Thursday, May 28, 2009

Miscellaneous repugnant transactions

Germany to ban paintball
"The German government is planning to ban paintball and laser shooting games in reaction to the recent school massacre in which 15 people died.
Under legislation agreed by the ruling coalition of the chancellor, Angela ­Merkel, using air rifles to shoot paint-filled pellets at opponents is likely to be made illegal, and would be punishable with fines of up to €5,000 " (HT Muriel Niederle)

Over at Knowledge Problem: Price gouging: Is it wrong? Should it be against the law?

At MR, Tyler Cowen reports:
"Love Land, a sex theme park set to open this October in China won't have the chance to lose it's virginity. Chinese bureaucrats ordered the park destroyed after details of the park's featured attractions were leaked.
The story is here. The rest of the article relates:
The park was to have giant-sized reproductions of male and female anatomy, and offered lessons in safe sex and the proper use of condoms. There was also an exhibition about the history of sex, as well as workshops offering sex techniques.
The entrance to park featured a giant pair of women's legs clad only in a red thong. Those legs are now closed forever. Officials would only say that the concept of the park was vulgar, and deemed unnecessary. Bulldozers and wrecking ball were seen destroying the exhibits as onlookers tried to get a peak.
China considers the topic of sex taboo, even though illegal prostitution is at an all-time high in the country. "

Fertility treatments in Britain: a post actually headlined Repugnant Transactions follows a story in the Guardian, Thousands of women leaving UK for fertility treatment, • Women losing patience with NHS waiting lists • Eggs and donated sperm in short supply, study says.
"Couples here are able to exploit the fact that, in some countries, women who choose to donate eggs can be paid, said Culley, with some donors in America receiving up to $10,000. In Britain, by contrast, tight regulation of fertility means egg donors receive only expenses.
"All the evidence is that cross-border reproductive care is growing. Women here do this for all sorts of reasons," she said. "There is a serious shortage of eggs, donated sperm is in shorter supply than before, the cost can be cheaper abroad and some people want IVF which they can't get on the NHS."
...
"Isobel O'Neill, a fertility counsellor in Glasgow, said couples seeking a donated egg who visit the Glasgow Royal Infirmary are told there is a six- or seven-year wait for one on the NHS. Even those willing to pay at the private Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine, where she also works, face a delay of up to a year."

California High Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban
"The California Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, ratifying a decision made by voters last year. The ruling comes at a time when several state governments have moved in the opposite direction.
"The court’s decision does, however, preserve the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed between the justices’ ruling last May that same-sex marriage was constitutionally protected and voters’ passage in November of Proposition 8, which banned it.
The court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George for a 6-to-1 majority, noted that same-sex couples still had a right to civil unions. Such unions, the opinion said, gives those couples the ability to “choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.”
Justice George wrote that Proposition 8 did not “entirely repeal or abrogate” the right to such a protected relationship. Instead, he said, it “carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights, reserving the official designation of the term ‘marriage’ for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law.”
The 18,000 existing marriages can stand, he wrote, because Proposition 8 did not include language specifically saying it was retroactive."

Update, hugging: Jorge Ortiz directs my attention to a story in today's NY Times that I had overlooked, some high schools are banning hugs:
"And schools from Hillsdale, N.J., to Bend, Ore., wary in a litigious era about sexual harassment or improper touching — or citing hallway clogging and late arrivals to class — have banned hugging or imposed a three-second rule. "

An innovative early paper on repugnance: Ravi Kanbur, "On Obnoxious Markets", July 2001. Revised version published in Stephen Cullenberg and Prasanta Pattanaik (editors), Globalization, Culture and the Limits of the Market: Essays in Economics and Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2004.
Professor Kanbur argues that extreme outcomes, and asymmetric and inadequate information, and inequality are big components in making markets obnoxious, and I agree.

I'm personally reluctant to set out a theory of what makes markets repugnant since I always find markets that don't fit into any simple framework. Same-sex marriage, for example, is a transaction that many people find repugnant (and is now once again illegal in California, see above), but it is no more extreme, or subject to asymmetric information, or unequal than heterosexual marriage, which is just about the opposite of a repugnant transaction, what we might call a "protected" transaction.

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