What Money Cannot Buy

Human red blood cells magnified 1000 times
Human red blood cells magnified 1000 times

I recently came across the work of Richard Titmuss (1907-1973). He was the father of social policy and was known as the ‘high priest of the welfare state’.

His most famous book was his last one called “The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy”In it, he studied what was the most effective method for people to give blood – the market (i.e. paying them) or altruism (i.e. goodness of their own heart). Luckily for him, he had both systems in place in the real world with the US using the market and the UK using voluntary donations. 

What did he find? Well as you’d expect from his leanings, he found that the quantity and quality of blood given was much higher in the altruism/donation system rather then the market/payment system. This he called the gift relationship which was driven by our recognition of the common humanity.

Naturally, there have been various critiques of his work (see Tim Hartford’s blog), but I love the idea that giving is better than receiving, so I’ll happily go along with the principle!

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