For our micro class, Prof. Walter Williams created a list of questions for us to ponder over the course of the semester. With our first test looming, I broke out the packet and came across this particularly interesting one:
30. a) Is life priceless? What evidence can you offer to support your contention?
My short answer is "No, because people die."
Granted, this is a little simplistic; sometimes people would pay anything to save someone but they can't because of natural or legal barriers. So my slightly longer answer is "No, because life-sustaining goods cost a finite amount."
Food, for example, costs a measurable number, even the healthy stuff. If life was priceless, then food would cost a great deal more. Indeed, nothing is priceless. When I went to the Natural History Museum and saw the Hope Diamond, I overheard a guard responding to a woman's question of the object's worth. "It's priceless," he said.
But we know the government doesn't think the diamond is priceless because if it did, they wouldn't risk showing it to the public; they would keep it hidden at all times to make it that much harder for thieves and revolutionaries. Similarly, if human life was priceless, we'd never risk leaving our homes and be 100% risk averse. We clearly are not so careful.