There I was, fretting on ways of making money by shorting the seemingly inevitable bursting of the Chinese property bubble, when up popped the delightful Kirstie Alley on TV.
Now “popped up” is an appropriate term for Miss Alley, who’s making a career of going from fat to thin and back again while getting a weight loss outfit to pay up.
But she does it with such tongue-in-cheek style and marvellous self-depreciation so rare in anyone who’s even driven through Hollywood, you can’t help but like her.
Her appearance reminds us some things are destined to reappear — Kirstie’s pounds, Flames missing the playoffs, would-be Tory leaders blasting the previous boss, and Canada taking another ride on the prostitution merry-go-round.
This latest attempt, Bill C-36, would, for the first time, make it illegal to pay for sex or to communicate for that purpose. It would do the same for advertising sex for sale in newspapers or online.
This is a followup to the Supreme Court striking down the former law because it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Essentially, Justice Minister Peter MacKay is playing to the gallery — portraying prostitutes as helpless, exploited victims, and others involved as “perpetrators, the perverts, the pimps.”
It’s admirable alliteration but, sadly, that’s the highlight. The bill won’t stop prostitution, only make those involved switch tactics and locations, while it will likely fall at the first challenge again reaching the Supreme Court.
MacKay, if needing another good line, could have dipped into the Casey Stengel playbook of quotes and might have actually found some wisdom.
The baseball coach, explaining the perils of ballplayers looking for love the night before a game, famously said: “The trouble is not that players have sex before a game. It’s that they stay out all night looking for it.”
There’s a similar problem with prostitution. It’s not that one person wants to get some material advantage from sex with another. As such, half the world would, at some point, have been tarred with MacKay’s pervert, pimp or perpetrator label. It’s been a basic interaction between sexes for centuries.
The problem with prostitution is the same as with drugs. Once you make something many desire illegal, you spawn violence, control, disease and death. Suddenly, there’s big money to be made and, just like the drug trade, when there are fortunes to be had, there are nasty people who’ll exploit others for just that purpose — Al Capone didn’t become fabulously wealthy by simply serving better scotch.
So let’s learn from the failure of the so-called war on drugs, which has done nothing to stop usage and everything in turning so many into criminals or victims. Instead, learn from the war on smoking. Perhaps the most lethal of all vices, it nevertheless remains a legal product. Imagine trying to ban it today and the subsequent criminal network that would spring up overnight?
No, for once, society showed sense. Health campaigns, bans on advertising, limiting where people can light up, devices to help addicts stop — those measures, slowly but surely, are making smokers social lepers.
Eventually, Canada will do that with prostitution, despite the gnashing of teeth that will ensue. We will one day follow New Zealand’s lead and go the route of decriminalizing and regulating. Because money is a visible symbol of position and power that, in turn, attracts the opposite sex. Prostitution is simply the crudest display of that endless dance.
Which is why I won’t short the Beijing housing market after all. It turns out young Chinese men are in an artificially induced vast majority because that country’s awful one-child policy resulted in millions of female fetuses being aborted. So now young women have their pick and invariably are choosing men who own a new apartment. That keeps prices rising. So, no, it’s no bubble. Sex and money are here to stay.
Chris Nelson is a Calgary writer whose column appears every Thursday.
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