The Elgar Companion to the Economics of Property Rights
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The Elgar Companion to the Economics of Property Rights

Edited by Enrico Colombatto

Economics is a matter of choice and growth, of interaction and exchange among individuals. Because property rights define the rules of these interactions and the objects of exchange, it is vital to fully understand the institutions and implications of the various property-rights regimes. With over 20 original and specially commissioned chapters, this book takes the reader from the historical and moral foundations of the discipline to the frontiers of scholarly research in the field.
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Chapter 12: Germline Engineering: Whose Right?

Lloyd Cohen


Lloyd Cohen* Introduction The issue to which I shall direct my attention in this chapter is human ‘germline engineering’. This term refers to the coming prospect of changing the genetic code of human embryos. There are many within the community of philosophers, scientists, ‘medical ethicists’ and laymen who oppose such tinkering. I do not; I relish the prospect. If there is some justification in prohibiting germline engineering it must rest on the evil or harm of the activity. I make a distinction between evil and harm to allow for the possibility that some action might fall in the first category (evil) while not falling in the second (harm), that is, that there is a moral dimension to human action independent of its effect – or intended effect – on other human beings. But because as a lawyer and economist I can offer no special insight into evil, I shall restrict my inquiry to harm. My ultimate argument flows from the outcome of the analysis of the various potential harms alleged to flow from germline engineering. While I find that there may be minor categories that are problematic, these are no more than quirky – almost bizarre – exceptions to the central case, that is, that germline intervention will yield an enormous improvement in the human lot. Those exceptional instances in which one could imagine germline intervention resulting in harm to the human condition or prospect neither require nor justify any significant restraint or prohibition of germline intervention in general. Some readers may...

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