Thoughts on trading blood and money


By Benjamin Bassham, News Editor

It’s ruthlessly cold-blooded but there has to be an exchange rate between human lives and money. When I was 12. I learned that a human life is worth about $5 million.

When a safety measure is being considered, the cost of implementing it is weighed against the value of the lives it will save. Safety regulators say it isn’t worth it if it costs more than $5 million for every life saved.

If we spend $5 million to save a life then that money has been exchanged for a life.

I learned this about 15 years ago from a TV program about some aviation disaster and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

The value of life is capped too. Fifty million dollars can’t be spent to just save one life if it could save 10.

I rather hate this logic because it makes humanity seem cheap and interchangeable, but I can’t find a fault in it. The best I can do is quibble about the price.

This exchange goes the other way too; it’s called gainful employment. Someone trades irreplaceable hours, weeks and years of their life for cash, hoping that they can trade it back by making life longer or better. Consider what you’re spending next time you go shopping. Do you really need that? Is it worth that many hours of your life?

The fascinating part is the same logic in reverse; if you waste $5 million you are a murderer. That puts government spending and corruption in perspective.

Imagine a world where lives are literally currency. We might read in the news, “Today, the governor announced that 50 innocent people will be dragged out into the street and shot; now we can build the new interstate. It’s expensive, but the boost to the economy is expected to enrich the lives of millions.”

Really it’s the same system we have now, except taxes spread our cost in lives among the multitudes. The same amount would be paid in this “Whole Lives System,” only most people would pay no taxes and a few people would pay a significantly higher tax. There’d be some blood and bodies to clean up afterward though.

Maybe that’s an improvement, since there would be no way to hide the cost. Hearing that money has been spent doesn’t have the same impact as a rotting corpse on your doorstep.

“Today, activists celebrated as a screaming mother and her child were stuffed into a gas chamber, providing funding for the new Children’s Center.”

Perhaps politicians would be a little more hesitant about signing off on multi-billion dollar projects if they had to spend the day watching the firing squads at work. I’m certain people would crack down on pork barreling and embezzlement if the costs were laid so starkly before them.

For amounts less than one life, people could be strapped into that torture device from “The Princess Bride” that shortens your life a little at a time.

“Don’t mind the screaming coming from the other room, we’re financing Women’s History Month. Hold on, we need balloons. Raise the voltage!”

Today the national debt in the United States is about $19 trillion. That’s equal to 3.8 million lives. That’s about the population of Los Angeles, or a third of the total people killed in the Holocaust.

A lot of that debt is from bailing out bankers, who needed help because of how much money they wasted, and from funding the endless war in the Middle East. We’re spending lives to fund the taking of lives.

And the deficit has been increasing by about $1 trillion yearly for the last eight years, so that’s another 200,000 dead added annually. Imagine the constant stream of people, filing past on their way to the death camps. That is one heck of a price tag.

Benjamin Bassham is a news editor of The Advocate. Contact him at [email protected].