Selling Your Kids Is Good Economics

Following any idea without understanding the context is a recipe for disaster in any area of knowledge. However modern management and eCONomic bullshit routinely justifies stuff that is more extreme than the example used in this post.

It seems that a woman in Washington State tried to sell her 3-year old kid at Taco Bell for between 500-5000$.

A judge has set bail at $50,000 for a 36-year-old woman accused of trying to sell her 3-day-old baby at a Taco Bell restaurant in southwest Washington.Court papers say Heidi L. Knowles was arrested July 14 after a woman at the restaurant called police, saying she’d been offered the baby boy for a price between $500 and $5,000. Knowles was arrested for investigation of attempted child selling and on several outstanding warrants. Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis set bail Monday and appointed defense lawyer Gerry Wear to represent her. According to court documents the woman is unemployed, on welfare and food stamps and told investigators she was living at a motel until she could find a shelter. The Columbian says Child Protective Services took custody of the baby, born July 11.

While some of you may be aghast by her behavior, I can assure you that it was far closer to the Homo Economicus concept used by eCONomists of various stripes to model theoretical human behavior.

Homo economicus, or Economic human, is the concept in some economic theories of humans as rational and narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. This theory stands in contrast to the concept of Homo reciprocans, which states that human beings are primarily motivated by the desire to be cooperative, and improve their environment.

You may say.. How so???

You see, she was trying to convert a liability into an asset.

A child consumes resources (money, time, opportunity costs etc) for a chance of potential future gains (ego, old age security etc). However in our day and age, children are liabilities without an upside.

Money, on the other hand, is an asset. It is infact the most liquid and universal type of asset, which can be used or invested into other less liquid assets to provide an income stream. Moreover, it is almost free to store and retains value far better than other common types of assets.

Selling her kid for money was the most eCONomically rational thing to do for a woman in her circumstances. She wanted to convert her biggest liability into the most liquid class of assets.

While many of you might see her actions as inhumane, sociopathic or just plain nuts- she used the same rationale used by people who manage large and small businesses. I find it odd that we reward people who destroy the livelihoods and careers of thousands using the same eCONomic rationale which this poor woman used. Did I mention that she was financially distressed unlike the super-rich who do far worse than what she was intending to do.


  1. July 19, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    I bet she was a feminist……

  2. Commander Shepard
    July 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Casey Anthony should have just sold her child rather than murdering her. She would have made out very well. A pretty little Caucasian girl is every couple’s dream adoption.

  3. Mr. Stricter
    July 19, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Its probably fortunate for all the CONmen that everyone doesn’t act like they do, if they did that society would swiftly cease to function and likely blow itself apart.

    Anyhow as to why people defer the various social brainwashing most societies have and the tendency for most people to defer to persons of perceived higher status its little wonder people respect the “rich” and reward bad behavior

    Also tribalism and group think play a big part. Successful distributive societies have levels of social comity unheard of in America outside of a very brief period in the60’s and 70’s.

    And yes you can try and force people to cooperate but the same mechanisms in play with the poor (non cooperation and non compliance) also effect the rich. They just stop cooperating.

    The rich can be eliminated without any deleterious effect on society.

    As AD suggests genocide is a theoretical option for some societies but it often ends up eliminating much of the actual productive class and destroying the society even more thoroughly than the parasites would. Zimbabwe basically tried this tact and failed utterly …

    You are confusing a tyranny run by a megalomaniac with what can be achieved by systematic elimination of the rich in a functional society.

    The best trick I think is to wrest the society away from the parasite class and incentivize sharing. Change the tax code and the rules to reward in group (in that case nation level) resource and wealth distribution and penalize hoarding. This is pretty hard however as the Who once said “Say Hello to the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss”

    That is what FDR did and was the reason he is still hated by the rich.

  4. Commander Shepard
    July 19, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    “Its probably fortunate for all the CONmen that everyone doesn’t act like they do, if they did that society would swiftly cease to function and likely blow itself apart.” – Mr. Stricter

    Welcome to sub-Saharan Africa. The USA is headed down that road. It’s already begun with sociopath elites stealing all the wealth and soft polygamy widely practiced where a few alphas monopolize all the women.

