way that’s sensitive to different ways of framing the issue of money. Grieving spouses and parents typically don’t, for example, want to be put in the situation of selling their wife, husband, or child’s corpse and thereby profiting personally off their death.