High prices are always immoral

It's been some time since I wrote a post about animal cloning, but I see that there's now legislation pending which would criminalize the practice in California:

SACRAMENTO - With a Bay Area company making international headlines by pioneering commercial cloning, a state legislator said Monday he will try to outlaw the practice in California.

Assembly member Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, plans to introduce legislation banning the sale of cloned or genetically altered pets -- a measure that, if it were to become law, would slam the door on a Sausalito-based company's lucrative new business.

Genetic Savings & Clone Inc. gained notoriety as the world's first company to clone a cat and then offer the service commercially. For $50,000, the firm delivered a clone to a paying customer for the first time in December.

The company has four more cats in the works. One could be delivered within the week, company officials said.

Levine said the practice should be stopped because the nascent industry is unregulated and the pet world already suffers from overpopulation. More than 1 million animals are euthanized at California's shelters each year, he said.

"Cloning and sale of pets is not ready at this point in time,'' Levine said. "There's no consumer protection, and this is not a regulated industry.''

Well, any industry which is unregulated has to be regulated, right? When I posted about this back in December, people thought I was out of line to criticize the regulatory mindset -- because they hadn't yet proposed any legislation. Well, now they have, and my objection has not changed. Nor has the "reasoning" of the moralizers:
. . . Critics say the money used for cloning would be better spent to support shelters or find new homes for the animals stuck there. Others say the practice is ethically wrong.

Hawthorne defended his business, noting that genetically modified plants and animals are commonplace. If concern over pet overpopulation is driving the bill, then animal breeders should be shut down, he said.

"What I'm wondering is what's the basis of this,'' Hawthorne said. "You can't start randomly banning things without some justification.''

You can't? While I have better things to spend my money on than creating a twin of Puff (which I think would be a mistake because he wouldn't be the same dog, and it's better to start fresh), the only moral objections they can come up with are:

  • a. how much the cloning procedure costs; and
  • b. that there are too many unwanted pets.
  • Neither one of these objections makes any sense. As I said in December:

    Lots of people would spend thousands of dollars to save a sick pet. Isn't that also elitist by the same argument, and wouldn't that money be better off spent on "homes for a lot of strays?" Seen this way, purchasing any expensive item is immoral. Plenty of people spend $50,000 for a car. Isn't that also technology "available only to the wealthy?"

    Then there's the argument that "new feline production systems aren't needed because thousands of stray cats are euthanized each year for want of homes." I suspect if these people had their way, they'd make it illegal to breed any animals at all.

    People who want to place limitations on human technology make me as nervous as the people who want to place limitations on what people can do with their money. Placing limits on technology seems to go hand in hand with the zero sum game, and echoes the thinking of Paul Ehrlich and Jeremy Rifkin. If they had their way, all humans would be neutered, leashed, regulated back to the stone age, life extension would be blocked, and we'd never be allowed to leave the planet.

    I suppose that someone might make the argument that if it's immoral to create a new human life by means of cloning technology, that it's just as immoral to create animal life, but I haven't heard it in this debate. It boils down to the high cost, plus availability of alternatives, and these arguments could be made about nearly anything.

    If something is too expensive, make it illegal! That's at the core of the inane objection to Apple iPods by an MIT professor who complained of a "participation gap."

    Might as well ban expensive guns! (Well, that's after we get rid of inexpensive Saturday night specials.....) And while we're at it, private schools have got to go. Do you realize how much money parents fritter away on elitist education while existing public school districts can't even afford to pay their teachers?

    UPDATE: Randall Parker has much more on this subject (including some very cool hypothetical examples), and links to this press release from GSC answering man of the critics' objections. (If only ideologues were persuaded by having their objections answered!)

    posted by Eric on 05.02.05 at 07:42 AM


    I say let people have their cloned pets. They're paying for research that may eventually get the rest of us cloned organs. (I'm ambivalent on the subject of cloned humans, given the fact of real clones in the form of identical twins. If they're treated as twins, that's one thing; if they're treated like test tube babies that's the same, but if they're treated as somehow lesser I see big red STOP signs.)

    B. Durbin   ·  May 2, 2005 1:27 PM

    Oh, and I love my shelter kitties, and would never bother with a cloned pet myself.

    B. Durbin   ·  May 2, 2005 1:27 PM

    We have always been faced with idiots proposing idiotic laws (and even getting them passed - see assault weapons ban) but seeing such proposals is like a canary in a mine; we know liberty is safe.

    notherbob2   ·  May 2, 2005 2:06 PM

    That's the problem with the lefties. My money *must* be spent on someone else's welfare. Good think I drive a Kia--if I drove an Escalade, who knows what kind of names they'd call me.

    People should be able to spend their money on anything legal, and a *compelling* state interest should be identified before making an item (or a practice) illegal.

    Darren   ·  May 4, 2005 7:47 PM

    You People (tm) always complain about guns and gas prices. Good thing. Therefore, you can carefully and rigorously ignore all of the other government/plutocracy control over the price of nearly all commodities. Yes, your heroes at the American Enterprise Institute and Cato are the defenders of the price controls, kept under the radar by both the media and the think tanks (and, apparently, the libertarian bloggers). Virtually every aspect of doing business, making a purchase, travelling, working, or eating is under control of the precious "market" plutocracy. Payroll taxes, property taxes, tariffs, protections on commodity prices, etc. all have profound impact on wages and prices. Don't forget the massive subsidy on gasoline (about 800%) that "fuels" the "market-driven" economy. It's all a big shell game. Good thinkg you are Glenn Reynolds are there to support it.

    Anonymous   ·  May 9, 2005 9:45 AM

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