Any discussion of economic relationships and the character of society needs to fully consider the reality of prostitution or it remains incomplete. Initially, this can be a fraught undertaking but the honest citizen observing social difficulty with a conscience is obliged to make an effort given the implications of prostitution and human trafficking for women, youth and children within what is a very large, global business.
The essence of prostitution is the purchase of temporary access to the body of another, mostly by a man, for the purposes of penetration and gratification. While such a transaction seems simple enough it is usually accompanied by a societal smokescreen of ignorance, opinion, financial interest and emotionalism such that the reality remains obscure with a subsequently frustrating effect on creating a general perspective, let alone helpful social policy.
With this difficulty in mind we are lucky to have a generation of individuals giving us their efforts and words. Some of their urgency about prostitution is a response to recent legalization efforts in a number of countries. While considered sensible and well-intentioned at first these legalization efforts appear to be resulting in more harm than good. Prostitution seems to become industrialized where it is legalized.
Simple legalization ignores the direct reality of selling one’s body and little accounts for the behaviour of the male buyer. This blog recently came across the work of three women activists that offer a high-level starting point for considering this topic. Their Twitter accounts are a quick way to find and learn from their articles, websites, activism and books. Natashe Falle is in Toronto (see also her site Sex Trade 101). Rachel Moran and Julie Bindel are in Ireland and the UK respectively with Caitlin Roper Australia-based.
Through varied paths these women seem to have arrived at a common appreciation for what needs to come after legalization of the kind seen in New Zealand and Germany as well as other countries.
Here is a recent item from the website of UK magazine The Spectator by Julie Bindel with a podcast and other links.
Over sixty percent of Canada’s reported human trafficking activity takes place in the Greater Toronto Area. This CBC piece describes a recent case in Mississauga. The dull image of a row of motels on Dundas Street, a major artery used daily by a huge number of motor vehicles, gives no indication of the human risk encountered by trafficked women and youth in such places. While most of North America’s sprawl does not have ‘traditional’ red light districts like those of Amsterdam, for example, these communities are still home to sexual exploitation, pimping and prostitution.
Recent attention to the so-called Nordic Model in which the criminalizing of paid sexual activity is transferred to the male buyer has generated enthusiasm and backlash. Canada is considered a Nordic Model country but it would seem there is still plenty of work to do on all of this.
Basic Income: and How We Can Make It Happen
Guy Standing, 2017
Penguin Random House UK
$18.99 CAN paperback
Chapter four of this treatise on the social policy mechanism of universal basic income is the sweetest. There lies the magic of it all. We know poverty is expensive. A properly executed basic income would cut the cost of poverty and in so doing liberate a good portion of the fiscal resources needed to pay for itself. By no means is this the only way to afford a social dividend for all citizens as chapter seven attests. And afford it we must: this world is changing.
Guy Standing has been an intellectual point man for basic income on a global stage for many years now. He gives us the rationale and the ‘how to’ in his newest book. In the age of President 45, Boris Johnson, Rob Ford, Martin Skreli and other ineffective, uncaring and unhinged elite leaders Professor Standing has the contrasting voice of a grown adult. He has taken on the work of comprehending and advocating something in detail. At times things are technical, plodding even. But to do any difficult thing, as an individual academic or as a society, makes the demand for seriousness. It can also involve reward and rates respect. So it is with this book.
Other parts of this manual refer to the expected benefits of basic income and clarify it from other approaches to social welfare including historical ones. Somewhat new to our consideration of basic income was a potential contribution to environmental protection. More familiar are sections of the book describing the improvement in the quality of economic relationships and personal well being associated with a fully realized and well-executed basic income.
An important chapter is number six. Entitled The Standard Objections, it is designed to empower supporters of basic income. Enthusiasm on the part of those already converted is not going to be the determinant of whether or not we get the goodies. Not in an era of still lethal neoliberalism. Other voters, taxpayers, citizens, policy makers will have to be won over. A piece of work.
Chapter twelve displays its merits in this direction. Professor Standing tells us that ‘…the primary block to implementation of a basic income system is political, not economic or philosophical.’ Absolutely, this is true. We also must understand that as never before there is an opportunity, a window, for basic income. This last chapter is the one we will be reading over again as soon as possible. This is where we go from lively possibility to reality via public pressure. Here, anti-basic income emotionalism about worker dropout and a costly, unrealistic or even fully immoral ”something for nothing” pipe dream is addressed.
We do recommend this book. How could we not, really?
Nurses and physicians have steadily reminded us about the impact of poverty on our bodies, minds and communities. Social workers, too. Now we have commentary from a chief of police for an Ontario community that is part of a pilot policy project designed to guard citizens against poverty. Chief Hagerty’s work week in Lindsay (population 20,354 in 2011) no doubt involves more than a few metrics related to general community welfare. His officers are called to all manner of things from petty thefts to serious domestic violence. They also see something of the effects of substance abuse and mental health difficulties on the community. With such a picture in front of him it isn’t really surprising that Chief Hagerty has positive, constructive words for something that could increase the stability and wellbeing of the place he has responsibility for.