Multi-Ethnic Corruption and the Black Market for Organs
By Stephen J. Dubner
You probably know already that 44 people were arrested yesterday, mostly in New Jersey, for corruption and money-laundering. They included mayors, rabbis, and assemblymen (oh my!).
The story is simultaneously vast and banal, seeming to illustrate every cliché of politicians and the people who seek to grease their palms. There are many, many angles to be discussed. A few thoughts that sprung to mind include:
If nothing else, it is nice to see that people of many ethnic and religious backgrounds can work together to allegedly bribe and cheat. You’ve got your Syrian Jews, your Italian-Americans and African-Americans, your Latinos and … well, at least it seems to have been an equal-opportunity corruption racket.
Even though this investigation was handled by law enforcement from the outset, such corruption circles are often exposed by investigative journalists. For a variety of reasons, it may be easier for a whistle-blower to go to a journalist than to the police or F.B.I. Thanks to a cratering newspaper business model, a lot of journalists are getting fired, especially in New Jersey. It’s hard not to wonder how much easier it will be in the future to commit this kind of petty corruption when there are fewer nosy reporters around.
Note that the case even involved some trafficking in human organs:
Another man in Brooklyn, Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum, was accused of enticing vulnerable people to give up a kidney for $10,000 and then selling the organ for $160,000. Mr. Dwek pretended to be soliciting a kidney on behalf of someone and Mr. Rosenbaum said that he had been in business of buying organs for years, according to the complaint.
Remember this story the next time someone brings up the need for a legitimate, regulated market for human organs, as we’ve discussed here many times in the past. Many people’s objection to such a market is that poor people would suffer because a) they won’t be able to afford to buy organs; and b) they may be coerced into selling them. But with the current black market, poor people are already being excluded from getting organs (because there’s a scarcity of donated organs) and being lured into selling them — although in this case, it appears that a middleman got to pocket $150,000 while the “donors” got only $10,000.