The Economics of the Baby Shortage: A Horrifying Counter-example
In Landes and Posner’s famous, The Economics of the Baby Shortage, the authors consider the possibility that baby buyers are likely to self-selecting monsters. Not so, they argue, as
“Moreover, concern for child abuse should not be allowed to obscure the fact that abuse is not the normal motive for adopting a child. And once we put abuse aside, willingness to pay money for a baby would seem on the whole a reassuring factor from the standpoint of child welfare. Few people buy a car or television set to smash it. In general, the more costly a purchase, the more care the purchaser will lavish on it.”
I’ve always found these lines to be particularly bizarre (even in the context of an otherwise famously provocative, probably misleading, essay). In any event, they came to mind when a student in my L&E class forwarded on this chilling story.
“KIEL, Wisconsin, Sept 9 (Reuters) – Todd and Melissa Puchalla struggled more than two years to raise Quita, the troubled teenager they’d adopted from Liberia. When they decided to give up the 16-year-old, they found new parents to take her in less than two days – by posting an ad on the Internet…”
“Nicole and Calvin Eason, an Illinois couple in their 30s, responded quickly. In emails, Nicole Eason assured Melissa Puchalla that she could handle the girl. “People that are around me think I am awesome with kids,” Eason wrote.
A few weeks later, on Oct. 4, 2008, the Puchallas drove from their Wisconsin home to Westville, Illinois. The handoff took place at the Country Aire Mobile Home Park, where the Easons lived.
No attorneys or child welfare officials were present. The Puchallas simply signed a notarized statement declaring these virtual strangers to be Quita’s guardians. The visit lasted a few hours. It was the first and the last time the couples would meet.
To Melissa Puchalla, the Easons “seemed wonderful.” Had she vetted them more closely, she might have discovered what Reuters would learn:
* Child welfare authorities had taken away both Nicole Eason’s biological children years earlier. A sheriff’s deputy wrote that the couple had “violent tendencies.”
* The only official document attesting to their parenting skills – one purportedly drafted by a social worker who had inspected the Easons’ home – was fake, created by the Easons themselves.
* Nicole Eason and another man, Randy Winslow, had taken in a 10-year-old boy advertised online in 2006. Later, Winslow was arrested and is now serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison for sending and receiving child pornography.
On Quita’s first night with the Easons, her new guardians told her to join them in their bed, Quita says today. The Easons say they never shared their bed with any child they took in, but Quita remembers it vividly; Nicole, she says, slept naked.
Within a few days of dropping Quita there, Melissa Puchalla couldn’t reach the Easons and had no idea what had become of the girl. About two weeks passed before authorities located her, took her from the Easons and sent her back to Wisconsin – alone, on a bus.”
Yup. It’s a perfectly safe assumption (if assumptions mattered) that people who buy kids on exchanges are just like everyone else…