Wednesday, 25 May 2011

You don't ban a whole industry because of a few bad eggs

Which of the following sentences do you agree with.  There is no right or wrong answer.

  1. Manufacturer X, that sells Product A, exploits and harms their workers, so all Product A should be banned. 
  2. Manufacturer X, that sells Product A, exploits and harms their workers, so Manufacturer X should be prosecuted.
  3. Manufacturer X, that sells Product A, exploits and harms their workers, so Manufacturer X should be boycotted by consumers.

Remember your choice of these three options, because there is no logical reason why you should change your mind once you replace the "blanks" with real names of products and manufacturers who have exploited workers.  This discussion is all about what the impact should be of a bad egg on an industry or on that bad egg.

With your preferred answer in mind, now re-read that statement with the blanks filled in by these manufacturers and products


We don't ban products because of the bad eggs in each industry

I'm guessing that most readers will have chosen the second or third statements.  That makes sense.  All three of these manufacturers have been convicted or punished for their actions against workers.

Does anyone really think that we should ban sporting footwear because of Nike's actions?

Does anyone really think we should ban motor vehicles because of Ford's actions? (Remember, you might want to ban motor vehicles for other reasons - but not because of what Ford did)

So, why would we consider banning pornography because of Max Hardcore? He was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned.  Given the laws in Florida, that was appropriate.  His actions were wrong - he is the one to be prosecuted and boycotted.  Nobody suggested that all the porn in Florida would be banned.

Gail Dines is wrong - and doubly so for picking on

Gail Dines, the author of Pornland, has been in Australia this week. She has received a lot of airplay, but she is wrong to say that pornography should be banned because of the actions of some pornographers.  She wouldn't argue for Nike runners to be banned, or even for Fords to be boycotted. The only fair point she makes is that some extreme forms of porn should be prohibited.

Accepting this one point, to ensure that exploitation doesn't occur, what many companies and industries do, is to regulate themselves.  If the self-regulation doesn't work, regulation is imposed upon them.  Some level of regulation is valuable (see the blog on the benefits of regulation in the banking industry).

So, is the porn industry regulating itself?  Well, yes it is.  There is a body dedicated to online child protection, ASACP.  And Garion Hall, the CEO of one company, has announced that they are developing "standards that all adult websites choose to adhere to, covering models, staff and members."   That's exactly what is expected of Ford or Nike, or the banking industry if there are any questions raised about their business practices.

So, by singling out in the press this week, Dines has picked the wrong target.  Dr Alan McKee pointed this out about Dines attack on abbywinters when he responded in a measured way in this article. Dr McKee pointed out the reality that "The women who have appeared on the site describe it as a positive experience for them."

And Lauren Rosenwarne also provided an intelligent response on the ABC website, where she criticised Dines... "Telling people that porn’s exploitative, that it’s degrading, that using it is shameful, does nothing to quell the yen for it and does everything to perpetuate guilt and embarrassment about masturbation, about sexuality."

Every industry needs to be responsible

Whether it is the food industry with issues of children's obesity, the apparel industry and sweatshops, the energy and vehicle industries with greenhouse gases, the porn industry and treatment of women, or the banking industry and responsible lending - every industry needs to be responsible.  Some of these industries (and many others) have had some very bad patches over an extended period, but we've (almost) never banned them.

Instead, the free market has responded by campaigning against dubious practices, and influencing companies and other consumers to modify their practices and impose reasonable standards.

Gail Dines' calls to ban and shame pornography are misguided and contrary to principles of social liberalism and even the free market.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

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