Thursday, January 31, 2008

Quantifying the "Ick" Factor

Today's New York Times has an interesting article on what I call the "Ick" Factor - that deeply ingrained gut feeling that makes you object to something, even if you can't explain why. Economists are trying to figure out why that happens, as in the case of situations where the Ick Factor deploys when money gets involved:

Often introducing money into the exchange — putting it into the marketplace — is what people find repugnant. Mr. Bloom asserted that money is a relatively new invention in human existence and therefore 'unnatural.'

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Money is clearly the issue in situations involving the human body. Paying young women for eggs to be fertilized and men for sperm is now common practice — even though they are still regularly referred to as 'donors.' Yet the sale of tissue, cells and eggs for stem-cell research or organs for transplant are still the subject of vehement dispute.
For all the mularkey that "the business of America is business," we often get freaked out in certain situations where a profit motive seems inappropriate. That's illogical, in most instances. But it's a hard reflex to get past.

1 comment:

Rebecca Burch said...

True... true...

It's funny how that works. It's the same sort of thinking that says teachers shouldn't get paid much because they're doing it for the greater good. It doesn't make sense, especially since sports players and other pop culture icons make bajillions of dollars while a lot of teachers can't afford to buy a home, but it's a major factor in how people think about these issues.

I think the psychology of finance is interesting, though. As a social experiment, it's interesting to see how we apply monetary value to different things in our society, even if it is maddening and often frustrating to see what we want to value through money, and what we think should not be given monetary value. A lot of the things we really should push more money toward get screwed because we have this issue with those things earning a profit. But who could do the best with the money? Stem-cell researchers? Teachers? Or Soulja Boy?

I'm just sayin'...