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6 Things Money Shouldn’t Be Able to Buy

From cushy prison cells to human kidneys, some things just shouldn't be for sale.

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What's next? Paying for a job?

3. Leadership Positions in Congress

No other legislature in the developed world does it. But in America, congressional parties now post prices for key slots on committees. It wasn’t always so, but in the last few decades, the old seniority system that used to govern leadership selection and committee assignments has been swept away. As political scientist Thomas Ferguson explains, “In its place, the parties copied practices of big-box retailers like Walmart, Best Buy or Target…You want it – you buy it.”

Cash flow now determines the most fundamental structure of lawmaking. Ferguson describes a system in which outside influencers can determine who leads in Congress and what legislation gets passed based on how much money they donate. And the new system of lawmaking is only becoming more blatant and grotesque in its efficiency:

“They even sell on the installment plan: You want to chair an important committee? That'll be $200,000 down and the same amount later, through fundraising. Unlike most retailers, though, Congressional leaders selling committee positions never offer discounts. Prices only drift up over time.”

4. Airport Security Checks

While the folks in coach are standing in long lines, wealthy customers zip through security at lightning speed. Why? Because they can afford to.

We've always had shorter lines for first-class check-in and boarding. But two-tiered security is a new thing. Before 9/11, airports were responsible for security screening and used private security contractors. After the attacks, Congress created the taxpayer-funded Transportation Security Administration to handle screening. But only rich taxpayers get the benefit of the express lines that many airports have created to pamper more affluent travelers. As Joshua Holland has noted, “it’s a case of the government maintaining and enforcing a blatant class division.”

The Registered Traveler program, launched by the TSA in 2004, allows passengers to pay a fee of up to $200 to a private company for "pre-screening." Holland notes that such programs makes travel less safe, as those who pay aren’t subjected to the same kinds of searches as regular flyers.

5. Doctor’s Cell Phone Number

Our private healthcare system has clearly failed us. We have by far the most expensive system in the developed world, and many of us still can’t seem to get basic services or see a doctor when we need one. But the doctor is always in if you’ve got the dough.

Concierge medicine, also known as boutique or retainer medicine, is a growing trend in which you pay a fee, usually thousands of dollars, for the kind of attention from your doctor that you would be naturally receiving under a more humane system. One such perk is your doctor’s cell phone number.

Doctors are supposed to follow an ethical code requiring them to care for sick people, but in the case of concierge medicine, the sick who have money will be cared for first. Most concierge physicians still keep their traditional practice, but take additional fees from a small number of patients who receive special perks and priority treatment. Concierge medicine takes the two-tiered system that has always existed in the healthcare system and makes it official.

6. Human Organs

It used to be considered an urban legend, but yes, there is a robust black market for human organs which often involves violence. Criminals in the organ trade can make many times what they pay; a kidney, for example, may cost $10,000 and be sold for up to $150,000.

As the world's poor grow increasingly desperate, brokers are getting bolder. According to a Bloomberg report, “brokers use deception, violence and coercion to buy kidneys from impoverished people, mainly in underdeveloped countries, and then sell them to critically ill patients in more-affluent nations.”