  5. Mr. Stricter
    July 19, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    AD, the problem is that eliminating people in scale however much they deserve it, terrifies everyone and erodes trust.

    Don’t forget that as you often mention, all people are basically scum and will act badly under many circumstances. In an all out war everyone assumes “they will be next” and tribes up .

    Also often as not people take advantage of the chaos to eliminate all kinds of enemies, steal, rape and live out all sorts of negative impulses that everyone has. All that genocide spills over and pretty soon a functional society becomes a chaotic mess.

    Its hard to make anything work at that point and well thats when you really get sub-Saharan Africa. It takes chaos and the traits Commander Sheppard mentioned (among others) to get their

  6. Webe
    July 20, 2011 at 5:27 am

    Excellent post. This woman is a toned down version of normal run of the mill “management” concepts. It’s very telling that in politics we like to reflect on the nation’s concerns with metaphors from corporate business, rather than metaphors from family or neighbourhood. If you run your family on the corporate business model, it’s a no brainer things will devolve in short order.
    Truth is, the corporation (literally corpora = the body) functions as a legal person, though not a natural person, having many rights but few of the obligations of natural persons. The “personality” of such legal “persons” exactly parallels all the key characteristics of the sociopath.

    … Eliminating the rich lands up … eliminating much of the actual productive class …
    The top 1% of Americans earn as much as the entire country of Germany. Do you think they do the same work as the entire population of Germany? The wealthy own (monopolize) assets, which yield an income (renteniering) paid by others who use/need those assets to produce and to live. I am not saying that there are no rich people who work hard, or who contribute to society. Just a reminder that they usually didn’t “create” the assets (uh, land, uh water, uh minerals, uh crops) all by solidifying the sweat of their brow.

  7. July 20, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Running families like businesses with clear calculations of cost and benefit has historically been business as usual. Only a comfortable degree of wealth and relatively secure social position allows one the luxury of behaving otherwise.

    As long as there’s been people, they’ve typically had sons for the free labor. And as a retirement policy.

    As long as there’s been dowries, daughters have been the less preferred children.

    For time immemorial children have been sold off by families that lack the means to support them.
    Or very typical of child labor, parents would contract out their children and then collect the earnings themselves. Or give control of their children completely into some sort of apprenticeship in which they could be used in any way whatever by the master.

    When there’s been no child market, and no one looking to adopt, unwanted children have simply been left to die.

    Victorian and Puritanical nonsense has blinded many Westerners to certain realities and the result is often well intentioned but naive social policy.

    I’m not saying we must adopt an unremittingly ruthless or Machiavellian approach, but any societal system that doesn’t take basic human incentives into account will fail. Look at what’s happening to the population demographics in Western countries because of shifting incentives.
    Look how surprising it is to most people that this woman tried to sell her child. Yet the author of this article points out how one could easily anticipate this eventuality by understanding how the incentives align.
    And having anticipated this problem and many others, social policy could be formulated accordingly.

    There’s been plenty of societies that have endured far longer than our own that allow(ed) families to do whatever they wanted with their kids, but I suppose this woman’s case strikes a nerve with people in our society because it is a benchmark.
    -Social shaming the law normally largely eliminates this type of activity. This signals to people that social cohesion is weakening.
    -Selling off children is usually something done by people living at a bare subsistence. Another slap in the face for our “everyone is middle class” society.

  8. Rollo Tomassi
    July 20, 2011 at 8:53 am

    AD, here a reading suggestion for you:

    Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back

  9. MeMyselfI
    July 20, 2011 at 11:22 am

    She could have aborted the kid a while back and no one would have cared. Why does anyone care now?

  10. Mr. Stricter
    July 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Por Claro, the issue is not that the rich are inherently important. Just as AD and Webe point out, they aren’t.

    However uprisings and revolutions are not easy to control and it can easily spiral into a more general hack-fest. Todays “rich rentier parasite” is tomorrows politically unpopular person or actual wealth creator

    The excess zeal of the French Revolution is a classic example of this in action.

    Not my cuppa Joe.

  11. Gary
    July 20, 2011 at 6:32 pm
  1. July 31, 2011 at 4:17 pm

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