Thomas Sowell wrote a great article on the consequences avoiding “trade-offs” because of squeamishness, and of likening this squeamishness to being humane. For example, he cites the consequences of risking further life to rescue the victims of the Utah mine cave-in. The tragedy of the second cave-in, killing rescuers, was completely avoidable, but only by recognizing the trade-offs involved and being willing to let the first die in order to prevent further loss of life. He also talks about the question of organ sales. Because our government is squeamish about a market for organs, the practice is illegal, but at the price of lives. Everyone knows we have a shortage of organs for transplants, yet we allow the government to consign those to death who cannot find a donor in time. Why? Because the idea of selling organs leaves people with a bad taste.
I would go further and say that this squeamishness, this bad taste is the result of a particular morality, one that says that the individual’s life has value only in the service of society or of his neighbor. This morality says that the individual has no right to his own life and happiness, and that these values are for society to demand at any time. That morality is, of course, altruism. Even if it means your own death, it is right, says altruism, to sacrifice for strangers – and even if it does not benefit them! Likewise, your body, like your life, is not yours, but belongs to society. It is not yours to sell. The “squeamishness” is a symptom of a culture built on individualism and selfishness, but plagued by the preaching of altruists. Sacrifice is the code of altruism, and no life is so important that it should not be sacrificed for another. That’s why there is no talk of trade-offs in today’s society, it’s why people are so squeamish about lives treated as personal values; they have been taught all their lives that they do not matter, that their loved ones do not matter, and to give up ones values is the highest virtue one can aspire to.