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67 B.U. L. Rev. 59 (1987)
The Regulation of the Market in Adoptions

handle is hein.journals/bulr67 and id is 65 raw text is: THE REGULATION OF THE MARKET IN ADOPTIONSt
Richard A. Posner*
Whenever critics of the law-and-economics movement want an example of
its excesses they point to what is popularly known as the baby selling
article, which Dr. Elisabeth Landes and I wrote almost a decade ago.' The
article is usually, although incorrectly, described as advocating a free market
in babies. Worse, an official of a national adoption organization wrote me
recently (and more important, the Wall Street Journal) that, as he under-
stood the article, I advocate allowing the wealthy parents of a child who
needs a liver transplant to buy a child and harvest its liver for their own
child. In fact, Dr. Landes and I had stated in the article: Laws forbidding
child abuse and neglect would continue to be fully applicable to adoptive
parents even if baby sales were permitted.'2
Another profound misconception about the article is that in discussing the
t @ 1987 by Richard A. Posner.
* Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; Senior Lecturer, Univer-
sity of Chicago Law School. This is the revised text of a lecture given in the
Distinguished Lecture Series of Boston University Law School on October 10, 1986.
The comments of Gary Becker, and the comments and assistance of Richard Porter,
are gratefully acknowledged.
I Landes & Posner, The Economics of the Baby Shortage, 7 J. LEGAL STUD. 323
(1978). For a briefer treatment of the subject see R. POSNER, ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF
LAW § 5.4, at 139-43 (3d ed. 1986). For discussions of the baby selling article by
the popular press see, e.g., Barrett, Influential Ideas: A Movement Called 'Law and
Economics' Sways Legal Circles, Wall St. J., Aug. 4, 1986, at 1, col. 1, 16, col. 2;
McDaniel, Free-Market Jurist, NEWSWEEK, June 10, 1985, at 93-94; Caplan, Meet
Richard Posner, the Judge Who Would Sell Homeless Babies, Washington Post Nat'l
Weekly Ed. (Commentary), Oct. 29, 1984, at 23, col. 1. For temperate scholarly
criticism of the Landes-Posner article see Prichard, A Market for Babies?, 34 U.
TORONTO L.J. 341, 347-57 (1984); for intemperate see Kelman, Consumption Theory,
Production Theory and the Ideology of the Coase Theorem, 52 S. CAL. L. REv. 669,
688 n.51 (1979) (commenting on my discussion of baby selling in ECONoMIc ANALY-
SIS OF LAW, and calling it, without elaboration, irrational and immoral, a parody
of Jonathan Swift's 'Modest Proposal' ).
2 Landes & Posner, supra note 1, at 344. The letter, by William L. Pierce,
President of the National Committee for Adoption, was published in the Wall Street
Journal of Aug. 22, 1986, at 16, col. 1. In further correspondence with me, Pierce
stated that he had never read my article with Dr. Landes and that his understanding
of my position came from accounts in the popular press, such as Barrett's article
cited in note 1, supra. Letter from William L. Pierce to Richard A. Posner (August 4,

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