Life’s Value

Maybe it’s the 100 degree heat. Maybe it’s waking up at 4am. I just don’t feel my internal filter today. Granted, this has been written for days, but I never posted. So why now? Who knows? My bet is those with an intolerance for heat and lack of sleep could relate. Oddly enough, this blog seems to get hits around that time.

How much is life worth? No this shouldn’t be taken with regard to my up at 4am son who no longer sleeps past 5. It was written more as a commentary on assisted suicide.

I know the common answer is that a life is infinitely valuable. We see it with the lengths people will go to keep a loved one alive, and on rare occasions we see it from selfless acts of sacrifice.

However, I think we already do put a price tag on human life. I know looking at such a question from an economics point of view is dispassionate, but I recognize we put a price in dollars, in effort, and in freedoms which we will not pay to save a life. I don’t see any other way to reconcile the answers to these questions and hundreds of others:
Why are soup kitchens under funded and understaffed?
Why do we let people starve as grain sits in silos?
Why do we not force people to donate organs?
Why do we allow pharmaceutical companies to withhold drugs which could save millions so the company can make a larger profit?
Why do we allow smoking? or fast food?

We put price tags on human life all the time. We cloak our decisions in logic to justify our choices, but often it seems like we look for arguments to a conclusion already reached in our head.  What’s more, we assign different values to different lives. Those whom we see and those whose lives most closely match our own are naturally more valuable to us than the life of a foreigner in another part of the world. Why is it taboo to recognize this? I think it’s an offshoot of the thinking most have. Of course, the most valuable life is the one we’re living.

Objectively, it’s not how I would attempt to value a life, and I try to recognize my biases. Personally, I value a life by what the owner would give their life for in either direct sacrifice or through a lifetime of work, but I recognize this as my own measure.  Some keep score or value in term of dollars earned or saved.  For me, a dollar is worth only what one buys with it and everything of value costs more than dollars.

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