Will kidney sales be legalized?

Will the US join Iran as one of the few countries that allow kidney sales?  It’s too soon to say, but Trump deserves praise if this appointment is made and approved:

President-elect Donald Trump is weighing naming as Food and Drug Administration commissioner a staunch libertarian who has called for eliminating the agency’s mandate to determine whether new medicines are effective before approving them for sale.

“Let people start using them, at their own risk,” the candidate, Jim O’Neill, said in a 2014 speech to a biotech group.

O’Neill has also called for paying organ donors and setting up libertarian societies at sea — and has said he was surprised to discover that FDA regulators actually enjoy science and like working to fight disease.

. . .

O’Neill has proposed that the FDA only require companies to prove drugs are safe before they are sold – not that they actually work.

O’Neill has also said that organ donors should be allowed to be paid. “There are plenty of healthy spare kidneys walking around, unused,” he said in a speech at a 2009 Seasteading conference.

Of course he has not been nominated yet, and it’s not clear he’d be approved by the Senate, but certainly a hopeful sign.

PS.  Here’s a recent Econlog post on kidney sales.  Alex Tabarrok points out that New Zealand is moving part way towards financially compensating kidney donors.

HT:  Frank McCormick



15 Responses to “Will kidney sales be legalized?”

  1. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    8. December 2016 at 07:29

    You have to admire Peter Thiel. He backed the right horse from the very beginning, no matter what all those smart alecs said. I bet taking over the FDA was his plan from day one. He’s so focused on actually achieving something.

    The Koch brothers backed the wrong horses again (like always) but they seem to be pretty happy now as well according to The Guardian:


    But something is missing. It’s NGDP targeting of course. Like I said before, Trump is a blank slate. Get anybody with expertise in his team and you can shape his agenda on this issue as well. I bet he would love the idea. The main problem so far is that he has never heard of it yet.

  2. Gravatar of James Elizondo James Elizondo
    8. December 2016 at 07:53

    Concerns of hoarding by investors if sales are made legal?

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. December 2016 at 08:02

    Christian, God help us if the Donald starts messing with monetary policy. And the mere possibility that Trump might make one correct move hardly shows that Thiel backed the right horse. Let’s not forget that he’s made lots of awful choices in the past few weeks.

    James, No.

  4. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    8. December 2016 at 09:31

    And the mere possibility that Trump might make one correct move hardly shows that Thiel backed the right horse.

    It’s not about that (even though Trump has been right about most things so far). It’s way easier: The simple fact that Trump won shows that Thiel has backed the right horse. Thiel was sensing that Trump was winning so Thiel thought he might as well influence Trump as much as possible and as soon as possible. And that’s the best strategy you can have.

  5. Gravatar of Andrew Andrew
    8. December 2016 at 10:51

    Scott what do you see being the leading pros and cons of an FDA not regulating efficacy?

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. December 2016 at 11:31

    Andrew, Pro is that free markets usually lead to better choices. Regulatory systems have a bias toward too little risk taking.

    Con is that the government massively subsidizes medicine, and this might lead to excessive spending on drugs. I lean toward the pro side—get rid of the FDA.

  7. Gravatar of dw dw
    8. December 2016 at 16:42

    well, there is that other con. that being that the drugs will be much more dangerous. just like in the old days, where you never knew what was actually in the drugs, and if t killed you, the odds were pretty good no one would ever know that. since the majority of us cant afford to file a law suit in the best of times, and since getting onto court today is a lot harder than ever (with irritation and all. think not? consider that Wells Fargo is being allowed to force that for those harmed by bogus accounts opened by their employees). so being able to go court is out the picture as an enforcement method). course that also means food will once again become dangerous to eat (that is after all why we cook the way we do. it was to cover up the taste)

  8. Gravatar of SD1234 SD1234
    8. December 2016 at 19:58

    Scott – a bit off topic but did you hear Orphanides on Bloomberg Surveillance today (Thursday). It was like I was reading your blog. Discussion on the absurdity of the ECB even mentioning “tapering”, and the merits of price level targeting. Recommend the listen.

  9. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. December 2016 at 09:56

    dw, What makes you think we would not know what’s in the drugs, if there were no FDA?

    SD1234, Thanks, do you have a link?

  10. Gravatar of SD1234 SD1234
    9. December 2016 at 10:23

    Scott – see here:


  11. Gravatar of dw dw
    9. December 2016 at 13:36

    based on how businesses would treat their other products (think of the original Coke). it would be top secret. no business would let their product formula ever be any where an one but company employees can see it. ans as to whether they would work? that would be any ones guess. just like in the old days of patent medicine. which is likely where we are headed

  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. December 2016 at 14:43

    SD, Thanks, it’s interesting so far.

    Dw, So you don’t think drug companies would patent their new drugs?

  13. Gravatar of dw dw
    9. December 2016 at 16:26

    they might not. its not like its that easy to replicate the drugs. but considering how much sway they have with the government, they might patent them, but get the formula marked as trade, only to be divulged in court.

    course thats only part of the problem.

    how will we know if the drugs work or not? that they wont make things worse. or kill you

  14. Gravatar of dw dw
    9. December 2016 at 17:49

    course there is also quality control that the fda makes the companies do. and make no mistake they wouldnt do it unless they had too. course we may see how reducing that works next year, as the fda wont be as diligent any more

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. December 2016 at 08:59

    dw, Our views are so far about it’s probably not worth even discussing.

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