“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Monday, June 30, 2003



A little self-promoting here: LI has a review of Houellebecq's latest novel at the Chicago Sun-Times site, and a review of a Robert E. Lee biography at the San Antonio News Express site.

Casualty report:

"An Australian working as a sound man for NBC News was injured in Iraq when insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a US military vehicle in the restive town of Fallujah. Three Iraqis were killed in the incident when their pick-up truck slammed into a vehicle helping to evacuate the sound man, the US military said yesterday."

And this, from Reuters: "At least 30 Iraqis were killed and scores injured on Saturday when an ammunition dump they were looting blew up, residents said on Monday.They said U.S. forces arrested several looters after the blast at the ammunition dump in a desert area north of the town of Haditha, 260 km (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad."

LI has never lived in a neighborhood with an ammunition dump. So it is hard for us to viscerally understand exactly what the phrase means, although Reuters apparently knows all about it.

The unstoppable market

New Zealand did a rather wonderful thing last week. It decriminalized prostitution -- a position that Jesse Ventura was ridiculed for. This is the kind of debate you won't find in the US House of Representatives:
"GILLIAN BRADFORD: It was one of the most passionate speeches Parliament had ever heard, Labour MP, Georgina Beyer, herself a former prostitute, relating a harrowing tale of a knife point encounter

GEORGINA BEYER: And yes I'm a prostitute and no it was not right that I should have been raped because I said no. It would have been nice to have known that instead of having to deal out the justice myself afterwards to that person I may have been able to approach the authorities, the police in this case, and say I was raped.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: That speech swung at least one vote, leading to a final vote of 60 for reform, 59 against and 1 abstention."

The politics of prostitution -- or the politics of the control of vice in general -- is shaped in ways that aren't wholly predictable from the perspective of the left/right divide. There is a strong reformist element in feminism -- stemming from its New England religious roots -- which is very supportive of the most repressive state action in favor of banning vice. This is the 'it takes a village" politics, the politics of liberal coercion, that, LI must admit, drives us nuts. Partly this is because it sacrifices liberty to a symbol of virtue. This is the most dangerous tendency of the left.

Cops, as we've said before, should not be the regulators of first resort -- which they become when prostitution is banned. Or drugs. The bans don't repress the market, but they do shape it -- banning, here, aggravates mechanisms of monopoly and violence that are always latent in market structures. Power devolves to those willing to use that power which exists outside the civil sphere -- sheer violence. This is why we are so totally against the banning of guns -- that goal towards which the gun control people tend. But we do believe in the regulation of guns. Those who argue these issues from the top down -- arguing from the theory of rights to its application -- are, we think, mistaken. The real arguments should be from the bottom up -- from the practical harms inflicted by banning. Our position does involve a little "begging of the question," since among those practical harms is the restriction of liberties defined by rights. But we don't believe that rights without pragmatic embodiment -- without some kind of embedding in the social order -- makes sense.

One of those 'pragmatic embodiments" is the extraordinary chance of violence that is the prostitute's fate. Georgina Beyer is absolutely correct. We wrote a little review, a long time ago, in the Austin Chronicle about a book that profiled a serial killer, Kevin McDuff. The author of the book, Gary Lavigne, refers to our "incompetence" in reviewing his book on his site (without naming us, or the paper in which the review appeared), which we find rather amusing. One of the more interesting parts of that creepy little account was the feeling, rampant among the cops, that prostitutes did not deserve protection. As one of them said, approximately, if they go into somebody's car to do their business, what can we do? Which is true for bible salesman and mechanics who answer towing calls at two o'clock at night, too; prostitutes, however, were clearly considered scum. The inequality in enforcing the law breeds lawlessness. A killer like McDuff is a school book example: when he began to kill prostitutes, the cops were scandalously uninterested -- which of course aggravated his sense of immunity. Then he started taking out middle class women, and the cops got interested right away.

We think there is a correlation between unequal enforcement of the law -- by which we don't just mean arrests and punishments, but the act of investigation itself, from its initiation to its conclusion -- and violence. This is our theory about the consistently high crime rate in the South -- callousness towards crimes committed against one class of persons breeds violence that spreads out among all sectors. The pseudo-science of FBI 'profilers" has always struck us as pointless -- the profile the FBI really needs is sociological. It is no surprise that a psycho of a certain type will kill -- the interesting thing is how he creates a sense of immunity for himself about the killing. And that sense is best constructed when his victims are treated as scum by the cops.

So, three cheers for New Zealand.

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