Babies are a-booming in the modern world. Especially across the western hemisphere, increasing numbers of couples are looking to adopt after exhausting all other methods of procuring offspring. Therefore ‘babies’ have blossomed into a full scale industry. Driven by the same demand that say, fertility clinics are driven by.
Supply of course is monopolized by fully legalized adoption agencies. And this works like any other market in the sense that there is a cost attached to adoption, mainly when it comes to fees. And there is also a prosperous bunch of intermediaries operating such as lawyers, counselors etc. But this is a highly regularized process and with supply unable to keep up with demand, a black market for baby trade has emerged and is prospering resulting in kidnappings and even blatant baby selling.
The incident that triggered this post happened in good old Ceylon. And we’re well-known to have a highly de-regularized baby trade market. We’ve been hearing about it for years. Ever since i was a kid, I remember it as being a part of popular culture, there were countless numbers of Singhalese tele-dramas I’ve watched that talked about how this baby was sold to (for e.g. a family in UK) and how the kid returns after long years of absence to a remote village in a sunny island etc to find its birth parents in a poor little house built of clay etc.
The point being that due to poverty and various other reasons like loose sexual habits among rural youth and the lack of reliable abortion options lot of babies were being born that were unwanted. Many of these babies were literally being treated as garbage with numerous incidents of unwanted offspring being found dumped by the sides of roads (apparently baskets and doorsteps are an alien concept over here) and even murdered.
As discussed, at the same time, there was burgeoning demand for babies in many Western states. In states where populations were on the decline and prosperity was on the rise, couples were increasingly looking choosing adoption as an option instead of giving birth or due to impotency.
So now we have the demand for babies as well as the supply of babies which are the main ingredients of any industry right? But much of the fees potential adopters have to pay (which sometimes number in the thousands, and I am talking hard currency) go to all the intermediaries and to adoption agencies. Poor parents will only have the satisfaction of knowing that that cuddly little bundle of love will have found a (hopefully) happy home.
But why does this have to be the case? Why can’t we make sure the baby gets a good place to grow up and make a buck at the same time? i guess most of them started to think that way and i think despite popular belief, rural Sri Lankans do have a grasp of market economics for this has been happening for quite some time. The latest going price seems to have been Rs. 66,000. But then again, that was a domestic sale. If it was a foreigner the price would undoubtedly have doubled (just like tuk tuk and bus fare and basically anything else a white skinned person tries to buy on our golden shores). Clever aren’t we?
But it’s not only here where this is happening; Africa is major supplier of babies, also countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam (just look at the celebrity list of adopters).
So why don’t they just de-regularize the whole thing and let babies be treated as just another export good? We could have separate baby commodity markets as well, maybe diversify our investment portfolios now that oil is on the drop, stock markets are crashing and even gold isn’t as reliable as it used to be. Hell, babies could end up saving the world from a Great Depression. And Friedman would be happy too. A free market should, after all, be a free market. What do you think?