Reason Foundation

Reason Foundation

Reason Alert: Who Owns Your Organs?

February 23, 2007

Who Owns Your Body Parts?
In the March issue of Reason, Kerry Howley exposes "a thriving industry composed of tissue banks, biotech firms, and middlemen." It turns out a human corpse is worth over $100,000 on the market and Howley finds, "Each year the industry takes in an estimated $1 billion in revenue, not a cent of which will go to the families or heirs of the donors who provide the raw material...One corpse can help heal 50 different people in the same number of countries; a tendon might be sent to Australia, a heart valve to India. Bones, skin, spines-all of it is worth something to someone." Howley's full feature is here.
 » Howley: You Can't Sell Your Kidneys, Can You Give Them Away?
 » Howley: Ova for Sale

Offering Credit Cards to Illegals: What Could Be More American?
Bank of America is offering credit cards to customers without Social Security numbers. Critics say the bank is hurting national security and encouraging illegal immigration. Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward writes, "Immigrants, many of them illegal, are the most prolific entrepreneurs in the United States: They open about 80 percent of new businesses each year. Many banks already offer mortgages and checking accounts to the same group of people lacking Social Security numbers." Mangu-Ward adds, "The IRS has been granting taxpayer numbers to people regardless of their immigration status for years. It's a reasonable, practical measure and it enables recent arrivals to the country-legal and illegal-to do business on the up-and-up. In fact, these numbers make it easier for those people to pay their way in taxes for the services they use, and easier for the government to track them." As for homeland security, Mangu-Ward asks why "private companies should be expected to do the work of government, screening illegals better than government itself can manage."

Is Airport Privatization Trend Coming?
Will Wynn, Democratic mayor of Austin, Texas, hopes to lease Bergstrom International Airport, joining Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's effort to privatize Midway Airport. In his monthly column for Public Works Financing, Reason's Robert Poole writes that since Margaret Thatcher sold British Airports Authority in 1987 "over a hundred airports have been privatized worldwide—in Europe (Belfast, Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Rome, among others), South Africa, Latin America (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico), and Asia-Pacific (Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and others, with Hong Kong and Tokyo in the pipeline)." Poole details why the US has been "virtually untouched by this phenomenon" and why that is about to change.

Privatizing State Lotteries
Illinois, Indiana and Texas are among the states considering privatizing their state lotteries. Reason's Geoff Segal writes that private management firms will likely increase and maximize lottery revenues, but states should only lease these valuable assets if they put the proceeds to good use, i.e., use the money to build much-needed infrastructure like roads and highways that will still be standing when the lottery lease is over. Segal's column is here.

Experimenting With School Choice
The Oakland and Compton school districts are both "in need of improvement" according to federal standards. But the two districts have opted for completely different reform paths: Oakland implemented school choice and the weighted-student formula while Compton stuck with the status quo. In a column for Education Week, Reason's Lisa Snell and Shikha Dalmia examine the results: "Oakland's score on the state's Academic Performance Index—a numeric grade that California assigns to its schools based on the performance of their students on standardized tests—went up by 19 points. Compton, in contrast, gained only 13 points. Yet even this overstates Compton's performance, because almost all of its gains came at the elementary level, where students are not so intractable. Compton's middle schools lost an average of 6 points, while Oakland's gained an average of 16 points. Meanwhile, half of Compton's high schools lost points on the API score—including Compton High, where now fewer than 6 percent of males are proficient in reading, and fewer than 1 percent in algebra. Conversely, Oakland high schools gained, on average, 30 points. Even Oakland's economically disadvantaged and limited-English students have shown major improvements. In 2006, its economically disadvantaged students gained 60 percent more on the performance index than Compton's, and its English-language learners gained 120 percent more." The full column is here.

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