Auctioning Off Eggs

  At first glance, I'm told, looks like any other soft-porn web site. Twenty-five dollars a month buys subscribers access to pictures of young women in various states of undress. But at this website, you can do more than look at dirty pictures. If you're in the market for in vitro fertilization, you also have the chance to bid on eggs belonging to beautiful young women. The man who runs, Ron Harris, has been called everything from an embarrassment to a fraud. He's something else as well: He's the embodiment of the limitations of a purely economic worldview. Harris is a fashion photographer who has also done television work for Playboy. But not long ago he heard about an infertile couple who offered tens of thousands of dollars to Ivy League co-eds if they would become egg donors. One model told Harris, "I'd do that," and was born. As Harris explains it, "This is Darwin's natural selection at its very best. The highest bidder gets youth and beauty." To Harris, accumulating "genetic choices" that help ensure children of a good future is a reasonable thing for wealthy parents to want to do. But mainstream fertility groups are horrified at the prospect of someone auctioning off human eggs. Reporters who dug into the story are raising questions about whether Harris is on the level: Some speculate that it's a publicity stunt Harris cooked up. Yet the story illustrates an important point about economics: Treating potential human life like a commodity is the logical outcome of the way secular Americans think about economics. Glenn Loury, a professor of economics at Boston University, told participants at Prison Fellowship's recent Wilberforce Conference that all economists do is explain the choices people make: That is, they can explain why they do one thing with their money and not another. For example, economists can explain the effects of incentives, such as taxation, regulations, and even customs and culture. But economists consider it beyond their discipline to try to make any moral judgments of the choices people make. In other words, economists will tell you why someone does something but not whether he should do it. In the case of Harris, an economist understands why he would come up with an egg auction scheme. After all, women produce only one egg a month, making eggs a relatively rare and valuable commodity. Moreover, studies suggest that all else being equal, the more attractive you are, the better off you will be. So auctioning off the eggs of beautiful women makes perfect economic sense. But as Loury points out, the Bible says that man shall not live by bread alone. Christians understand that there's more to life than buying and selling, and the accumulation of possessions. Treating children like "the ultimate shopping experience," as ethicist Jeremy Rivkin puts it, is a violation of a child's God-given dignity and worth. That's why economics alone cannot form the basis of an ethical worldview. Only those who understand that humans are not merely economic agents but also moral agents can answer the question asked in Ezekiel: "How should we then live?" reveals that without such a worldview, we end up with a culture that carries economics to devilish extremes.


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary