Volume 30, Issue 1, Spring 2016
The Price of a Person
While we’re inclined to think that a person is (as Kant put it) “above all price,” we in fact make a lot of decisions that seem to set a price on persons—or, at least, on their life. For example, I was recently involved with setting standards for buildings in areas susceptible to earthquakes. The consensus seemed to be $3/sq. ft. increase in construction cost was reasonable, more than that was not, even though lives could be saved if the standard were higher, assuring the survival of more buildings. Though the Ford Pinto remains the classic case of unjustifiably putting a price on persons, it is at once not such a clear case and also useful for thinking about when putting a price on life can be justified.