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July 09, 2006



[She also, of course, has to justify this decision to society, not just herself]

Absolutely not. If followed to its logical extension this would give "society" an absolutely monstrous right of control over the bodies of its members. Quite apart from anything, every ovum in Zoe Williams' body is a call option on a future human life whether fertilised or not, so under your criterion, she would have to justify every single menstrual cycle that passed without her becoming a breeding machine. For "society". I believe that this was once the political doctrine followed in Romania, but it wasn't very popular.


"I've had an abortion, and I'm not ashamed in the slightest."

She seems to think abortion rights are to be preserved by as many women as possible standing up and saying this. I don't know why; how she felt about is is surely irrelevant?


I think it is because the pro-life movement want the woman to shoulder all the guilt. She is trying to break the last taboo on it by saying many women feel relief not guilt. I don't she meant it to preserve rights, just to say that the idea that many think women feel guilty for the rest of their lives is not always the case.

It is not a boast as it is sad when such a decision is made. Just when many women are in such a situation where that kind of decision is made, they are desperate. That is why it is a relief.

Owen Barder

I think the analogy with call options is flawed. With an option to buy a share, more shares in the future is better. This is time-consistent: there is an option value to me today of a future share.

But my valuation of future people is not time consistent. Ex ante, it is not valuable (at least, not to me) that there are more people in the future. So I don't attach an option value today to a person's future existence. A person only becomes valuable (and so enter into my utility calculations) once they actually exist.

If you remove the assumption that I attach value today to there being future people, then the options pricing approach does not work, does it?


Maynard Handley

If we are going to say that human life is an externality, who is to say it is a POSITIVE externality. There are plenty of reasons for saying that it is a negative externality, that the cost of this person in resources consumed and pollution generated are almost always going to be higher than the ultimate value generated by this person. Do you really care whether or not John Ericcson lived or died in Sweden in 1271? Me neither. Sure we care about Newton, about Michelangelo. But most lives are not such. Most lives matter little to anyone else but their friends and family --- but their resource consumption and their greenhouse gases affect all of us.

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