Just Another Effin' Observer

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Location: Huntsville, Texas, United States

Monday, January 31, 2005

Another Example of the European Model

I just ran across this item from the Telegraph of London (Hat Tip: The Corner):

If you don’t take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits

A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

This is just abso-bloody-freakin’-lutely amazing. Ronald Reagan’s statement that “government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem” has never been more true than in this situation.

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit.


The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars.

Okay, let me see if I have this straight: the German government included "houses of ill repute" in its welfare-reform laws, because it was too difficult to tell the difference between a brothel and a bar? Now, I'll admit that it's been quite a few years since I've been to Germany, but I think even I can tell the difference between a bar and a brothel: for one thing, even if the brothel's bartender makes the most exquisite Ketel One Martini on the planet, that's not the reason you're there; and in a bar, your waitress is not on the menu.

The German government legalized –- and mainstreamed -- prostitution in 2002, ostensibly to curtail trafficking in women and help to combat organized crime. Now it appears that, thanks to the all-pervasive European welfare state, the government is now engaged in human trafficking -- through, of all things, extortion; i.e., if a person does not comply with the requirement to accept whatever job is offered (including prostitution), it will cut that person’s unemployment benefits.

Traditionally, when women have been forced into prostitution--what we used to call ‘white slavery’ -- law-enforcement agencies around the world were ready, willing and able to step up to fight it. Now, law-enforcement agencies -- in Germany, at least -- are stepping up to do the enslaving. Some would call this progress; fortunately, I don’t know any of them, and I don’t think I would want to.

Well, at least the second objective -- to combat organized crime -- may be achievable under the new German laws. Once the government starts to muscle in on the Mob’s business, the Mob doesn’t stand a chance.

UPDATE (7 FEB 2005): It turns out that this story is untrue. Which raises an interesting question (well, interesting to me, at any rate): Why did this story get such traction in the first place? Of course, the salaciousness of the whole premise -- government-coerced entry into prostitution, and all that -- was a factor, but even so..., why were so many people willing to believe it? Blogger Xrlq has an interesting hypothesis, and quite possibly captures a good part of the answer, but I cannot help but feel that something else is at play here. I suspect that anyone who has read Philip Howard's The Death of Common Sense can at least guess at the rest of it -- that hide-bound adherence to bureaucratic, regulatory "procedures", coupled with the inevitable atrophying of individual judgement and the all-pervasive Law of Unintended Consequences, will, almost by necessity, produce results that are not what the people who drafted these regulations intended, or even could imagine. In other words, the idea that a government regulatory regime could force a woman into prostitution, by threatening to withhold unemployment benefits if she doesn't comply, is just so plausible! It is exactly the kind of bone-headed nonsense that one would expect -- and, with astonishing regularity, witnesses -- from an over-reaching, politically-correct, government nanny-state mentality. It's almost a pity that the story isn't true.


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