Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fighting recession in the courts

Various folks have been having fun laying into Jacqui Smith's plans to criminalise men who pay for sex with trafficked women - women who are "controlled for another's gain" is her phrase. The thrust of the argument seems to be that the proposed legislation would be completely unworkable, that competing definitions of "controlled for another's gain" could lead to seriously weird outcomes, that she doesn't really understand the sociology of migrant prostitution, that it would be completely unenforceable, that the government is just trying to propose some eye-catching legislation rather than doing anything serious about the problem, that sort of thing.[1]

Apparently, people think this is a problem, but I can't help feeling that they're missing the big picture. Unity, at Ministry of Truth, sort of gets it.


It’s perfect isn’t it?

It’s got just exactly the right mix of patriotic fervour and naked economic protectionism you need for a good slogan at a time when the countries heading into a recession and it fits the policy like an expensively-tailored Saville Row suit.

If visiting a foreign prostitute means taking the risk that they might have been trafficked to get here then play safe, boys, and stick firmly to our own home-grown hookers - you just know it makes sense!

This is at least halfway there: you have to understand that this is about economics, rather than social policy - it's an all-too-rare example of co-ordinated action between the Treasury and the Home Office. And a bit of economic protectionism is certainly part of that - let the nice, virtuous British girls keep the well-paying, relatively normal side of the trade, and send those filthy migrants deeper underground to hang out with the real sickos. Very commendable.

Then he goes off and starts talking about how the problem is that this proposal was based on research by people who can't even spell the word, and I've got to say he loses me a little.

Because, people, in the times we're living through, this plan is sheer genius. In case nobody noticed, there's a credit crunch on, economic confidence is tanking, and what is needed is a serious economic stimulus to prime the pumps, Keynes-style.

Yes, John Maynard Keynes is back in fashion for the first time in decades, and what does he say governments should do in times like these? Well there are the fiscal measures, but they're small potatoes. What's needed is for the government to create some employment. As yer man said, it needn't actually be useful employment: you can pay people "to dig holes in the ground" and fill them up again, just so long as it keeps things moving.[2]

Enter the Crown Prosecution Service, who have kindly agreed to provide more employment to hundreds of fresh-faced young paralegals by sending them into court to try any number of new crimes. More employment, created by the government from whole cloth. Trouble is, these folks have up till now just been taking notes as people plead guilty to things like drink driving offences. The idea of them prosecuting people for assault is a little scary, and has been stirring up a shit-storm amongst legal professionals, who all have some ridiculous bee in their collective bonnet about justice running its proper course. Yes obviously they're fools - too long on jurisprudence and sadly short on macroeconomics - but until we can get rid of the courts altogether and set up some sort of market for justice we're stuck with them. So how do we square the circle?

I think you know the answer: we create some jobs that our brave new work-force can do. Doesn't matter if they have any other purpose - we're just trying to provide employment, remember. And in this spirit, I put it to you that Jacqui Smith is in fact doing her darndest to help us out of this mess: by passing a law that no amount of legal erudition or professionalism is going to help sort out, she's neatly side-stepping the objections of barristers everywhere and essentially providing a Criminal Law Full Employment Act.[3] Think about it - any dosser who's prepared to stand up in front of a judge and pretend that they know what the hell this law is about need never go hungry again. This thing can run and run - sales of wigs and gowns are going to soar, winebars will be hiring all the staff that they can get in order to service baffled paralegal booze-hounds, and shares in the legal publishing industry will skyrocket. At least some of this money will probably go on migrant prostitutes, and so, Simba, will continue the cycle of our glorious economic recovery...[4]

[1] To give her her due, Melanie McDonagh at the Telegraph is completely unconcerned about the fact that the legislation wouldn't do any good, just so long as it makes us all feel better about ourselves. It's not immediately clear that she realises the full economic genius of the plan, but look harder. After all, no-one (and certainly not an honest-to-goodness professional journalist for a respectable broadsheet newspaper) would be stupid enough to suggest that, because a problem is really serious, we shouldn't consider practical solutions to it, would they? Me, I think Mel sees the big picture here.

[2] There's obviously a less high-minded direction we could take the whole "emptying and filling holes" idea, but Jayne says she's going to do a load of smut-related posts in the future, and I don't want to steal her thunder.

[3] The idea itself isn't actually that original. The DMCA in the US and the EUCD in the EU are both good examples of welfare for IP lawyers. But the timing was all wrong for those.

[4] Some people think it's a good idea to direct investment at productive projects designed to make the economy more sustainable, less vulnerable to energy price hikes, etc. etc. These people are communists, and should not be taken seriously.


Anonymous Smyf said...

If a woman is forced into prostitution, beaten and raped, then we already have laws to deal with the situation. Considering that the brothels operate openly then it's just a case of either priorities or lack of will to address the problem. It's not particularly difficult to raid a brothel and verify who works there and their status - assuming of course you accept that police actually try to stop crime and anyone cares about illegal immigration.

03 December, 2008 10:45  

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