On the value of a human life

A lot of things happened, more than half a century ago; suddenly I’m among the shrinking number who recall this. For today’s Idlepost, I will remember an article I read in a popular science magazine, back then. I’ve forgotten both the title of the publication, and the date of the number. I can, however, say that I was in high school at the time; my fact-checkers may take it from there.

According to this article, the worth of a human being was 98 cents. The authors showed how their figure was arrived at. They had combined current market prices for the materials in an average human frame of 130 pounds. (Details like this I remember.) A sceptic, even then, I recall noting that they excluded hat, mid-season clothing, and shoes, from their total; and that they didn’t mention whether they were citing wholesale or retail values on the flesh and chemicals. Most pointedly, while accompanying my mother to a supermarket, I checked the prices for beef, pork, and broiler chicken, choosing the lowest grades. All were over 10 cents a pound; and so I concluded that the price of the meat alone, per human, would exceed their total estimate.

Given background inflation rates, I think the total value in 2020 may approach twenty dollars, or even twenty-five. I’d have to recheck chemical prices, to be sure. Though perhaps the total might be reduced, closer to one dollar again, for babies.

Now, I hate complicated statistical calculations, so here is an alternative approach.

Once, passing a second-hand bookstore, I spotted in its window a book I very much wanted to acquire. Knowing the bookseller, I dashed into his shop, grabbed the book in question and, clutching it tightly while advancing towards his counter, exclaimed that I had been willing to kill for it.

“How much?” I asked, catching my breath.

“Eighty dollars,” he replied, nonchalantly.

I told him I could not possibly pay that, and sadly released the book from my grip.

“Well,” the bookseller observed. “Thanks to this exercise, we know the value you place on a human life. Less than eighty dollars.”

In those days, I think I would have drawn the line at thirty. But to his moral credit and mine, the bookseller and I were finally able to agree on fifty-five dollars (plus sales tax).

This week, there is a “Virtual March for Life,” from and to virtual Parliament Hill, in virtual Ottawa. Owing to the Communist Chinese Batflu, the actual walk was cancelled — by far the largest annual protest march in the country, although for some obscure reason our progressive media always bury it on an inside page, in the rare instances when they cover it at all. To them, I suppose, the value of a human life is whatever it costs to typeset a paragraph, divided by 20,000 or so.

Call me reckless, but I’m willing to go higher.